30 Days And 30 Ways Of Doing Good

by Maurice Smith, M.A.
A “My Brother’s Keeper” Project
© Copyright Rising River Media

Preface

“Do all the good you can,
by all the means you can,
in all the ways you can,
in all the places you can,
at all the times you can,
to all the people you can,
as long as you can.”

– John Wesley
Founder of The Methodist Church

“It makes no difference what you believe,
if what you believe makes no difference.”

– Author

John Wesley understood something many of us have forgotten, and he instilled that “something” in his more than 180,000 followers in England and America who called themselves “Methodists”: Doing good matters. Wesley understood that what we do matters as much as what we believe, because, ultimately, our behavior is an expression of our belief. At some level, we all do those things we believe in. Through our good deeds, our faith discovers hands and feet.

So, let me ask you: What do you believe? And what are you doing about it? Only you can answer the first question. Helping you find practical ways to answer the second question is what this E-Book is all about.

We live in an age of increasing volunteerism, activism and personal involvement. Whether the issue is racial injustice and reconciliation, fighting chronic hunger and homelessness, standing up against abuse and human trafficking or caring for the environment, people don’t want to sit and listen to someone lecture and wax eloquent. They want to get hands-on involved. People (like you!) want to rise above generalities and engage in genuine good deeds which make a difference on issues which affect our community. The purpose of this E-Book is to offer you a daily guide through a variety of issues and practical things you can do to get involved and make a difference. Our daily list is not exhaustive (and no doubt we will modify it as time goes on), but we have worked to make it extensive. There will always be room for improvement!

At the back of this book you will find several Appendices, which I hope you will take time to read. Like those movie credits which surprise you with “more” and say, “Hey, we’re not done yet!” I hope these “hidden gems” will challenge you to reflect on your own spiritual journey. One of the key thoughts I hope you will carry away is the idea that doing good is not an end-in-itself, but a sign of who we are as people, where we come from and the depth of personal meaning and significance that is available to each of us.

I would like to personally acknowledge and thank the many individuals and agencies who have given input, participated in Radio Roundtables, offered suggestions (and critiques) and generally helped to make this project possible. Their contact information is imbedded throughout this E-Book as an active testimony to the great work they do throughout our community. My thanks to the members of the Spokane Homeless Coalition for allowing me to use their list-serve to communicate with people and agencies and to solicit ideas. And my thanks to Tom Read of the American Christian Network for his flexibility in working to provide prime radio time for our Radio Roundtables.

Suggested Reading

Maurice Smith, The Least Of These: The Role Of Good Deeds In A Jesus-Shaped Spirituality (View on Amazon)

Arloa Sutter, The Invisible: What The Church Can Do To Find And Serve The Least Of These (View on Amazon)

Getting Started

Welcome to “30 Days And 30 Ways Of Doing Good.”

As the title suggests, the idea embodied in this little E-Book is really quite simple . . . and practical. The goal is to help you meaningfully connect with issues and people throughout our community by offering daily opportunities to “do good” to those around us who find themselves in need. In the process we want to enlist you in a “Conspiracy Of Kindness And Good Deeds.” Behavior experts tell us that it takes 30 days of intentional effort to change any habit or behavior and to establish a new one in its place. So, to help you build a new and great habit of reaching out and engaging in kindness and good deeds, we want to offer “30 Days And 30 Ways Of Doing Good.”

In this E-Book you will discover 30 daily ideas and practical steps for reaching out and engaging in kindness and good deeds toward people in need throughout our community. That’s right. A whole month’s worth (there is even a “Day 31″ for those months with an extra day). Each day introduces a real and specific issue along with links to (or contact information for) ministries and organizations which are hands-on involved with each issue. The idea is that you can connect directly, learn more and find a suitable place to “plug in”! In addition, we offer a daily “Today’s Devotional Reflection” to challenge and encourage you on your own spiritual journey.

In all fairness to you, there is more on this list – by way of issues, information and activities – than one person could reasonably do in 30 days. And this list is by no means exhaustive. That’s OK. Consider this a starting point, rather than a destination, for your own journey into serving others. But if you take each day seriously and give it your full attention, somewhere in the course of these 30 days something you discover will light a fire and your life will never be the same. May what you find here stimulate you to think creatively and to create your own list that will go far beyond anything we could have done! So, consider the following daily guide as your starting point for this amazing journey you are beginning. Where it ends, or whether it ends, is strictly up to you.

And The Journey Begins . . . .

 

Day 1 – Take Time Today To Reflect

Welcome to Day 1 of your journey into kindness and good deeds. Since this is a journey and not a race, take time today to reflect on the state of things around you – your neighborhood, your community, your nation and even the world around you. Reflect on the growing need for greater kindness and more good deeds toward those around us. Instead of complaining about all the bad news, it’s time to start making some good news of our own! Who are the people in your circle of friends, family, co-workers, as well as in your community at large, who are in need of something that you could either share with them or do for them? Take time today to reflect on how YOU could make a difference in the life of someone around you. It’s time for you to come help change the world for the better.

Here’s What You Could Do

Round up some recent local newspapers (the local library always has back issues). What are some of the local issues making news in your community? Where are the dark and hurting places close to where you live? Learning more about the needs around you is the first step to doing anything that will have a lasting impact. Make a list and start thinking about what you could do to get involved and make a difference. Genuine outreach begins at that point in our spiritual journey where we begin to see the world through God’s eyes, rather than through our own eyes.

Listen! Take time today to download and listen to our podcast entitled “Creative Outreach” and start thinking creatively about reaching out to those around you.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Remember
“Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” (Galatians 2:10)

Doing good as a way of life requires a certain degree of intentionality. Sometimes we forget who we are and what we have been called to do. We need to take the time to “remember.” We need to remember that we are called to be disciples of the Kingdom, not followers of the latest fad. As disciples of the Kingdom we need to “remember” that we have been called to shine the light of the Kingdom into the dark places of this world, to share the good news of the Kingdom, and to serve those in need. In short, our calling as disciples of the Kingdom is “to remember the poor.” Take time today to “remember.”

 

Day 2 – Join the Conspiracy

Doing good, doing “the right thing,” begins with a personal choice. Doing good as a way of life requires a certain degree of intentionality on our part. Today is your day to demonstrate your “intentionality.” Today is your day to choose to do good and to become a part of life’s solutions, rather than a part of life’s problems. And it’s time to join with others who feel the same way. Welcome to “the Conspiracy.”

Here’s What You Could Do

Give A Card – To help you feel a part of this “Conspiracy Of Kindness And Good Deeds” we’ve created a “Conspiracy Card” for you to use. Discover how to print off your own Conspiracy Cards. Use this card to challenge and invite your friends to join you in this conspiracy of kindness and good deeds. Do a good deed for someone today and pass along a “Conspiracy Card” as your way of saying,”Come join us, and let’s do good.”

Listen! Take time today to download and listen to our podcast entitled “15 Reasons To Do Good – Part 1″ and discover the biblical reasons for engaging in good deeds.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Seeing
“Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:37- 40)

This Conspiracy of Kindness And Good Deeds is rooted in the words of Jesus as we discover them in the parable of the sheep and the goats, found in the Gospel According to Matthew. As the parable describes, the journey into greater kindness and good deeds is a journey of discovering the face of Jesus in people and places we never expected: in the face of a pan-handler on a downtown street corner, in the face of the homeless and the hungry, in the face of the person fleeing domestic violence or the young girl fleeing human/sex trafficking, or in the face of the ex-felon seeking a job. Gazing into the faces of “the least of these” is an appropriate moment to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” Your journey is truly underway when you can answer that question.

Day 3 – Journal Your Journey

As a member of the “Conspiracy of Kindness And Good Deeds” your life is about to change and become more interesting (and challenging) than anything you’ve experienced before. It might be good to write some of this down. It’s time to think about journaling your journey. Take some time today to write down your own thoughts about your journey. Why are you doing this, and why is it important? What do you hope to achieve? And what kind of person do you hope to become as a result of this journey?

Here’s What You Could Do

Set Up A Journal – Journaling is about expressing yourself by writing out your thoughts and experiences. Write down what you are learning about yourself, about others who are struggling with life’s issues, and about your walk as a disciple of the Kingdom. Talk about how your experiences of serving others are having an impact on you as a person. What is God teaching you through all of this? If journaling is something new for you, you can find an inexpensive journal for around $10 (like the one featured here) at any good office supply store. And if you insist on being tech-savy, you could video-journal your experience with your smart phone and post your journal experience on your social media page for all the world to see! I’m just sayin’ . . . !

Listen! Take time today to download and listen to our podcast entitled “15 Reasons To Do Good – Part 2″ and discover more biblical reasons for engaging in good deeds. 

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Journaling
“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” (Revelation 20:12)

You aren’t the only one journaling your journey. Scripture tells us that God keeps a journal, too! According to today’s passage from the book of Revelation, God keeps at least two books. And one of these books contains God’s journaling of all our “deeds.” When we stand before Him on Judgment Day, God will judge everyone based upon what is recorded in that book, “according to what they had done.” Take some time today and reflect on your own record of kindness and good deeds. What lasting fruit and personal acts of kindness and compassion will the Judge of all the Earth find recorded under your name?

 

Day 4 – Buy A Bus Pass

Several years ago a survey was conducted among people utilizing 21 emergency food banks in Spokane County to determine what obstacles existed to people accessing food services. One out of three respondents (32%) cited transportation as a significant barrier when it came to accessing emergency food and other services. Think about this: There are roughly 253 million cars and trucks on the road in America today, and approximately 115 million “households.” That’s roughly 2 cars (or trucks) per household. How many do you and your family have? Now, imagine not having any! Not one! How would you get around? How would you go to the grocery store? To Church? To school (and how would your kids get to school)? The doctor? To work, or to look for work? Your life changes profoundly when you don’t have a vehicle to drive yourself where you need to go. This is a practical problem faced by many people in our community today.

Here’s What You Could Do

Give A Bus Pass – This is a practical $45 problem that YOU could solve for someone today! Spokane Transit Authority(STA) offers a 31-Day bus pass for $45 (available at the Customer Service counters of local supermarkets). The 31-Day clock begins the first time the pass is used. Go buy one. Then, contact a local homeless shelter (or food bank) and ask if they have someone who needs a bus pass to access food, services or to look for work. Purchase an “encouragement card” from a local card store, write a personal word of encouragement in the card, place the bus pass inside the card (and maybe include a “Conspiracy Card”) and deliver it to your contact at the shelter or food bank. You might even consider volunteering there on a regular basis!

Here are some places you can contact to get started. Hope House Women’s Shelter is operated by Volunteers of America and houses roughly 35 women every night. Their office phone is (509) 455-2886. House Of Charity is operated by Catholic Charities of Spokane and houses just over 100 men on an average night. Their main phone number is (509) 624-7821. Truth Ministries Men’s Shelter is an independent Christian-oriented men’s shelter which has been housing 40 men every night for over a decade. Marty and Julie McKinney are the Directors there and you can call them at (509) 456-2756 (call after 7:00PM). St. Margaret’s Shelter is operated by Catholic Charities of Spokane and works with homeless women and their children. They can be contacted through the main office of Catholic Charities at (509) 358-4250. Union Gospel Mission (UGM) Men’s Shelter has been serving Spokane’s poor and homeless for over 60 years. They house and feed over 100 men every night. Their main office number is (509) 535-8510. UGM Women’s Crisis Shelter is operated by the Union Gospel Mission and serves between 75 and 125 homeless women every night. Their office number is (509) 535-0486.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Keep An Open Ear
“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13)

The book of Proverbs offers practical wisdom for living. Proverbs frequently offers us wisdom we would prefer to ignore, and this is a case in point. Stop and reflect for a moment. What if God’s response to you in your time of need was based solely on your response to others during their time of need? We seem to live in a world of constant need. From panhandlers on the street corner to victims of natural disasters, to the man-made ills of domestic violence and human sex trafficking, the stream of need seems endless. Such constant need leads to a phenomenon known as “compassion exhaustion.” We get overwhelmed, close our ears and stop listening. Today’s passage is a reminder of the importance of keeping our ears open to the needs of those around us. The day may come when we are the ones in need and someone else’s open ear is what will make the difference in our lives.

 

Day 5 – Go Out To Eat

Now it’s time to do good by eating out! Yes, seriously! Not too long ago my wife and I went out to eat at a local restaurant on the coast of North Carolina. Our waitress (Marcie) was a talkative bundle of energy. She was actually glad to have worked on Thanksgiving Day (their busiest day) and was a little concerned that tonight was slow in her section. As we were preparing to leave Gale said, “I’ve got some extra ones if you want to leave her a little extra tip.” I gave her my “Cheshire Cat” grin which meant I had a different idea. You know, the look that makes spouses roll their eyes in a combination of fear and anticipation. I reached into my wallet and pulled out $20, along with a “My Brother’s Keeper” conspiracy card. I folded the bill up and placed the card on top, followed by a salt shaker to hold them in place. As we headed for the door I saw Marcie and said, “Left something on the table for you.” I always wonder how people will respond to such things. Our path back to the car took us by the window where we had been seated. “Look!” Gale said with an excited giggle. It was Marcie. She had raised the blind and was standing at the window, waving and patting her chest, saying “Thank you.” Sometimes, eating out is about more than the meal. It’s about those moments God offers us to connect with people and to do good. I like to think of it as sowing the seed of the Kingdom in forms people can understand and appreciate. Now, it’s your turn to do good and to spread the conspiracy!

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! The creative idea here is to begin with an attitude adjustment. Here’s an honest (and painful) article on why good tipping is important.

Give An “Unexpected 20″ – Remember that server you were rude to for being slow with your order (or who got it wrong, or the cook who burnt your toast, or the busboy, or the dishwasher, or the maid cleaning your hotel room). They could be a single mom trying to make ends meet, or an ex-felon who is trying to start over, or someone living in a homeless shelter and trying to make enough to get their own place, or a college student working to pay their way through school. You know, someone like you with a life and needs. Consider your next meal out (or hotel stay) as an opportunity to do good and make a difference in their life.

Kevin Finch is the Executive Director of Big Table, a ministry to workers in the restaurant, hotel and service industry. Kevin originated the idea of the “Unexpected Twenty.” Here’s your challenge. Give an “Unexpected 20.” Then, write up your experience and send it to us for posting on the “My Brother’s Keeper” website with other stories of doing good! Then, contact Big Table and discover more opportunities to volunteer and get involved!

Listen! Take time today to download and listen to our podcast entitled “Serving Those Who Serve” featuring our interview with Kevin Finch and Jill Lemon of Big Table.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Generosity Rewarded
“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and He will repay him for his deed” (Proverbs 19:17).

“Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor” (Proverbs 22:9).

“Reciprocity” (noun | rec·i·proc·i·ty | def: “a mutual exchange of privileges”) is a big word which expresses an even bigger reality: we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).   It is an uncomfortable spiritual truth that a “divine reciprocity” operates in God’s dealings with us. That’s right: we reap what we sow. This isn’t the impersonal “Karma” of eastern religious thought, but the personal response of the living God to kindness (or lack of kindness) on the part of men and women toward one another. How God repays and rewards is up to Him; what He repays is up to us. In light of today’s passage, what are you sowing into the lives of those around you who find themselves in need today? Tomorrow’s harvest of greater kindness depends upon the seed of kindness you and I sow today.

 

Day 6 – Join A Street Outreach

There isn’t a major city or urban area in America where street outreach to the marginalized isn’t needed, including the city where you live. My first outreach experience as a young Christian and high school student involved a street outreach in Fayetteville, North Carolina, working with GIs returning from Southeast Asia (Viet Nam). The good news is that street outreach doesn’t require any special skills or training. Many of the ministries in our city which serve people in need were started by people just like you, people with no special skills, training or qualifications. They simply heard the call of God to serve others, stepped out in obedience, and quietly joined a growing conspiracy of kindness and good deeds. And if they could do it, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t do it, too! Sometimes when we pray, we discover that our own obedience to Jesus’ commands becomes a significant part of the answer to our own prayers. The REALLY good news is that you don’t have to re-invent the wheel, start from scratch or duplicate what someone else is already doing. There are some great opportunities to serve by joining with an existing street outreach. Use them as your “training wheels” while you learn to ride the “outreach bike”! Then you can decide if God is leading you to step out and start a new outreach to address a need which isn’t being met.

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! Take a moment to discover a group that worked with low-income residents to overcome graffiti vandalism (often a sign of gang activity) in their neighborhoods.

Volunteer At A Street Outreach – Blessings Under The Bridge was founded by Mike and Jessica Kovac as a street outreach to the marginalized on the streets of Spokane. I tell some of their amazing story in Chapter 9 of my book, The Least Of These. Their work has been highlighted in People Magazine and on the Rachael Ray television program. Take time today to discover how to volunteer and schedule an opportunity to serve in one of their weekly outreaches.

Listen! Take time today to download and listen to our podcast entitled “Meet Me Under The Bridge” featuring our interview with Mike and Jessica Kovac discussing their outreach work with Blessings Under The Bridge.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Finding Strength In Numbers
“And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Today’s Scripture from the Old Testament wisdom book of Ecclesiastes reminds us of the truth behind the well-worn adage that “there is strength in numbers.” Indeed, there is. This is important because sometimes a journey into greater kindness and good deeds can leave you feeling very “alone.” Especially if you are considering launching out into something you have never done before, like street outreach. But partnering with someone who is already out there and doing it can give you the personal courage and support you need to get started. Who can you partner with today, both to be encouraged and to encourage them that neither of you are alone on this journey into greater kindness and good deeds? Take some time today and reflect on how you could find strength in numbers on your journey into greater kindness and good deeds.

 

Day 7 – Serve A Family In Crisis

There are fewer things which grab our heart-strings more quickly than the picture of a family in crisis being evicted from their home or having to sleep in their car. Why? Because it’s so personal. At least, it was for us. Roughly 14 years ago our family experienced a financial upheaval which left us effectively homeless. We experienced bankruptcy and foreclosure, leaving us with no income, two storage units filled with our worldly possessions, and no place to live. Our son was forced to drop out of college at EWU, find an apartment and get a job. Our daughter went to live with her grandparents who lived in her school district so she could attend her senior year of high school without changing schools and everything that entails for a 17-year old. Gale and I went to stay with Christian friends who owned a Christian guest ranch north of Spokane and who graciously invited us to stay with them until the dust settled. Gale and I will be eternally thankful to the Barber family and Living Springs Ranch for their biblical love, compassion and friendship during that difficult time. We were effectively a homeless family in crisis. Yeah, it was the stuff that nightmares are made of, and you don’t simply bounce back the next day, the next week, the next month, or even that year. Did we survive? Of course we did. Was God gracious through it all? Yes, He was, even when we were trying to figure out how to put gas in the car, or how to pay the storage bill to keep our belongings from being sold in an episode of Storage Wars, or when we were doing our grocery shopping at a local food bank. Yes, our son did go on to finish college, but it was hard work. He is now a successful web-developer in the city. Our daughter not only graduated from high school, but went on to college and two masters degrees and is now a Presbyterian pastor. But the experience changed us as individuals and as a family for the rest of our lives. Indeed, God used that experience to change the direction of our lives for me and my wife. He sent us into the highways and byways of Spokane to seek and serve the marginalized. In fact, “My Brother’s Keeper” would not exist had it not been for that traumatic, life-altering upheaval our family experienced some 14 years ago. In the words of English Hymnist William Cowper, “God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps on the sea and rides upon the storm.” But when a family is in crisis, all they can see at the time is the storm. Any good things God may have planned for them on the other side of that crisis are hidden by the fog of pain, trauma and confusion. Trust me. Been there. Done this. Got tee-shirts for the whole family.

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! This church partnered with their local Juvenile Court to create “totes” containing basic toiletries and household necessities for parents coming out of drug rehab (things the courts consider when deciding if a parent can adequately provide for his or her child. It’s all about re-uniting families).

The disturbing reality today is that many families throughout our community find themselves in some state of genuine crisis: a health crisis or the loss of a job which leads to a financial crisis which leads to homelessness and more. The good news is that there are some very good organizations dedicated to embracing and serving families in crisis. Formerly known as the Interfaith Hospitality Network, Family Promise of Spokane works with families in crisis (particularly, homeless families) to provide transitional living assistance and counseling to help them get back on their feet. Take time today to learn more about their work, and discover volunteer opportunities.   Volunteer to help Habitat for Humanity build a house for a homeless family in our area! Discover how to volunteer on one of their projects as well as other volunteer opportunities. The Salvation Army offers several services for homeless families, including a family emergency shelter. Utilizing a coordinated assessment initiative, they offer homeless families a centralized intake process designed to connect them quickly and efficiently with appropriate programs and services. Visit their website to learn more about getting involved as a volunteer.

Listen! Take time today to download and listen to our podcast entitled “Serving Families In Crisis” featuring our interview with Steve Allen of Family Promise of Spokane discussing their work with homeless families in the Spokane area.

Remember. It’s important to keep in mind that a family in crisis needs friends who can walk alongside them without passing judgment or trying to “fix” them. Offer to take a struggling family grocery shopping. Offer to take them out for “dinner and a movie” for no other reason than to make friends, have fun and give them a break.  

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Don’t Insult Your Maker
“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” (Proverbs 14:31)

The historic Christian doctrine of creation, that men and women (whether rich or poor) are created by God in His image, means that we all possess a shared dignity. The poorest and most disabled man (or woman) on earth shares an equal dignity with the richest and healthiest man (or woman) on earth. Both share the dignity of bearing God’s image. For one man to oppress another man over something as “trivial” as money or physical infirmity, or race constitutes an insult to God, his Maker. On the other hand, for one man to show kindness and generosity to another is to honor God by honoring the person created in His image. Take some time today and reflect on how you are honoring (or dishonoring) God by how you are treating the poor, the needy, the less fortunate and the marginalized in your circle of influence. Make sure to include the family that may be in the midst of a life-crisis and you could make a difference!

 

Day 8 – Start A Neighborhood Outreach

What do a Presbyterian elder, an ex-felon and a middle-school art teacher have in common? Absolutely nothing! And that’s what made this neighborhood outreach work. None of us had ANY qualifications to do what we did together! In Chapter 8 of my book, The Least Of These, I tell the story of this neighborhood outreach (which my wife and I helped lead for several years) in one of the toughest, drug infested neighborhoods in our city known as “Felony Flats.” We connected with the neighborhood through a community meal (often just hot dogs and chips) served in the front yard of a house every Monday night. The meal was followed by music and a bible study. At the peak of the outreach we had as many as 300 people showing up on a Monday night. Drug dealers. Families with children. People in deep need. The marginalized, and many more. In addition, we sponsored a week of Vacation Bible School in a neighborhood community center and capped the week off with a neighborhood block party attended by over 800 people. And all of this was done by a group of ordinary people with no special qualifications and no big organization behind them. God led and we followed. And so could you, if you’re willing to think creatively and work “outside the box.”

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! Take a few minutes today to learn about 1) a group that started a PBJ Club for neighborhood kids in a local housing project, 2) a group of H.O.G.S. who simply started offering practical repair help for people in need, and 3) another group who started a community garden to reach out to their neighbors and community.

Founded in 2004, Project Hope Spokane is a neighborhood outreach within the West Central Neighborhood of Spokane with a vision to create environmentally friendly and restorative entrepreneurial opportunities for youth at risk of gang involvement. Take a moment to discover how you can get involved. The Off-Broadway Family Outreach is another outreach in the heart of the West Central neighborhood of Spokane. I tell some of their amazing story in Chapter 8 of my book, The Least of These. Take a moment to learn more and discover opportunities to participate.

As the above examples illustrate, neighborhood outreach doesn’t have to be big or complicated. It can be as simple as praying for your neighbors, getting to know them a little better, and doing simple acts of Kindness. It could include planting a neighborhood garden, hosting a neighborhood BBQ or potluck, or sponsoring a neighborhood yard sale or a neighborhood clean-up day. My wife recently “broke the ice” with a difficult neighbor by baking chocolate chip cookies and taking them over for no reason other than to show love and kindness. We’re firm believers in “chocolate chip cookie outreach” (the response she received back was quite amazing)! Sometimes, neighborhood outreach is as simple as a kind word and a plate of cookies.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Be Salt And Light
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)

To be salt and light can mean many things. Salt is both a preservative and a flavor enhancer (one of the oldest and most recognized in the history of the world). Light banishes darkness and enables each of us to see things we had not seen before. None of us wants to live in a world with no flavor and no light. Jesus’ words to those who would claim to be His followers is that they should be salt and light. How? Through their good works. Neighborhood outreach is the practical out-working of what it means for each of us to be salt and light to those around us, starting with the people who live next door, or just down the block. Take some time today to reflect on how you can be salt and light through your “good works,” and by reaching out to your neighbors.

 

Day 9 – Take A Risk And Give A Job

A few years ago a Christian friend and businessman asked me if we had any men at Truth Ministries men’s shelter who wanted to work. We sent him three men: Peter, John and Eduardo. OK, “Eduardo” isn’t his real name, but that’s because I want to protect his privacy. My friend Rick put these three men to work on a new building he was constructing to expand his business (I talk about my relationship with Rick in Chapter 9 of my book, The Least Of These). Eduardo was a young Hispanic man with no work history who was living at the men’s shelter. After receiving his first paycheck, old habits kicked in and Eduardo didn’t show up for work on Monday morning (“hung over” would be a kind description). Rick could have rightly fired Eduardo then and there. But he chose a different approach. He chose to take a risk on kindness and doing the right thing. He called Eduardo, gently but firmly reprimanded him for his behavior and told him to be at work the next day. Rick took Eduardo under his wing and became a cross between a boss, a father and a mentor. Eduardo blossomed. Today, Eduardo is a valued employee and a foreman on Rick’s many projects. I still see him occasionally when I visit Rick’s office. His life has been changed by someone who was willing to take a risk, give a job and be a mentor.

Here’s What You Could Do

Take A Risk. If you are an employer or the person responsible for hiring in your company, or simply a valued employee who can speak up, it may be time for you to take a risk on an “Eduardo,” someone who has been marginalized, maybe even labeled as “unemployable.” It may be someone living in a homeless shelter with a poor work history or a non-violent felony (“criminal”) record. This could be your opportunity to do good and change a life. Often, in the Kingdom of God, it is the “least likely” who become the most fruitful.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Do The Right Thing
“You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. You shall give him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets (for he is poor and counts on it), lest he cry against you to the LORD, and you be guilty of sin” (Deuteronomy 24:14-15).

Several years ago I served as the Elder for Administration in a modest sized Presbyterian church, overseeing the church office, budget and staff. Upon assuming my responsibilities I discovered a problem. The staff had not been paid on a timely basis, not because the church didn’t have the money, but because Treasurer would write out paychecks whenever they got around to it. The effect on staff morale was profound and negative. So, one of my first tasks was to assign specific paydays and to make sure paychecks were ready a day or two in advance, simply awaiting signatures (which could be quickly and easily obtained). Morale in the office quickly improved as everyone realized we were genuinely committed to doing the right thing. The word “oppress” in today’s passage means “to defraud” or “to deceive,” hence, to “wrong” or “oppress” someone. To oppress “a hired worker who is poor and needy” by withholding what is due them (like a timely paycheck), simply because you have the power to do so and they have no power to resist, is a sin, even in the Kingdom of God. And apparently it is a sin which has God’s special attention. Who are the “oppressed” in your sphere of influence and what practical steps can you take today to stand up for them?

Day 10 – Volunteer At A Homeless Shelter

On a single night in January of 2014 there were 578,424 people homeless in America (learn more here). Roughly 1,200 of those were on the streets and in shelters in Spokane. With fewer than 500 shelter beds, spread over half-a-dozen shelters, available on any given night, the shelters are frequently full and the needs can be acute. There are plenty of opportunities for you to be involved.

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! This group out of Central Florida works to restore dignity and hope for the marginalized by helping people recover and restore lost ID! Another group discovered how to help the homeless find personal dignity by helping them do laundry! It’s amazing how important simple things you and I take for granted can be. And why not “double down” on a good idea. This group is building discipleship communities in laundromats among the homeless.

Make The Call. Contact a local shelter (see list below) and ask what they need right now. Some needs are on-going (i.e., money, toiletries, clean socks). Some are seasonal (blankets, gloves, hats, coats). Some shelters can use donations of clothes, while others can’t (lack of space). Ask. Don’t presume. Ask how to go about volunteering and what kind of volunteers they might need. Ask if you can bring some ice cream and cookies and board games or card games and sponsor a dessert and game night. It’s an opportunity to hang out, connect and make life “normal” for a few hours. And, trust me. They’ll remember you!

The following shelters are all looking for volunteers for various areas of service. Crosswalk is a shelter for teens who are homeless, operated by Volunteers of America. They provide shelter for a dozen or more teens every night. Their main office number is (509) 838-6596. Hope House Women’s Shelter is operated by Volunteers of America and houses roughly 35 women every night. Their office phone is (509) 455-2886. House Of Charity is operated by Catholic Charities of Spokane and houses just over 100 men on an average night. Their main phone number is (509) 624-7821. Truth Ministries Men’s Shelter is an independent Christian-oriented men’s shelter which has been housing 40 men every night for over a decade. Marty and Julie McKinney are the Directors there and you can call them at (509) 456-2756 (call after 7:00PM). St. Margaret’s Shelter is operated by Catholic Charities of Spokane and works with homeless women and their children. They can be contacted through the main office of Catholic Charities at (509) 358-4250. Union Gospel Mission (UGM) Men’s Shelter has been serving Spokane’s poor and homeless for over 60 years. They house and feed over 100 men every night. Their main office number is (509) 535-8510. UGM Women’s Crisis Shelter is operated by the Union Gospel Mission and serves between 75 and 125 homeless women every night. Their office number is (509) 535-0486.

Listen – Take time today to download and listen to our podcast entitled “Give Me Shelter” with local area homeless shelter directors discussing homelessness in Spokane. Also, you might want to listen to our podcast entitled “Who Am I?” with Michael Dippy, Executive Director of IDignity on their work to help restore lost ID.

Today’s Devotional Reflection 

A Timeless Challenge
“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land’” (Deuteronomy 15:11).

When Jesus told His disciples that “you always have the poor with you” (see Matthew 26:11; Mark 14:7) He was not proclaiming some new truth. No. In fact, Jesus’ words were a reminder to His audience of the truth expressed 15 centuries earlier in the book of Deuteronomy: poverty and need are a timeless reality of the human condition. Jesus’ words have frequently been misused to excuse doing nothing for those in need. But the complete truth behind Jesus’ words, as seen in today’s devotional passage, is the exact opposite of inaction. It is nothing less than a divine command to “open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.” In the Kingdom of God, this reality of the human condition and the biblical command to “open wide your hand” presents us with both an obligation and an opportunity for kindness, compassion and doing good in the service of others. Are you ready to embrace this timeless challenge? Why not start today by volunteering at a homeless shelter or food bank?

 

Day 11 – Serve A Meal At A Homeless Shelter

I wish you could meet the ladies from W.I.N.G.S. (Women In God’s Service). This is a loose knit group of young women (ages roughly 25-35) who come together twice a month to cook dinner for the men at Truth Ministries Men’s Shelter. It’s always fun when they show up with their young kids in tow to cook, serve and interact with the men. They have no unique qualifications, just a desire to serve and an ability to cook! There are well over a dozen sites in the greater Spokane area which serve free meals to people in need. In any given year these meal sites serve close to 750,000 free meals to those in need. Every free meal site, including homeless shelters, relies upon donations of food and volunteers to help prepare food. That means there are on-going opportunities for YOU to serve.

Here’s What You Could Do

Volunteer! – O.K., this isn’t rocket science. It’s cooking, something you probably do every day. At a shelter you would simply be doing it for a few more people. For example, a spaghetti-with-meat-sauce dinner for 40 men or women at a smaller shelter (Hope House, Crosswalk, Truth Ministries) will cost you between $35 and $50 in food supplies and is simple to prepare (the same is true of chili-dogs). It makes a great service and outreach opportunity for your bible study or small group. I know of one church group that serves dinner one night every month. They simply go to a local Winco Foods and buy enough fried chicken at the deli to feed 40 people. Add a couple of sides and you’re done! Another church group is affectionately known as “The Burrito Boys.” They serve dinner to the men once a month and it is always the same: Awesome Burritos! The men love it! And being there to feed and serve the men (or women) on a regular basis is the first step in connecting and getting to know people in need and building lasting relationships. Don’t wait til Thanksgiving or Christmas to volunteer. There are needs every day of the year, including tonight.

All of these ministries would welcome volunteers to help with providing or preparing meals. Cup of Cool Water is a Christian street outreach founded by Mark Terrell and his wife, Amy, after graduating from Whitworth University. For over a decade now Cup of Cool Water has worked with youth who are homeless on the streets of our city. Give them a call at (509) 747-6686 to discover how to connect and get involved. Women’s And Children’s Free Restaurant specializes in serving amazing meals to low income women and their children. Karen Orlando is the volunteer co-ordinator there and you can call her at (509) 324-1995 to discover how to connect and get involved. Crosswalk is a shelter for teens who are homeless, operated by Volunteers of America. They provide shelter for a dozen or more teens every night. Their main office number is (509) 838-6596. Hope House Women’s Shelter is operated by Volunteers of America and houses roughly 35 women every night. Their office phone is (509) 455-2886. Truth Ministries Men’s Shelter is an independent Christian-oriented men’s shelter which has been housing 40 men every night for over a decade. Marty and Julie McKinney are the Directors there and you can call them at (509) 456-2756 (call after 7:00PM).

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Don’t Harden Your Heart
“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother” (Deuteronomy 15:7).

In the midst of our own outward success and blessing, we face the ever-lurking danger of becoming callous toward the needs of others. Scripture never commands nor expects equality in productivity, income or lifestyle. But Scripture does command and expect compassion on the part of those who have an abundance toward those who are in need. In the Kingdom of God, “hardening of the heart” is a fatal spiritual affliction which causes you to “shut your hand” (i.e., fail to act compassionately and generously) toward those in need around you. At the end of the day, the hand reveals what the heart believes. A closed hand begins with a hardened heart. What do your actions today say about what you believe? What steps are you going to take to change? Why not put your faith into action by serving a meal at a shelter?

 

Day 12 – Mentor A Homeless Or At-Risk Youth

On any given night in Spokane there are as many as 1,500 teens who are homeless (not living with a parent or legal guardian). Some are couch surfing with friends. Some are living on the street or in other unsafe environments. A few are in shelters. And these numbers do not include teens who are “at risk” for any number of reasons. Need we say more? In a recent Radio Roundtable on this topic (see link below), after an hour of discussion, the consensus among those working with such teens was that their greatest need is for mentors, both adults and peer, who can model normal, healthy relationships in a safe setting. Are you ready to be a mentor?

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! Take a moment to learn about a group which started a ministry to fix donated bikes and give them away to at-risk youth (Cup of Cool Water also has a bike repair ministry for street teens that you might plug in to). Then, this church discovered a need to feed kids before and after school. And these guys really “upped their game” by sponsoring a 1940s-styled supper club operated by at-risk youth in order to break the cycle that often leads to homelessness, prison or worse.

All of these ministries would welcome volunteers and mentors. For over ten years Cup of Cool Water has been working with teens who are homeless on the streets of Spokane. No one knows more about ministry to teens who are homeless than Mark Terrell and the staff at Cup. You can call them at (509) 747-6686. Crosswalk Teen Shelter is a ministry of Volunteers of America. I’ve worked with these good people off and on for several years, providing them food for their meals when I was Executive Director of Feed Spokane. They house a dozen or more teens every night. You can call them at (509) 838-6596. Youth for Christ (YFC) offers volunteer and mentoring opportunities through its local Youth Centers (one in West Central and another in Hillyard). Discover how to get involved. Get your small group or bible study together to sponsor, prepare and serve a meal once a month. Rodney McAuley is Director of Church and Community Engagement for Youth For Christ in Spokane and would welcome your phone call at (509) 327-7721. And, again, ASK what other things they might need.

Talk To Your Local Schools. Every school district has someone known as the McKinney-Vento liaison for homeless youth. This person responsible for tracking and working with students who are homeless in their district schools. For example, Leslie Camden Goold is the McKinney-Vento person in the Central Valley School District of Spokane, a district with over 350 students who are homeless as of this writing (you’ll need to check with your school district to find the liaison person for your district). Leslie offered the following service opportunities with their students who are homeless. Food For Thought. Operated through Spokane Valley Partners, Food for Thought provides weekend meals for students who are homeless and/or experiencing food instability. The HEART in Hand Fund provides assistance to Central Valley School District students who find themselves in homeless situations. Let ‘Em Play is a program which helps students in need gain access to musical instruments and supplies.

Listen! Take time to download and listen to our podcast entitled “Thursday’s Child” on teen homelessness featuring people and agencies working with teens who are homeless. In addition, you might want to listen to our interview with Mark Terrell, founder and director of Cup of Cool Water.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Be A Model
“Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (Titus 2:6-8)

A mentor is a model. And that reality makes Paul’s advice to his young protégé, Titus, relevant to us today. Such modeling can happen between peers, but the reality of life, as reflected by Scripture, is that one generation has a responsibility to do this with and for the next generation. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of young people in our community who need a model in their lives, someone who can personally demonstrate what it means to live a life of “integrity, dignity and sound speech.” There’s another word that Scripture uses for such personal modeling and mentoring: discipleship. Who are you discipling?

 

Day 13   – Fight Hunger Today!

Hunger and food insecurity is an issue where you live, maybe even among people you know. According to an Associated Press article in the Spokesman-Review the number of hungry families in the State of Washington grew from 88,000 to 163,000 during the 2008-2012 recession. An estimated 440,000 children in Washington live in households where there’s not enough food to eat. Hunger is a very real problem. The good news is that hunger is a problem that you can help solve!

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! This church started a “choice pantry” with a grocery-store-like atmosphere that allows visitors to use grocery carts and “shop” for free food. And this group offers reusable grocery bags to shoppers in exchange for food donations for a local food bank!

Challenge Your Favorite Restaurant. Restaurants in your city throw away enough prepared-but-unserved food to safely feed every person who is hungry. How do I know? Because I co-founded a prepared food rescue agency (Feed Spokane) and served as its Executive Director for five years. From mom-and-pop restaurants to 5-Star hotels, casinos and convention centers, I’ve been in their kitchens and have seen it first-hand. Now it’s time for you to talk with the manager of your favorite restaurant. Ask if they donate their surplus prepared food to Feed Spokane, and if not, ask “Why not?” Let them know that as a loyal patron, their involvement in helping fight hunger is important to you. If they cite a “corporate policy” ask how to contact “corporate” and register your strong opinion that they need to change their policy and become part of the “hunger solution” rather than part of the “hunger problem.” Clean Out Your Pantry! It’s time for you to clean out your pantry of good-but-unused items and donate them to a local food bank or pantry near you!

Find A Food Pantry Near You! The Fig Tree newspaper publishes a very thorough local Directory of Food and Clothing Banks in the Greater Spokane Area. Find one close to you and get involved! Ask what they need and then go shopping! Or, better yet, sponsor a food drive! Sponsor A Food Drive! Get your church, small group, community organization or work place to sponsor a canned food drive on behalf of a local food bank (one near you, not just the largest one in town). There are plenty of smaller, local and neighborhood food banks which would welcome your donation and your involvement! Volunteer! Local food banks, both large and small, are always in need of volunteers willing to donate, help clean up the facility or assist the staff in food distributions. Northwest Harvest is the only state-wide food bank serving the entire state of Washington and a great resource for volunteers. Second Harvest (the local branch of “Feeding America”) serves the greater Spokane area through its network of emergency food banks, and offers volunteer opportunities for sorting and packing produce, food drive donations or bulk food items in preparation for delivery to their emergency food outlets.

Listen! Take time today to download and listen to our podcast entitled “Our Daily Bread” on food security featuring food bank and meal site providers discussing food and hunger in Spokane.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Gleaning
“And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:22).

Wealth and abundance are great blessings, but they are poor teachers. As a result, in the midst of blessing and plenty (i.e., “the harvest”), we must be taught the obvious: to remember those in need. Gleaning (leaving a portion of a crop un-harvested for the poor to harvest for themselves) was one way God instructed His people to remember those in need. Today, such things as prepared food and grocery rescue and community gardens can be effective, local and practical expressions of this ancient principle of gleaning. In the Kingdom of God, even in the midst of blessing and plenty, the heart of God reaches out on behalf of the poor and the sojourner. He reminds us to do the same.

 

Day 14 – Mentor A Struggling Veteran

The need to mentor and work alongside our struggling vets was brought home to me through personal contact with a homeless vet who stayed with us at Truth Ministries Men’s Shelter. My wife and I serve on the Board of Directors and frequently serve dinner to the men. Over the course of time I got to know Bruce and to hear his story. He did combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2007 his Humvee was hit by an IED and Bruce was wounded, both physically and emotionally. That incident created ripple effects in Bruce’s life – physical issues and PTSD – which followed him into his civilian life after being honorably discharged. I met Bruce when he was staying at Truth Ministries. One evening, last fall, when I was there preparing dinner for the men, Bruce came to me with desperation in his voice. “I think I’m going to pop,” he said. “I talked to the VA but they won’t give me an appointment to see anyone for another month. I don’t know what to do.” That’s when I realized that I didn’t know what to do, either! “Don’t do anything,” I told Bruce. “Let me make some calls and see what I can do.” That’s when I called the only guy I knew to call, my friend Mike Zorn, with   Pointman Ministries. Mike was able to connect with Bruce and walk him into the VA and find the right person to talk to so he could be seen that day. They checked Bruce into the hospital later that day and began working on some of his PTSD-related issues. Then, roughly a month later, around Christmas, Bruce was back at the shelter. “I’ve been turned down by the VA for a disability,” he told me. “They’re claiming that my physical injuries aren’t service related. Now what do I do?” Like Bruce, I was now at the end of my rope. I didn’t know what to do either. So, I called in some favors to get Bruce’s situation in front of Congresswoman’s Cathy McMorris-Rogers office. Within a couple of days I received a phone call from the person in the Congresswoman’s office who coordinates Veteran’s issues. I explained Bruce’s situation and arranged for them to meet after the Christmas holidays. A couple of weeks after their meeting I got a call from Bruce. He was elated. After their first meeting this individual was able to qualify Bruce for a Non-Combat Related Pension for Wartime Vets which gave him 70% of a full disability while they worked on securing a full disability for him. He is now looking for housing, and while he still has PTSD issues and physical issues to resolve, Bruce’s concluding words in our conversation told me how important this was, “I can’t say thanks enough for all you did, man. You saved my life.” While those are great and humbling words to hear, they are a stark reminder that, for far too many of our vets, their war has not yet ended. Isn’t it time to bring them home and to give them the help and the peace they both need and deserve as our way of saying “Thank you, for all you did”?

Here’s What You Could Do

Learn More And Get Connected! Pointman Ministries is a Christian outreach founded by veterans to serve veterans. They work with veterans from ALL conflicts. Locally, you can reach them at (509) 994-7177 or visit their local website to discover the needs of veterans in you area and how you can get involved. Because many veterans are reluctant to work with the Federal Veterans Administration due to bad experiences, the VA has contracted with various national non-profits and private agencies to provide veteran services. One of these is Goodwill Industries. Through their Supportive Services for Veterans And Their Families, Goodwill offers a housing stability program serving veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Through their Veterans Hotline (509-828-2449) they provide a “first call” service for vets who are struggling. Another organization providing veteran assistance under contract with the Veteran’s Administration is Volunteers of America. Originally founded in 1896 by Ballington Booth, the second child of William and Catherine Booth, founders of The Salvation Army, to reach out to the poor and the marginalized of American society, VOA offers a variety of compassion and social services, including services for veterans (particularly on issues related to housing), as well as opportunities to volunteer and get involved. Another agency working with Veterans is Pioneer Human Services. Pioneer’s staff work with veterans to ensure they are accessing all the benefits to which they are entitled and refers them to community services that meet their needs. In Spokane they operate Pioneer Victory House as a transitional living center for veterans who are temporarily homeless. You can contact their program facilitator at (509) 326-6606.

Listen! Take time today to download and listen to our podcast entitled “My War Never Ended” featuring people and agencies working with our veterans.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Do Our Deeds Match Our Words?
“To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.” (Titus 1:15-16)

We’re all familiar with a problem known as “Talking the talk, but not walking the walk.” To put it another way, “Talk’s cheap.” Scripture is very familiar with this problem, too. It’s a problem which frequently shows up in the Church and in gatherings of people who claim to know God and to be Christ-followers, but whose lives and deeds don’t seem to match up to what they claim to believe. How can people claim to know and follow Jesus, but not obey His commands to serve “the least of these” (see Matthew 25:40)? Let’s place this into the context of today’s “good deeds issue”: Veterans. How can we claim to honor and respect our Veterans, but NOT make the effort required to see that the needs of struggling vets are met? Take time today to reflect on whether or not your “good words” match your “good deeds.”

 

Day 15 – Work With Special Needs Kids And Adults

Over the years my wife and I have either personally known families with special needs children, or we have had opportunities to work with special needs kids and adults. These are amazing people who are daily working their way through a variety of disabilities and challenges. My wife and I had the privilege of working with a young woman with Cerebral Palsy, and I had the pastoral privilege of officiating her wedding. She is now a special education teacher with a growing family of her own. According to a recent article by Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research, posted in Christianity Today Online, roughly 13% of Children between ages 13-17 have a developmental disability. Of those with disabilities, 41% of those children have multiple disabilities. And all of these amazing kids could benefit from the assistance of caring people who care enough to volunteer their time.

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! This church purchased and renovated a house and turned it into a home for disabled adults!

Consider Starting A Special Needs Ministry In Your Church. If you are one of those rare people who feel the burden to act, rather than to wait for others to “do something,” then this step may be for you. If so, here is a resource created by someone who did exactly what you are considering: they took a step of faith and started a special needs ministry. Here’s praying for your success and for finding a kindred spirit!

Wishing Star Foundation was founded in 1983 to grant special wishes to terminally ill children. Today they continue to grant wishes to children facing life threatening illnesses. Discover how you can volunteer and get involved! Project ID is a faith based non-profit organization which serves adults with intellectual disabilities through a recreation center, classes and a variety of other activities and services. This is an opportunity to make a difference in an adult’s life by assisting at a recreational center and a SAFE place solely for those with intellectual disabilities. They are open 6:00 to 9:00pm Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Legendary Love – Part 1
“And the king said, ‘Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?’ Ziba said to the king, ‘There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.’” (2 Samuel 9:3)

God’s love for the marginalized is nothing short of “legendary.” So great was His love and concern for their welfare that He made special provisions in the laws of ancient Israel for their protection. King David understood something of God’s heart for the marginalized. While looking for a way to honor his friend, Jonathan, who had perished in battle, David discovered that Jonathan’s son (Mephibosheth) had survived the turmoil, but was crippled in his feet (we are never told how or why). David’s response was to search him out and to show kindness. Seeing him for the first time, David declared, “Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.” (2 Samuel 9:7) From that day on, “Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons.” David’s kindness mirrored God’s compassion for the marginalized. How about you? Do you know a “special needs” person or family who could benefit from your thoughtfulness, kindness and attention today? Are you prepared to demonstrate God’s “legendary love” toward someone in need today?

 

Day 16 – Sponsor A Child

Let’s begin with a true story. A large church in our city recently decided they needed to do something to challenge their people to greater love and good deeds. The leadership made a decision to purchase   copies of Richard Stern’s excellent book, The Hole In Our Gospel and to distribute them free to the congregation. Richard Stern is President of WorldVision USA and the book is the story of his personal journey into good deeds. The pastor spent several weeks preaching through the book while the book was read and studied in small groups. On the final Sunday of the series the Church invited the author to speak. I was there, and Stern’s message was quite good. The congregation in each of the three morning services was challenged to personally sponsor over 1,500 impoverished children in third world countries. Fifteen hundred sponsorship slips were taped to the auditorium wall and people were encouraged to pray about it, take one and sponsor a child. Well before the last morning service, all 1,500 slips were gone. It was a thoughtful, powerful and effective way of stimulating one another to greater love and good deeds. Well done!

Here’s What You Could Do

Experts on child poverty around the world, particularly in less developed countries, agree that the most effective way to change the life a child is through Child Sponsorship. Here are some reputable ministries which offer child sponsorship opportunities. World Vision is an international Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities in over 100 countries worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Compassion International is a child-advocacy ministry that pairs compassionate people with those who are suffering from poverty. The ministry releases children from spiritual, economic, social, and physical poverty. The goal is for each child to become a responsible and fulfilled adult. They have sponsored over 1 million children since their beginning in 1952, and their $38/month child sponsorship program is one of the most straight-forward, simple and user-friendly programs available for those new to the whole idea. Founded by Franklin Graham (son of legendary Evangelist Billy Graham) Samaritan’s Purse is engaged in compassion works around the world, including extensive work among children living in poverty. Samaritan’s Purse gives these children a fresh start on a better life, while offering a new beginning in Christ.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Legendary Love – Part 2
“Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him! Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” (Psalm 68:4-5)

In yesterday’s Devotional Reflection we noted God’s love for the marginalized is “legendary.” He even made special provisions in the laws of ancient Israel to provide for their protection. The people of God were expressly told, “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.” (Exodus 22:22) During the annual renewal of the Covenant between the people and God, the people were to openly and solemnly declare, “Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’” (Deuteronomy 27:19). And, as today’s Scripture passage demonstrates, the worship liturgy of ancient Israel openly acknowledged God’s love and concern for “the fatherless.”   In the New Testament, Jesus – by word and deed – revealed an even greater scope to God’s concern for those in need. So great is God’s concern for those in need that, according to Jesus in the parable of the sheep and the goats, the ultimate separation between the righteous and the wicked will be characterized by how they responded to the needs of “the least of these” (Matthew 25:45). No, there is no Bible verse which commands us to sponsor a child in need. There is simply the legendary love of God for the marginalized. Spend some time today reflecting on why such “legendary love” alone isn’t sufficient to motivate you to greater kindness and good deeds, including sponsoring a child in need.

 

Day 17 – Befriend Someone In Need

NOTE: The following story from the Ayre family, of Kansas and it appears in Chapter 9 of my book, The Least Of These. A couple of years ago, my husband was filling a soda machine that sits in front of our business. It was late in the evening when he pulled up and noticed a man sitting in his car in our parking lot. It appeared to him that the man was living in his car because it was filled with all his belongings. He approached him and asked him if he needed help. The man shared how he had lived in Denver but left a few days ago with nowhere to go and nowhere to stay. My husband called me and after telling me what this man’s situation was and said, “Honee, I want to put him up for a couple of nights in a hotel.” I agreed. The man was surprised by our offer yet incredibly thankful! Two days later the man called my husband’s cell phone and thanked us again. My husband asked him if he had a job yet and some other living arrangements. He replied, “No,” but that he had applied at several fast food restaurants (thinking he could at least eat one meal there while he worked). My husband suggested he come home with him to stay with us until he found a job and got on his feet. So for a couple of months that summer this man lived in our camper behind our house (which we had just spent all winter fixing up) until he eventually found a job and a place to live. Then we helped him get settled in. Before he left our home he shared that the night he was sitting in his car in our parking lot he had been praying and asking God for help when my husband showed up to fill the soda machine.

Here’s What You Could Do

Hopefully, this story speaks for itself and needs little elaboration, except to say this. We live in a day and time when it is important to be cautious about taking strangers into our home. But at the same time, the greatest form of “heart disease” we can suffer is that “hardening of the heart” which causes us to close our eyes to the obvious needs of those around us. Caution is good, when tempered with compassion.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Kindness Is Personal
“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you” (Leviticus 25:35).

Who’s sleeping on your couch? During the Great Depression of the 1930s in America, many families had personal stories of a friend, a neighbor or even a perfect stranger sleeping on their couch or staying in a spare room, or eating at their dinner table. Scripture reminds us that compassion is always personal. Yes, even to the point of bringing someone into our home to share a meal or to sleep on our sofa. This was true of compassion among God’s people in the Old Testament. It was true of compassion among God’s people in the New Testament as they met “house to house” (Acts 2:42). And it remains true of compassion today. In the Kingdom of God, compassion, kindness and good deeds are always personal, because we worship and serve a personal God.

 

Day 18 – Serve A Senior

His name was “Tex” (his nickname) and he was a regular resident at Truth Ministries Men’s Shelter for a couple of years. When he walked he “shuffled,” like Artie Johnson’s character, the little ol’ man, on the Sixty’s show, “Laugh In.” By the way he dressed we could tell that he didn’t belong in a homeless shelter. He belonged with a family. In fact, Tex had a family (and, yes, they were concerned about him). He was retired and even had a small pension. But something had “snapped” inside Tex and he now preferred life on the streets, living with us at night in the shelter and spending his days riding the bus or hanging out at a laundry mat next to Huckleberry’s on the lower South Hill (they would call us, “Tex is here. Could someone come and get him?”). When he failed to show up at the shelter for several days (which he occasionally did) we would make a concerted effort to locate Tex and make certain he was OK. But age and his issues finally caught up with him. Donald Charles “Tex” Texley passed away in 2010 at the age of 78 and is buried in the Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Spokane, Washington. He is fondly remembered at Truth Ministries Men’s Shelter by those of us who knew him.

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! Take a moment to discover a group which started what they called “S.O.S.” (Serving Our Seniors). The idea was to discover what seniors said they needed and then find volunteers to help meet those needs! Another idea which caught on was to build wooden wheelchair ramps for local seniors at no charge.

Get Involved with Mid-City Concerns And Meals On Wheels Spokane. Tex’s story is one of many which could be told of senior citizens throughout our community. These are people who have reached what should be their “golden years,” but who now find themselves in need for any number of reasons. Many of them find their way to Mid-City Concerns and Meals on Wheels Spokane, the oldest Meals on Wheels agency in the Inland Northwest. They work with over 350 seniors who need a hot meal and a visit by a volunteer (because 54% of those receiving meals state that they usually eat alone. Visit A Senior Center. In addition to serving 500 meals every day to seniors in need, Mid-City Concerns operates a Senior Center where seniors can find a safe and welcoming environment, receive a low-cost/free meal, participate in activities, work with an advocate for their other needs, or simply find company and friendship. Volunteer! There are numerous volunteer opportunities, ranging from delivering free meals to donating needed items for the Senior Center, to volunteering time at the Center. Give them a call at (509) 456-0397 to learn how you can serve a senior today. Also, Catholic Charities of Spokane offers a variety of Senior Services including their Volunteer Chore Services, through which volunteers provide a wide range of household tasks and assistance. Contact them to discover how you can volunteer and get involved.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

“Corban” – Part 1
“And he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”‘ (that is, given to God) –   then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.’” (Mark 7:9-13)

Today’s devotional thought is Part 1 of 2. We’ll conclude it tomorrow (Day 19). When it comes to the realities and the consistency of human nature, Scripture reveals a penetrating and seemingly timeless truth. Very little has changed over the centuries. People still look for and find ways and reasons for NOT doing those difficult things which conscience tells us we should do. And that includes finding religious reasons for not doing the very things God has commanded and expects His people to do. In ancient Israel, Part of “honoring” one’s father and mother included caring for them in their old age. But Jewish tradition (of unknown origin) provided that funds originally set aside for their care could be declared “Corban” (a Herew/Aramaic term meaning “legally dedicated to God”) and given to the Temple instead. Religious tradition trumped biblical responsibility. Spend time today reflecting on the excuses – including religious ones – you may be making for not serving seniors (and others) in need.

 

Day 19 – Visit An Assisted Living Home

It was one of those unavoidable life-journeys. For a period of some three years my wife and I served as live-in caretakers for her elderly parents until their passing. Our life became an endless stream of taking them wherever they needed to go, doctor appointments, health crises, hospital stays, nursing home/rehab stays, and much more. The last year of Gale’s dad’s life was spent in an assisted living home, giving us somewhat of a break (although we were still there every day). But it also introduced us to the world of seniors who spent much of their time and most of their days alone except for the staff and the occasional (and I do mean occasional) visit from friends or family. We often wondered out loud to each other, “What do people do who don’t have family around to care for them.” We learned the answer and it was difficult to watch.

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! Take a moment to discover a group which developed a “Tea Time Ministry” among seniors in a senior living complex, offering hospitality and tea to combat loneliness and isolation among seniors.

Locate an assisted living/nursing facility near you. Pay a visit and talk to the staff. Ask about activities for the residents that you could participate in. Ask about who has not had recent visitors and might be open to a visit (since many of those in a home don’t get visits . . . ever!). Bring some flowers, a balloon, an encouraging card, a devotional. Just talk. Spend time, even if it’s just watching their favorite program on television. Treat them the way you would want someone to treat your elderly parents.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

“Corban” – Part 2
“And he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”‘ (that is, given to God) –   then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.’” (Mark 7:9-13)

Today’s devotional thought is Part 2 and the conclusion of a devotional thought we began yesterday (Day 18). In yesterday’s devotional we discovered that we all make excuses for not doing the right thing in serving others. Some of the excuses we make stem from our lifestyle. We used to be a society which was much more generationally connected, with entire families – moms, dads, kids, grand-kids – all living together under the same roof. More often than not, it was the rule rather than an exception. Growing up, I remember my maternal grandmother living with our family for the last several years of her life. She was simply part of our family. But today, such close-knit families are the exception, and our seniors are often the neglected victims of our modern families. Spend time today reflecting on the seniors in your own life and how you could serve them with greater kindness and good deeds. What do they need that you could provide?

 

Day 20 – Practice “Creation Care”

Years ago, author and financial guru Larry Burkett shared the story of a conversation he had with a gentleman from China. Upon visiting a garbage landfill in America, the Chinese man expressed his astonishment at what Americans threw away. According to Burkett, this man declared that in China he could be a wealthy man by simply salvaging what we Americans toss into the garbage. Today is a day to reflect on what it means to be good stewards of what has been entrusted to us. It’s a day to be consciously aware of God’s creation and our responsibility to practice meaningful “Creation Care.”

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! Take some time today to challenge your thinking and reflect on “9 Ways To Care For The Creation.” In addition, this would be a good time to think about “Whose Earth Is It Anyway?”. Then, why not organize an event to clean up trash and debris in your community as a way to observe Earth Day (April 22) and demonstrate that you and your church or community organization take “Creation Care” seriously.

Recycle! Make a conscious decision today to regularly and intentionally recycle things you use and throw away every day. From aluminum cans to plastic water bottles and those old magazines that have been laying around and accumulating dust. The City of Spokane makes recycling much easier with large blue recycling cans. When my wife and I began using it consistently we discovered that as much as half of all our garbage could be recycled! Learn more about how to recycle and get started today practicing better “Creation Care.”   Go through your clothes closet. “Thin the herd.” Donate what you find to a local shelter or thrift store. Hold a garage/yard sale to clean out unused items from the house, basement or garage. Donate the proceeds to a reputable charity, or add the funds to your “benevolence fund” (which we talk about tomorrow!). Join an annual clean up Day. The Spokane River Forum sponsors an annual river clean up day. Here’s your chance to “go green,” meet some of your neighbors and participate in a neighborhood clean up day!

Today’s Devotional Reflection

God’s Gardner
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15)

“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.” (Psalms 24:2)

The first task God gave man (Adam) in the Garden of His newly created world was to care for His creation. His “job description” – if you will – was to be God’s gardener, the “caretaker” of someone else’s property. In other words, he was to be a steward. And although his stewardship would be later expanded (Genesis 9:1-17), it was never cancelled or revoked. The title deed to creation remains with God, Who created it. And He continues to expect good care and stewardship of His garden on the part of those who remain his caretakers. What would He have you do today to be a better steward of His property?

 

Day 21 – Give (Generously)

One of my favorite stories and examples of giving comes from the life of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church in 18th Century England. At the beginning of each year Wesley calculated what he would need to live on for the coming year. Once that figure was calculated he made a conscious choice to give away everything in excess of that modest amount. In one particular year Wesley gave away nearly 98% of his earnings for that year. Then, in the year 1776 Wesley received a note from the Commissioner of Excise (Tax). At that time the British Government imposed a luxury excise tax on all silver plate (dinnerware, etc.). The Commissioner of Excise claimed that Wesley owned more silver plate than he had declared and paid tax on. Wesley responded curtly but profoundly, “I have two silver spoons at London and two at Bristol. This is all the plate I have at present, and I shall not buy any more while so many round me want bread.” Is it any wonder that Wesley never heard back from The Commissioner of Excise? It’s hard to argue with that kind of eloquence. On the eve of his death with his strength failing, John Wesley closed his personal financial account book with these words: “For upwards of 86 years I have kept my accounts exactly, I will not attempt it any longer, being satisfied with the continual conviction that I save all I can, and give all I can – that is all I have.” It was said of John Wesley that when he died he left behind only three things: a well-worn clerical robe, an extensive personal library, and the Methodist Church. The legacy of generosity and a life well lived.

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! Develop some personal perspective on giving by reflecting on The Cost of Radical Generosity. Consider “crowdfunding” your favorite cause. “Crowdfunding” is the latest trend in raising money for worthwhile causes. Here’s an explanation of how it works (if you don’t know already) AND recommendations for the Top 10 “crowdfunding” sites.

Establish a “benevolence fund.” Do you have a “benevolence fund”? O.K., this is simple. A “benevolence fund” is simply a designated block of money that you set aside for the purpose of regular giving (or giving to unanticipated needs as they arise). It’s a “giving fund.” You could even set up a separate checking or savings account as a place to accumulate and hold funds till you give them away. The point here is “intentionality.” Whatever you give should be intentional rather than haphazard. More good things happen when we are intentional about what we do. Figure out how much you want to give in total (5% of my paycheck or $XXXX per month) and set that about aside every paycheck. Remember: You can’t give away what you don’t have!

Pick a cause or causes which matter to you and give regularly. What are the causes which matter to you? Your church? A homeless shelter? A food bank? An abused women’s recovery ministry? We are currently on Day 21 of our 30-day journey into kindness and good deeds. What cause or issue have you discovered that has caught your attention and ignited a fire? Maybe it’s time to pick one (or more) and get financially involved. Ministries and charities large and small count on and build their budgets upon the pledges and contributions of regular givers. People like you.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Joyful Generosity
“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7)

Did you see the contrast in this passage? It is a contrast between sowing (giving) “sparingly” and sowing “bountifully.” It is the difference between someone who gives reluctantly (the Greed word suggests someone who is “stingy”) and with hesitation, and someone who “gives with a blessing.” Based on the words of Jesus, the early Christians taught that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). It is hard to be both “stingy” and joyful in our giving. Our giving to important and worthwhile causes should be a joy done with a blessing, not a reluctant burden. We should give generously because it is the right thing to do. We should give joyfully because we know that we are sowing seed for a future harvest of good. God loves the generous gift made by a joyful heart. And He loves the joyful heart that gives generously. Spend time today reflecting on your own giving. Is it joyful? Is it generous? And do you believe it is more blessed to give than to receive?

 

Day 22 – Reach Out To Women In Crisis

Living as we do in 21st Century America, it is difficult for many of us to wrap our heads around the reality that there are women all around us struggling to emerge from abuse, human trafficking, drugs, poverty and more. But the reality is brutally apparent in overflowing women’s shelters and over-worked ministries which serve a generation of women struggling to work their way through a variety of life-crisis. It is estimated that 70% of those individuals living in poverty in Spokane are women. The good news is that there are a growing number of opportunities for all of us to reach out and be a part of the solution to this problem.

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! Sometimes it takes a survivor of domestic violence to understand how hope can make the difference between remaining a victim or seeking help and escaping the violence. But it also takes awareness of the issue and how to respond with compassion, and that’s what this church is promoting.

Abuse Recovery Ministry Services (or ARMS) works to bring healing and transformation, from a faith perspective, for those impacted by domestic violence. They offer services for those emerging from domestic abuse, along with a variety of volunteer opportunities for those wanting to get involved. Christ Kitchen is NOT a “soup kitchen.” Rather, it is a job-training project providing work, instruction, discipleship, support, and fellowship for women emerging from in poverty in the Spokane area. Life Services offers the opportunity to impact the life of a young, single mom by walking alongside her as a friend/mentor during and after an unplanned pregnancy; or provide a supportive family host home for women needing a safe place to begin anew. Take a moment today to discover volunteer opportunities that can make a difference. UGM Women’s Crisis Shelter is operated by the Union Gospel Mission and serves between 75 and 125 homeless women every night. Their office number is (509) 535-0486. Call and learn how you can get involved. Hearth Homes provides transitional housing to homeless women and their children in Spokane Valley. They offer numerous opportunities for volunteers to get involved. Transitions operates five programs, each working to end poverty and homelessness for women and children in Spokane in a unique way. They offer a wide variety of opportunities for volunteers to get involved. Field of Diamonds House of Blessings is an independent Christian transitional home offering a residential program for women emerging from abuse, poverty and/or homelessness. They have a wide variety of financial and practical needs which you can help with.

Listen! Take time today to download and listen to our podcast entitled “Women In Crisis” with directors of women’s ministries and shelters in Spokane.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Who Do You See?
“One of the Pharisees asked [Jesus] to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.’” (Luke 7:36-39)

Like the Pharisee in today’s passage (they were religious leaders in 1st Century Judaism), we all tend to make snap judgments when confronted with people in crisis. On this particular day Simon the Pharisee could only see a known “prostitute” and made a snap judgment that this was a woman to be avoided, even ostracized. Jesus looked deeper and saw a broken, abused and marginalized woman who had been betrayed and used by everyone in her life, and who needed to be embraced, forgiven and restored. Which one do you see? Spend some time today reflecting on the snap judgments you have made concerning the marginalized, including women emerging from poverty, abuse and human trafficking.

 

Day 23 – Practice The Business Of Doing Good

It happened the week after Christmas, that “dead zone” when everyone is out for the holidays. I dropped by the business of our friends, Art and Linda, who own a successful business in the Spokane Valley. They were active supporters of our work among the marginalized in our community. Art was tied up, so Linda, said, “Maurice, if you don’t need to talk to Art, why I don’t just take care of you.” She led me into their private office. We engaged in holiday small talk while she wrote out their monthly support check. As she handed me the check she said, “You’ve really been on my mind this week, and I just want you to know how much we appreciate what you do.” Then I saw it. The check was for more than three times their usually generous monthly gift. I looked at the check, then at her, and said, “Linda, are you sure . . . ?” She replied, “The work you do is hard, and we appreciate it.” Still recovering from her generosity I said, “Linda, my work isn’t hard. I love what I do. This,” I said, holding up her check, “is what’s hard, asking people for money. It’s the hardest part of what I do. I was wondering how we were going to pay the rent next week. Now I know.” Like many other generous business owners I could name, Art and Linda embody what it means to practice “the business of doing good.” Ministries and charities throughout our community would cease to function were it not for businesses and business owners who are committed to practicing the business of doing good. Is yours one of those businesses? And if not, why not?

Here’s What You Could Do

Encourage! Encourage the businesses you patronize to be more involved in charitable and community outreach. Let them know that greater community involvement is something you expect from the businesses you support with your dollars.

Plan! If you are a business owner, what is your on-going plan for supporting worthwhile charitable and community causes? Does your business designate a regular amount of its proceeds (or hiring or volunteer hours, or professional labor or materials) for charitable and community causes? I recently helped a local business owner organize his year-end charitable giving. All requests for help received over the previous several months had been gathered together in a folder. We sorted through ALL of them based on the owner’s giving priorities. Next, we entered the selected recipients into a spread sheet and worked to match the amounts he wanted to give each one with the funds he had accumulated for giving. In one day of planned work, I had the privilege of helping him organize and give away nearly $15,000 in gifts. What’s your business plan for doing good?

Challenge! If you are a business owner, why not join the local Chamber of Commerce (in Spokane County it’s known as Greater Spokane Incorporated) and challenge other business owners to greater charitable and community involvement?

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Enriched In Every Way
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:8-11)

In the devotion for Day 21 we discovered the difference between someone who is a stingy and reluctant giver (i.e., “I give because I think I must”), and someone who gives “bountifully” (i.e., “with a blessing”), even joyfully. The truth of that devotion is carried forward here. Our generosity, which we express by “practicing the business of doing good,” is something which will return to us many-fold (note the four occurrences of the word “all” in the passage). Generosity and kindness are simply good business, because God is able to “multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness” with the result that “you will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.” I have met several business owners over the years who are, quite frankly, “stingy” in their giving and who complain the entire time. But I have yet to meet a generous business owner who complains about giving. They are usually joyful in what they give, and their only complaint is about their inability to do more. Which are you?

 

Day 24 – Stand Up Against Human Trafficking

Human trafficking has a face, and her name is Michelle. I met Michelle at Spokane Falls Community College when I was invited to speak to a class concerning “My Brother’s Keeper.” Michelle had come out of the sex trafficking trade. She had become a Christian, enrolled in college and was now completing a degree in social work. But she had a problem. “I’m doing all the right things to get my life back,” she told me, “but no one will hire me with my background.” In addition to her sex trafficking background, she also had a non-violent felony conviction. “I’m a single mom with a child to support, court fines to pay and no job prospects. What do I do?” My conversation with Michelle haunted me for several days. Finally, I wrote up her story (without using her name) and e-mailed it to a list I kept of ministry and agency leaders, asking a very basic question: Why can’t we get this girl a job. That e-mail generated a flurry of discussions and more e-mails, culminating in Michelle receiving two job offers (one of which she took). Her church stepped forward and paid off her court fines. Michelle is now married, working and very thankful for all that God has done through other people to make her life a success story of deliverance from the scourge of human trafficking.

Human Trafficking is broadly defined as a crime which involves obtaining or maintaining the labor or sexual services of another human being through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Estimated to be the world’s second largest and fastest growing criminal industry (estimated at $32 billion/year worldwide), human trafficking has led to the enslavement of nearly 27 million people around the world. Human trafficking represents the human slavery market of the 21st Century, but one which knows no boundaries of gender, age, race or nationality. Human trafficking involves a wide variety of activities ranging from humans for sale, child trafficking and sex slavery, human organs for sale, prostitution and more. Human trafficking represents a growing scourge of disturbing proportions and one which demands our attention and involvement to stand for the vulnerable and the victimized. Learn more at The Polaris Project.

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! Take time today to reflect on 8 ways that you can fight this modern slavery scourge. Then, here’s a way you could get involved. Trades of Hope works with women around the world emerging from poverty and human trafficking by helping them become self-supporting entrepreneurs.

Working in community with the local Church, World Relief envisions the most vulnerable people transformed economically, socially, and spiritually. Their mission is to serve those who are suffering from poverty and injustice, regardless of color, belief, or gender, as part of God’s plan to redeem, reconcile, and restore the world. Discover how you can get involved and make a difference today. Faith Alliance Against Slavery & Trafficking (FAAST) is a strategic alliance of Christian organizations working together to combat slavery and human trafficking. FAAST exists to mobilize and equip communities to combat slavery and human trafficking and to restore survivors. Learn more and discover how you can get involved and make a difference. Lutheran Community Services is very involved in fighting human trafficking in Spokane. Learn more about their efforts and how you can recognize and stand up against human trafficking. Generation Alive exists to develop a generation of young leaders, committed to serving others and responding to the needs in their community. They do this by working with schools, churches, sport teams, and various youth organizations offering education and service projects that engage students in opportunities to serve their community. On the issue of fighting human trafficking they partner with Not For Sale. Generation Alive offers a wide variety of opportunities for volunteering and involvement.

Listen! Take time today to download and listen to our podcast on Human Trafficking featuring a roundtable of people working to combat human trafficking.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

No Longer A Slave
“I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment . . . . I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.” (Philemon 1:10-14)

Ancient Rome was an Empire built upon the backs of slaves – victims of ancient “human trafficking.” And Onesimus was one of them. Onesimus was a slave, the property of a Christian named Philemon, living in the city of Colossae in Asia Minor (think Western Turkey). Apparently, Onesimus ran away from Philemon, possibly even stealing money to finance his escape. He fled to Rome in the hope of getting lost in the teeming masses of the Capitol City. There, as Providence would have it, Onesimus met the Apostle Paul and was converted to Christian faith. Under Roman Law, Philemon had the right, not only to demand Onesimus’ return, but to punish him with sanctions ranging from “mere” flogging to summary execution. Paul wrote a letter to Philemon, interceding on behalf of Onesimus, urging Philemon to receive and treat Onesimus, not as a returning slave, but as fellow-believer and member of the Christian community. That was unheard of in Roman society. We should make it clear that elsewhere in the New Testament (see 1 Timothy 1:10) Paul condemns those who are “enslavers” (Greek: andrapodistes, literally, “man-stealers”). Slavery and trafficking in the lives of others was and continues to be a sin in the New Testament. And the early Church was famous (or “notorious” according to the Romans) for embracing the marginalized and including them in its community of faith, including those fleeing the ancient human trafficking institution of “slavery.” Spend some time today reflecting on how you could do more to stand up against human trafficking.

 

Day 25 – Bring Clean Water To Those Without

You and I take clean, safe drinking water for granted. Turn the tap on our home faucet or twist the lid from a bottle of our favorite water and it’s there. No problem. But for hundreds of millions of people around the world, clean safe drinking water is unavailable or difficult to access. According to the charity water.org one out of 9 people around the world lack access to safe clean water, while women and children around the world spend 140 million hours a day collecting water. It is estimated that every $1 spent providing clean water and sanitation yields at least $4 in benefit to the local economy.

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s a creative idea! Take a moment to discover how this group decided to combine recycling and “Creation Care” (see Day 20) with bringing clean water to those who need it. They teamed up with Living Water International, so you might want to check them out, too. And then, there’s this youth group that sold bottled water in their community to raise money for clean water projects in Haiti! But here’s the best one yet. This group decided that if Jesus could turn water into wine, they could turn used shoes into clean drinking water (yes, seriously)!

The SpoKenya Run/Walk (“A Race For Clean Water”) is held annually at Life Center Foursquare Church in Spokane during the month of July. It is the major fund raiser for water projects in Kenya with in partnership with Spring of Hope International. Another organization working for clean water and sanitation in the third world is Water.org. Co-founded by Gary White and Matt Damon, Water.org is a non-profit organization that has transformed hundreds of communities in Africa, South Asia, and Central America by providing access to safe water and sanitation. Take time today to discover how you can get involved.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Life And Water
“So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour. A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?’ Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.’” (John 4:5-15)

One of the most profound spiritual conversations in all of human history between God and man began beside a well and over a cup of water. Water is a frequent and powerful biblical motif for the life and power of God working in and through the person who seeks Him (see Isaiah 55:1; John 7:37-39; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4). Just as literal water is physical life, so too, living water is spiritual life. It is no exaggeration, either practically or biblically, to say that when we give the gift of clean, abundant water to those without, we give the gift of life and we begin a conversation that can be absolutely profound for everyone involved. Spend time today reflecting on the conversation you want to begin today . . . over a cup of water. Then, go dig a well!

 

Day 26 – Reach Out To A Foster Child Or Family

Pastor Terry Crist of City of Grace, a multi-site church in Arizona, knelt down beside a small boy—a foster child, living in a group home. “If there was anything I could do for you, what would it be?” the pastor asked. The boy pulled three church-donated backpacks out from under his bed. “I’m very grateful for the backpacks,” he said, “but what I really need is a home.” This true story, published in Outreach Magazine, highlights the issue: the challenge of orphans, foster care and adoption is very real, and won’t be solved with well-intentioned back pack drives.

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! Pastor Crist’s experience motivated him to join with other pastors to form a movement called Arizona 1.27 to help churches engage the Arizona child welfare system and offer practical solutions to the challenges of foster care and adoption. Take time today to learn more about the difference you could make on this issue. And while you’re at it, you might want to think about the 8 ways this article suggests for how you and your church could make a difference in the lives of kids in need of families and homes.

Antioch Adoptions is a non-profit, licensed child placement agency providing no-fee adoption services to Christian families which began as the twelve year dream of Dr. Ken Hutcherson, founding Pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland, Washington. He desired to see all children from the Foster Care system adopted into loving families. Contact them to learn more and to discover opportunities to volunteer and get involved. Safety Net works primarily with kids turning 18 and “aging out” of the foster care system (1-in-5 of whom are at risk of becoming homeless). Safety Net offers foster youth assistance with immediate emergency financial aid and necessary support to continue their education, enhance their job skills and transition to self-sufficiency and independence. Take a moment to discover how you can get involved in the life of an “at-risk” teen. Embrace Washington works to assist local DSHS workers who are working with displaced children. They offer a wide variety of opportunities for interested people (like you) to get involved in helping foster children. Spokane Orphan Summit is an annual one-day conference to encourage, resource and mobilize Christians to engage in caring for and serving foster, adopted, orphaned children and their families here in the Inland Northwest and abroad. Foster Parent Association Of Washington is a nonprofit, volunteer organization that supports foster parents and provides a consistently strong voice on behalf of all children in Eastern Washington, including reliable information on how to become a foster parent. Check it out!

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Be Zealous!
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14)

Biblically speaking, “zeal” represents our love for God expressed in and through practical good works. To lose our zeal is to court spiritual disaster. One of the strongest “rebukes” in all of Scripture appears in Revelation 3 where the risen Christ rebukes the Christian community in the ancient city of Laodicea for their loss of “zeal.” They had become “lukewarm”; neither hot nor cold. They needed to “repent” and recover their zeal. A lifestyle of doing good, including the challenging work of foster care, requires long-term zeal. Such a lifestyle embodies a long-term commitment to express our love for God and His love for us, through a life of sacrificial service toward others. Take time today to examine your own zeal and how you are expressing it through a genuine lifestyle of doing good.

 

Day 27 – Take In An Exchange Student

While I was working on the final draft of this e-book I received an e-mail from an individual relating an experience that she and her family recently had with an exchange student (they were not the host family). Their daughter met an exchange student from Norway at the high school they both attended here in the States. The two became good friends and the daughter had an opportunity to share her Christian faith with her new friend. The exchange student was so excited by her new found faith that she e-mail her parents in Norway to explain what had occurred and to invite them to come and discover first-hand what her life transforming experience was all about. They did. As a result, this Norwegian family has been deeply touched by their American experience, even inviting their new-found American friends to visit them at their home in Norway. And that’s how lasting connections are made in the Kingdom of God. What connections are you making, and how might sponsoring and hosting an exchange student help you make those connections?

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! This African-American church sponsors an annual Cultural Exchange Service and Potluck Dinner for local area foreign exchange students to build bridges and break down stereotypes!

Pacific Rim Exchange Services exists to provide clean, safe, loving homes for students from around the world; engage students who want to come study in the United States; connect with people who are serving the needs of people locally and abroad.

Today’s Devotional Reflection
“And let our people also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, that they may not be unfruitful.” (Titus 3:14, NASB)

Biblical discipleship is a life-long learning process, and every disciple of the Kingdom is a life-long learner. One of the things that he (or she) must learn is the importance of good deeds and their role in being “fruitful” for the Kingdom of God. In the Greek of the 1st century, the word translated “engage in” (proistemi) had several usages, including to preside, to rule or govern, to engage in aggressively, to take the lead and to make it one’s business. Keeping this in mind, an alternative translation of the text could be as follows: “And let our people learn about good deeds, namely, to take the lead in meeting pressing needs, in order that they may not be unfruitful.” Simply stated, when it comes to good deeds we need to “make it our business” to be pro-active, not passive. We should be leading, not following. Spend some time today reflecting on how you could become more pro-active and “take the lead” in doing good toward others. It might even include sponsoring and hosting an exchange student!

 

Day 28 – Take A Stand For Racial Reconciliation

I was born in the American South during a turbulent time for race relations in our country. I grew up in the era of racial desegregation during the 1950s and 60s. I have vivid personal memories of being told that I could no longer go to the only public swimming pool in town because “those people” could now swim there. And a large billboard on private property adjacent to Interstate 95 outside of town featured a hooded figure on horseback declaring to every passer-by that the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan welcomed everyone to the state. That was the world in which I grew up. I could tell stories, but hopefully, you get the point. Many positive changes in American race relations have occurred since then, but as recent events in Charleston and elsewhere have painfully demonstrated, we still have much work to do. Today is your day to reflect on what you can to in your own sphere of influence to stand up for and encourage racial peace and reconciliation.

Here’s What You Could Do

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Outreach Center began in Spokane more than 40 years ago as a community response to a community need. Continuing the work of its original founders, the Center remains responsive to community needs. Living out the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Center continues to pave the way for a more equitable future by encouraging families to take responsibility for their success – preparing children to succeed in school and life, providing leadership opportunities for youth, celebrating cultural diversity in Spokane, and fostering meaningful connections between community members from all walks of life. Today, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Outreach Center is a regionally recognized community social service center providing comprehensive education, social services and cultural enrichment programs for children and families. Take time today to discover how to volunteer and get involved making a difference.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Equality
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)

In the ancient world, identity with one’s own people (race) or class represented the essential structure of Roman social order. You were either a Roman or a barbarian (i.e., non-Roman); you were either a slave or a free-born person; you were either a Jew (i.e., one of God’s chosen people) or a Greek (any non-Jew). The idea that there might be equality between these separated groups represented “social nonsense.” And yet, that is exactly what the new and rapidly-growing Christian community believed, taught and practiced. The Christian message, that all men (and women) everywhere were sinners in need of the salvation provided by faith in Jesus the Nazarene, cut across all racial, social, political, gender and economic divides. All men (and women) everywhere could now be reconciled to God and become citizens in equal standing in His Kingdom. And if God counted them all as equals before His great bar of justice, then they could and should be reconciled to one another. Personal peace and reconciliation with God should be manifested through peace and reconciliation with one another. Take time today to reflect on how peace and reconciliation with God has transformed your own life. What prevents you from extending that same peace and reconciliation to those around you, regardless of racial, social, political, gender or economic differences between you?

 

Day 29 – Reach Out To A Refugee Family

Refugees are people (like you) who have been forced to flee their home country and who are unable to return because they are at risk of persecution due to race, nationality, religion or membership in a political or social group or because they hold a particular political opinion. As of 2012, the UNHCR reports that there are nearly 10.5 million refugees in the world. Only about 1% of those refugees will make their way to America, but their arrival on humanitarian grounds creates a variety of challenges that could benefit from help by someone like you!

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s A Creative Idea! This church formed an educational team to teach English as a second language (ESL) in an after-school tutoring program for immigrant students who needed help! And this church decided to sponsor a multi-cultural fiesta as a way of reaching out to migrant workers in their area. In communities which are home to large numbers of international refugees, groups are starting ministries to help them acclimate to the new culture and way of life.

Over the past 35 years, World Relief has resettled over 250 thousand refugees from more than 80 nations. World Relief currently provides refugee resettlement assistance, employment services, micro-enterprise loans, immigration services while working to raise awareness and serve victims of human trafficking. The offer a strong variety of volunteer opportunities for you to get involved. Global Neighborhood is a non-profit organization in Spokane, WA that serves former refugees living in our city. They work to provide former refugees with employment, education, and empowerment. Check out their volunteer opportunities to discover how you can get involved. The Northeast Community Center is looking for volunteers who are fluent in a foreign language to assist with teaching ESL students.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Sojourners
“You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)

America has been described as a nation of immigrants, people who came here from somewhere else. Some came as refugees, fleeing difficult conditions. The Puritans who settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1628) came as religious refugees seeking the freedom to worship as they chose. Beginning in roughly 1857, nearly one million Irish immigrants/refuges came to America, fleeing the deplorable conditions back home created by the Irish potato famine. America has a long history of immigrants seeking refuge. Such people were (and continue to be) “sojourners,” not unlike those refugees and sojourners who left Egypt for Israel some 3,500 years ago. God’s warning to them – as they contemplated their new life in God’s “promised land” – rings true today: Do not “oppress” a sojourner in your midst. You, of all people, should understand the heart of a sojourner, because you were once a sojourner, too. Take time today to examine the attitude of your own heart toward the refugee – the “sojourner” – in your midst. Are you oppressing them or welcoming them?

 

Day 30 – Be Kind To God’s Creatures

Born into wealth and privilege, William Wilberforce (1759-1833) dedicated his public life to leading the struggle in the English Parliament to abolish slavery throughout England and its Empire. Under the spiritual tutelage of his friend and mentor, John Newton (former slave ship captain, pastor and author of “Amazing Grace”), the abolition of slavery became the principal passion of his life as a politician and a reformer. But Wilburforce did not limit his vision of a better world solely to his fellow human beings. Wilberforce also became a founding figure of the animal protection movement, helping to found the first Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and providing essential support for the first modern laws on the subject. Nearly 250 years later, his on-going legacy offers us both a challenge and an opportunity today to be kind toward God’s creatures under our care.

Here’s What You Could Do

Here’s a creative idea! This church decided to sponsor a pet vaccination clinic for low-income people who couldn’t afford to have their pets vaccinated. The response was amazing!

The Spokane Humane Society does great work in rescuing and caring for at-risk animals and moving them on to good homes (like yours). They actively encourage a wide variety of volunteer opportunities.

Today’s Devotional Reflection

Celebrate Creation
“O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.” (Psalm 104:24-25)

The Scriptures celebrate the beauty of creation as a reflection of the beauty and majesty of the Creator. This passage continues that celebration by reflecting on the diversity of creatures, “living things both small and great.” Over the centuries, Christian writers have picked up on this celebration to write celebratory verses of their own, such as Cecil Frances Alexander’s poem, “Maker of Heaven And Earth” (which we know as “All Things Bright And Beautiful”): “All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small, All things wise and wonderful, The Lord God made them all.” Today is a day for celebrating the beauty and diversity of Creation, and to do so as a reminder of our duty to care for the creatures He has placed under our care. Take time today to reflect on the beauty and diversity of creation and to think about what you could do in your own sphere of influence to be kind to God’s creatures.

 

Day 31 – Find Your Passion

Our 30-Day journey together into kindness and good deeds is now coming to an end. Or is it? Have you found your passion yet? Consider today a “bonus” day; an opportunity for you to take some time and reflect on the things you have learned and the ways you have reached out during this past month. How have your experiences over the past month changed you? What have you learned about others, about yourself, about your spiritual journey and about your own personal calling to serve “The Least Of These”? How have your experiences helped you shape a new perspective toward the needs of others, or helped you form a new “habit” – even a new lifestyle – of serving others? How have your experiences made you feel about yourself as a person, and how did they make others feel when you did something kind for them. Perhaps poet Maya Angelou expressed it best when she wrote:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
-Maya Angelou

As you cross the finish line for this part of your journey and begin to look ahead, here are some additional resources to help fuel your passion for greater involvement, love and good deeds: The City of Spokane sponsors “Volunteer Spokane” which offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities with ministries, charities, agencies and causes throughout Spokane on an equally wide variety of causes and topics. Spokane Cares offers what is perhaps one of the most extensive on-line listings of Spokane County non-profits and charities. And ServeSpokane is a growing ministry among churches in Spokane to encourage greater involvement in serving our community.

Today’s Devotional Thought

Passion and Purpose
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Pastor Rick Warren’s 2002 book, The Purpose Drive Life: What On Earth Am I Here For? caused a national sensation, broke publishing records, and sold in excess of 30 million copies. The basic premise of that book – that God has a purpose for your life – is rooted in today’s Scripture passage from Paul’s letter to the Church in the city of Ephesus (think western Turkey). That divine purpose is found in faith and good works. Faith establishes our relationship with God, while good works express that faith as we live it out in community with others. To discover God’s purpose for our lives is to discover our true passion, and to fulfill our passion is to fulfill our purpose. What’s yours?

Appendix A
Embrace The “Magnificent Obsession”
  

It’s About More Than Just Paying It Forward

The concept of doing good and of “paying it forward” is not new. No, not even in the 2000 movie starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment. And therein lies a story worth telling. Perhaps you remember the name, Lloyd C. Douglas. If not, allow me to fill in the blank spaces. Lloyd Cassel Douglas (August 27, 1877 – February 13, 1951) was a Lutheran pastor and one of the most popular American authors of his time, although he did not write his first novel until he was 50 (see, there’s still hope for the rest of us “late bloomers”!). He is best remembered for his book, and the 1953 movie adaptation, The Robe. That book sold more than 2 million copies, making it a publishing blockbuster for its time. But Douglas’ first book was a novel entitled Magnificent Obsession, published in 1929. The book was an immediate, sensational success. It was twice made into a major movie (in 1935 and again in 1954). The title comes from “the magnificent obsession that grows from doing good deeds” which author Lloyd Douglas based upon Jesus’ teachings in the gospels concerning good deeds done quietly and anonymously. At the time of their respective releases, both movie adaptations were well received by the public and were regarded as spiritual and reflective of biblical truths.

And that’s where we discover the profound difference between Pay It Forward on the one hand and Magnificent Obsession on the other. One is rooted and grounded in Postmodern (i.e., post-WW2) Existentialism, while the other is rooted and grounded in timeless biblical truth as taught by Jesus and the early Church. Standing on its own, the philosophy of “Pay It Forward” represents good deeds divorced from any “greater meaning” beyond the individual performing the deed, the act itself and the moment (I talk more about this in Appendix 2, “And That’s Why Harvard Can’t Teach Ethics”). Pay It Forward is the name of a sailing ship populated by a well intentioned crew which desires to do good. But it is a ship which possesses no sail to move it along, no compass to give it direction and no rudder with which to steer. One of the frequent points made by movie critics concerning Pay It Forward was the blatant attempt by the movie-makers to keep people engaged with the plot by means of emotional manipulation. Any movement driven by adrenaline, feelings and emotional manipulation is doomed to long-term exhaustion and irrelevance, in spite of any good intentions on the part of its promoters and a myriad of internet websites.

Unless . . .

A Longer-Term Perspective

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

In a very real sense, the concept of “pay it forward” in its secular form mirrors a simple biblical truth taught to children in Christian Sunday Schools for well over 200 years (Sunday Schools were a product of the Evangelical Awakening in England to provide basic education to the poor, but that’s story for another day). It is best known as “The Golden Rule”: do to others as you would have them do to you. Treat others as you would want to be treated if your situations were reversed. From a biblical perspective, “pay it forward” potentially embodies the teaching of Jesus in Luke 6 where Jesus tells His disciples, “. . . love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36) What is missing in the secular world of “pay it forward” is a sustainable underlying philosophy which roots “good” in an objective reality greater than personal existential decision making based on what makes us “feel good” about ourselves and about “doing good.”

In a biblical worldview, good deeds are neither random nor emotion-driven. Rather, they are personal and intentional, representing the outward expression of an inward transformation, driven by clear biblical instruction and reinforced by the inward conviction of the Holy Spirit. And, yes, that kind of “doing good” for the right reasons can also make one “feel good” about doing the right thing. For the Christian, our worldview sustains us in doing good during those times when doing good is the harder choice and the more difficult path. We are commanded to do good to all men (see Galatians 6:10). It’s important to point out that this is a command, not a pay-it-forward suggestion. We are expected to forgive others in the same way that we have been forgiven (i.e., unconditionally, Ephesians 4:32). We are encouraged to not give up in doing good, even when we are weary in the doing (2   Thessalonians 3:13; Galatians 6:9). And we are reminded that there are eternal consequences to our obedience in doing good (Matthew 25:31ff). We are not “altruists” who engage in good-for-good’s-sake. In a Naturalistic worldview there is no such thing as objective, identifiable “good” (Again see Appendix 2, “And That’s Why Harvard Can’t Teach Ethics”). We are “disciples of the Kingdom” who do good-for-God’s-sake.

A Conspiracy Of Kindness And Good Deeds

“. . . love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36)

Earlier, at the beginning of this e-book, we introduced the idea of a “conspiracy of kindness and good deeds.” What exactly did we mean? The Hebrew idea of a “conspiracy” envisions people who bind themselves together for a common purpose, expressed by the Hebrew root qashar. Our English word “conspire” comes from the Latin meaning “to breathe together.” For our purposes, these words suggest both intentionality and unity of purpose.

I believe it is time to move beyond “random acts” and “paying it forward.” It is time to embrace a genuine biblical conspiracy which embodies a unity of purpose combined with an intentional lifestyle of kindness and good deeds, and which reflects the goodness of God and the values of His Kingdom. It is a conspiracy both inward and outward good. It both LOOKS good outwardly (it is outwardly appealing) and IS good intrinsically (it rests on a firm moral and spiritual foundation). In these ways it mirrors both the intrinsic goodness of God and the outward beauty of His holiness. It is a conspiracy of genuine kindness which reflects the kindness and graciousness of God while embodying the mercy and compassion of God. It is a conspiracy to intentionally love and do good in a manner which reflects our relationship with the God Who is kind and compassionate toward the needs of others.

It is a genuine conspiracy of kindness and good deeds.

Isn’t it time you joined the conspiracy?

 

Appendix B
And That’s Why Harvard Can’t Teach Ethics

“Don’t Do It!”

Perhaps you remember the story. In March of 1987 John Shad, former Chairman of the Securities And Exchange Commission, pledged $20 million to endow a chair of business ethics at Harvard University. After several years of Wall Street scandals, it seemed clear that schools of business like Harvard’s certainly needed a refresher course in business ethics. Before making the announcement, Shad called his long-time friend, Chuck Colson, to ask his opinion. “Don’t do it,” Colson counseled his friend. “It’s a waste of money. They have no idea how to teach ethics.” Shad went ahead with the generous gift and the announcement. Colson’s counsel proved prophetic. Five years later, in 1992, Harvard University was forced to reluctantly admit that they had no idea how to teach ethics, business or otherwise. Harvard Associate Dean Thomas R. Piper, admitted, “I sometimes woke up at two or three in the morning and said: ‘Boy, I wish we didn’t get that gift.’ We got the gift at a time when we didn’t know what in the world to do about ethics. People were expecting an answer, and we didn’t have it.” Rather than return the money, which some might say would be the “ethical” thing to do, Harvard chose to keep the money (with Shad’s consent, of course) and to name it’s new $18 million physical-fitness center for Shad (none of whose money was used for the center). I suppose that, in lieu of ethical behavior, Harvard MBA students could always go to the gym and work out their ethical frustrations.

Ethics and “Good Deeds” share a common philosophical (and ultimately theological) problem. It is one of those problems which keep philosophers and ethicists up at night, even at Harvard. The problem can be summarized with a simple, one-word question: “Why?” Why be “ethical” rather than “unethical,” especially if being unethical pays better? Why engage in “good deeds” toward others (as opposed to exploiting them), especially if it involves personal risk, expense or even sacrifice? But it gets worse, at least for the philosophers among us. Once you engage the “Why?” question, it inevitably leads to the “What?” question: “What is your standard for ‘right’ versus ‘wrong’? For ‘ethical’ versus ‘unethical’? For a ‘good deed’ versus a ‘bad deed’?” In simple terms, whose “value system” do you use to answer such questions? In a very real sense, these were the two questions (“Who?” and “What?”) which eventually torpedoed and sank Harvard University and John Shad. They had no answers, although they did appoint a commission to study “the problem.” But “the problem” they wanted to study was already well known among philosophers and historians of philosophy, even if the guys over at the Business School were late in getting the memo. There was a well documented reason why Harvard couldn’t teach ethics. And that requires a BRIEF explanation.

Naturalism, Nietzsche And Nihilism

Roughly 300 years ago (depending upon who does the counting), Western Civilization began to separate itself from its Judeo-Christian heritage in an intellectual movement commonly referred to as “The Enlightenment.” Among its many intellectual threads was a shared belief that whatever “truths” Christianity might have taught could be found in nature by means of rationalism and empiricism, without appeal to God or revelation. The study of Nature, as opposed to the study of God, would produce “Natural Law,” and “Natural Law” discoverable by men would replace God’s law given by way of revelation (i.e., the Bible). For the next 250 years or so western philosophers labored to produce these “natural” and “shared” values. But the search didn’t go particularly well. The philosophy of “Naturalism,” whether treated by the rationalist (i.e., “think it through”) or the empiricist (i.e., “look for the evidence”) produced no such shared values. And the rise of naturalistic, evolutionary theory under men such as Charles Darwin in the mid-1800s demonstrated that, if “Naturalism” is true, Nature and its process of natural selection was unforgiving on a good day and down-right brutal on all other days. Only the strong survived, and “compassion” was a nonsensical word in Nature’s vocabulary. There was no “good” or “bad,” no “ethical” or “unethical.” There was simply Nature. This brutal reality and the contrast it presented with biblical faith, were best summed up in the mid-1800s by the British Poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who referred to man as one,

“Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed.”
(Canto 56 of “In Memoriam A. H. H., 1850″)

Here Tennyson, in poetic fashion, highlights the conflict between the callousness of the Naturalistic worldview, which is “red in tooth and claw,” and the biblical worldview founded upon God’s love, particularly His love for His fallen creation. It would be a mistake to conclude that this harsh view of nature was somehow unique to the 19th century. No. It is ongoing to this day. In his 1976 book on evolution entitled The Selfish Gene, enthusiastic Darwinist and militant atheist Richard Dawkins used Tennyson’s phrase “red in tooth and claw” to summarize the behavior of all living things which flows from the survival of the fittest doctrine, a “doctrine” taught in every public school and University in America.

By the close of the 19th Century, Naturalistic philosophers had exhausted themselves and run out of meaningful arguments for such things as God, Natural Law or shared values. In such a schema, there was no room for God, for revelation, for values or for ethics.   More recently, the late Carl Sagan summed up the reality of this Naturalistic worldview in his 1980s video series “Cosmos” when he declared,   “The Cosmos (i.e., the natural world) is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be.” This declaration was repeated by Neil deGrasse Tyson in his 2014 remake of the original series. In Naturalism the “eternal Cosmos” has replaced the “eternal God.” In Naturalism there is no room or basis for “God.” But neither is there any basis for ethics, good deeds or even human dignity for that matter. One can wax eloquently and romantically (as Sagan and Tyson do) about men being made of “stardust,” but at the end of the “cosmic day” that’s just a romanticized way of saying that natural man is nothing more than cosmic dirt, a random assembly of complex atoms and molecules derived from hydrogen. And we all know how spiritually and ethically meaningful hydrogen can be! Feel free to dim the lights and fire up some candles if doing so makes you feel more romantic about being cosmic dirt.

The task of bringing Naturalism to its logical conclusion fell to the German Philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) who declared that God is dead. The world, he declared, is without inherent meaning, laws or values. The technical term for this school of thought is “Nihilism,” defined as “the rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless.” Man must bravely embrace the reality of life in this meaningless and valueless world in which Naturalism has placed him without any hope in a world beyond. He must become an “Ubermensch” or “super-man.” He must become the ideal man of the future, able to rise above conventional Christian morality in order to create and impose his own values (originally described by Nietzsche in “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” published 1883–85).

Responses And Reactions

The responses to Nietzsche were profound and varied, and we only have time to mention a few of the most lasting which impact our life today. Meaninglessness is a tough pill to swallow. How is one to live in a meaningless world? The German nihilists took Nietzsche, re-interpreted by his sister who was married to a well known anti-Semite, and applied it to their belief in a superior “master race,” culminating in Nazism and the Holocaust (or “Shoah,” a Hebrew word meaning “catastrophe” or “devastation”). Others responded by turning to the east, as epitomized by the enthusiastic welcome to the United States of Swami Vivekananda at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in1893. Even the late “Cosmos” proponent, Carl Sagan, toyed with Eastern Pantheism as a way of escaping the meaninglessness of his own Naturalism. On a more philosophical level, Nietzsche and his fellow Nihilists gave birth to the school of Existentialism. Simply put, Existentialism is the philosophy of “living for the moment,” emphasizing “authenticity” in choices and personal decision-making. There is no “right” or “wrong,” no “ethical” or “unethical.” There is only the situation and my personal choice as to how to act or respond (which gave rise to the school of “Situation Ethics” under men such as Joseph Fletcher). “I have to do what’s right for me,” and “If it feels right, it is right” are the action mantras of Existentialism. The fourth major response (if you’re counting) to the meaninglessness of Naturalism, Nietzsche and Nihilism was the post-Christian “Death of God” movement in theology. Nietzsche’s declaration in the late 19th Century that “God is dead” found expression after World War 2 in the “Death of God” movement in theology, pioneered by such men as Gabriel Vahanian (Syracuse University), Paul Ramsey (Princeton), Thomas Altizer (Emory) and others. Gabriel Vahanian summarized this school of thought best when he declared, “This does not mean, obviously, that God Himself no longer is but that, regardless of whether he is or not, his reality, as the Christian tradition has presented it, has become culturally irrelevant . . . .” In other words, if God existed at all, His existence was now irrelevant for any meaningful purpose, such as providing a basis for values, morals and ethics.

All of these competing responses to the philosophical catastrophe of “Naturalism, Nietzsche and Nihilism” burst upon the cultural scene in the “Counterculture Movement” of the 1960s. Fueled by an unpopular war in Southeast Asia, and a domestic struggle over civil rights (centered around racial inequality in the South), the “Counterculture Movement” rejected prevailing cultural values (loosely founded upon a Judeo-Christian foundation). College campuses across America erupted in counterculture protests against war, social injustice and prevailing morality, summarized by such mottos as “Make love, not war.” Drugs flooded college campuses, such as Harvard University (yes, Harvard; and no, you just can’t make this stuff up), where psychologist Timothy Leary encouraged students to “turn on, tune in, drop out” (a phrase given to Leary by Marshall McLuhan). And legions of saffron-robed Buddhist monks descended on unsuspecting colleges, offering eastern alternatives to bankrupt western values among questioning college students. In music, avant guard musicians such as John Cage gave expression to the despair of Nihilism and the “live for the moment” philosophy of Existentialism. Cage emphasized the meaninglessness of music, describing it both as “a purposeless play” and “an affirmation of life – not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living” (note the “purposelessness” of Nihilism and the “affirmation of life” of Existentialism together in this quote). Woodstock, the legendary music festival in upstate New York in August of 1969, came to embody the philosophy of John Cage writ large for the Countercultural masses. There was no “greater meaning.” There was only music and the moment and “an affirmation of life.”

And THAT is why the Harvard School of Business, forty years later, can’t teach ethics. The faculty of Harvard are the philosophical children of the Counterculture Movement and the grand-children of “Naturalism, Nietzsche and Nihilism.” In the place of inherited cultural values (feel free to insert the word “ethics” at this point), or any other outside source or standard for values, (including biblical Christianity) the Counterculture Movement created it’s own values, namely, the values of Woodstock. There is no greater meaning or value outside of the individual. There is only the person and the moment and the decision: “I did what was right for me.” Try teaching that in a class on ethics as your basis for ethical decision making. It can’t be done, even at Harvard. Welcome to the dilemma of ethics, morals and values in our Post-Christian, Postmodern Culture. Having fun yet?

Dim Reflections Of An Unknown God

But wait just a moment. Houston, we have a problem. In spite of the exhaustive and valiant efforts (combined with a complete inability) of secular philosophers to explain it or to provide any foundation, human beings, whether Christian or non-Christian, seem to have an innate sense of good versus evil, of right versus wrong; a sense that there is a difference between kindness and cruelty. Stealing is wrong, whether at home on your street or at the office on Wall Street. If Naturalism, Nietzsche and Nihilism (and Existentialism) are true, not only should there be no difference between an act of kindness and an act of cruelty, but we shouldn’t even be AWARE of any difference. And yet we are. Why?

Historic Christian theology, rooted and grounded in the revelation of the Bible, has consistently taught that men (by which I mean “mankind,” embracing both men and women) were created in the image of God. As His creatures, they bear the image and reflect the likeness of their Creator. I use the past tense “were created” for a reason. Although originally created in God’s image, the moral and spiritual catastrophe of mankind’s fall into sin (recorded in Genesis Chapter 3 and so eloquently re-stated with its consequences by the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Romans) has deeply marred that image, sometimes beyond recognition. Men are capable of great good because they were created in the image of a God who is the embodiment of good. Men are capable of great love, because the God Whose image they bear IS love. Men are capable of appreciating and performing good deeds of great compassion because the God who created them and whose image they bear is the epitome of compassion and loving-kindness. But left to their own devices, fallen men are also capable of great evil, as witnessed on a worldwide basis in the 20th Century. According to former Secretary of Defense (under Kennedy and Johnson) Robert McNamara, the 20th Century witnessed the death of some 170 million people in various national and international wars, more than all of the previous centuries of human history combined. The late British journalist and critic Malcolm Muggeridge (who came to Christian faith late in his life) summed up man’s condition best when he observed, “The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.” The Old Testament Prophet, Jeremiah, agrees,   “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

Whether Christian or non-Christian, men desire and are able to “do good” because, even in their fallen condition, they reflect the image and the goodness of the God who created them. This should not come as surprise to the student of Scripture, which declares in James 1:17 that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  

There is, of course, a danger of confusion at this point. To bear God’s image and to reflect His likeness is NOT the same as having a relationship with Him. Simply put, “Reflection Is Not Relationship.” The reflection has been marred and the relationship has been broken beyond any human efforts to repair it. Even when doing great “good,” fallen men remain captives of that domain of darkness created by sin and the Fall. They stand in need of that redemption from sin and death which ONLY comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

Like the Athenian philosophers on Mars Hill who worshiped at an altar to an unknown God (Acts 17:22-23), people today frequently engage in good deeds for reasons they can’t fully articulate. Like Harvard ethicists groping for something to say to the John Shad’s of the world, they fill their philosophical void with statements like, “It’s just the right thing to do,” or “It makes me feel good about myself to help others,” or “I want to make a difference and better the human condition.” Declarations of a nebulous desire to “do good”; dim reflections of “an unknown God.”

The Opportunity of “Common Ground” And Good Deeds

But the ability of non-Christians to recognize good deeds, along with their desire to “do good,” offers every disciple of the Kingdom a place of “common ground” on which to be salt and light, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) It offers us an opportunity to manifest the “goodness” of the Kingdom of God in terms people can understand, and to engage in a meaningful discussion concerning the ultimate reason and basis for all good deeds, namely, the God Who is good, and whose image they reflect. We have all been created in the image of the God Who embodies “goodness” and Who invites us to enter into a relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. We can share with them that, in the Kingdom of God, every disciple of the Kingdom engages in good deeds for multiple, meaningful reasons which go far beyond “It makes me feel good about myself,” including the following:

  1. Because, like them we, too, reflect the image of the God Who made us.
  1. Because, in addition to reflecting God’s image, we have a new-found relationship with God through faith in Christ, a relationship which confront us with the dual commands to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27).
  1. Because Jesus “did good” throughout His ministry on earth, and He is our model of what genuine faith and spirituality should look like (Acts 10:38).
  1. Because our good deeds represent the tangible fruit of our faith; what it means for us to be “salt and light” in this world (Matthew 5:13-16).
  1. Because the God Who has saved us FROM sin, death and despair has also saved us FOR good deeds which He has prepared for us to walk in as disciples of His Kingdom (Ephesians 2:8-10).
  1. Because Jesus will personally hold each of us accountable for our good deeds on the Day of Judgment, particularly as those good deeds relate to serving “the least of these” (Matthew 25:31ff).

As the church of our generation seeks to meaningfully connect with our Postmodern culture, to proclaim the Kingdom of God   and to make disciples of the Kingdom, it is quite possible that we have overlooked one of the most important   opportunities which Scripture itself provides. Our good deeds. I have said it before (see my book, The Least of These) and I will repeat it here:

“Our Postmodern culture has concluded that it can manifest ‘good deeds’ without Jesus. The Church has concluded that it can manifest Jesus without ‘good deeds.’ Our Postmodern culture’s plan appears to be working. The Church’s plan is a disaster.”

What’s your plan? (If you aren’t sure, you should probably read Appendix C!)

 

Appendix C
Make Disciples By Serving Others

Three Basic Commands

As Christians, we live out our lives in this world under three basic commands which Jesus gave to His disciples (and anyone who would listen): 1) Love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength, 2) Love our neighbor as ourselves, and 3) Make disciples (See Matthew 22:36-40; 28:19).

The first command has to do with worship and the cultivation of our “vertical” relationship with God, our “first love.” The second command has to do with serving others. You cannot meaningfully serve those you do not meaningfully love. This command expresses the “horizontal” aspect of our relationship with God. Genuine biblical faith begins with a restored relationship with God. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). That’s the “vertical” part. But genuine faith expresses itself in restored relationships with those around us, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.   And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:20-21)

And that brings us to the third commandment which governs our lives; the command to make disciples. As we authentically worship God and begin to meaningfully love and serve those around us, something else happens. Something we refer to as “evangelism.” Our English word “evangelism” comes to us almost directly from the Greek word euangelidzo (the Greek “u” becomes a “v” and the “-dzo” becomes “sm”) meaning “to proclaim good news.” Our obedience to the first two commands leads us to opportunities to share the good news of the Kingdom of God with those we serve, and to “disciple” (establish a teacher-student relationship) those who respond in faith to the good news.

Two Illustrative Stories

Is there more to biblical faith and Christian obedience than those three commands. Of course there is. Biblical faith and Christian experience represent a spiritual pool in which a child can wade without fear and an elephant can swim without limitation. But it is also as simple as loving God, serving our neighbor and making disciples. Our failure as Christians and churches to understand and obey these three simple-but-profound commands has brought about a growing disconnect between biblical Christianity and our postmodern culture, which increasingly views the organized church as irrelevant when it comes to the daily life of the ordinary person, or the needs of marginalized people in distress. Let me illustrate this with a couple of quick illustrative stories.

The first illustrative story comes from the book, Jim and Casper Go to Church: Frank Conversation about Faith, Churches, and Well-Meaning Christians. Jim Henderson was the pastor of a large church and Matt Casper was an atheist. Together they visited fifteen of the largest evangelical churches in America and recorded their thoughts and observations. One of the observations made by Matt Casper (the atheist) regarding nearly every one of the fifteen churches in America they attended and analyzed was, “When do you get around to telling people to DO things?” Allow me to quote from the book:

“Casper simply could not imagine Jesus telling his followers that the most important thing they should be doing is holding church services. And yet this was the only logical conclusion he was able to come to based upon what he’d observed. If people who had never heard of Jesus wanted to see what Christians were most interested in, they would probably start their search in some of the same churches we visited. ‘If that’s where they started, they would have to conclude that Jesus’ number one priority was that Christians invest the very best of their energy and their money into putting on a huge church service – a killer show, as it were,’ said Casper. ‘Jim, is this what Jesus told you guys to do?’”

No, Casper. It isn’t. But in the painful words of A.W. Tozer, “The church that can’t worship must be entertained. And men who can’t lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment.” We have substituted entertainment for worship and love for God, forgotten what it means to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves, and then we wonder why the good news of the Kingdom doesn’t get meaningfully communicated to our generation, and why we are failing to make disciples.

My second illustrative story comes from a recent on-line article in Outreach Magazine. In the article the author recounts a lunch-time discussion with another pastor concerning “outreach,” how to reach out beyond the four walls of the church and meaningfully connect with people in the community. The author’s account of his lunch-time discussion makes it painfully clear that his fellow-pastor was clueless when it came to genuine outreach. “I looked at him and asked, ‘How much time do you spend in a normal week with people who are not yet followers of Jesus?’ He looked at me, and then looked down at his food for an uncomfortable amount of time, saying nothing. Finally he looked up and locked eyes with me with a very sober look on his face. He did not speak, but simply lifted his right hand; placing the tip of his thumb against his pointer finger, he made a circle. He swallowed and said, ‘None! I am so busy doing ministry, I don’t have time to invest in nonbelievers.’” He wasn’t connecting with anyone outside the walls of his own ministry.

For the remainder of the article (which you really should read for yourself) the author offers eight suggestions for better outreach. Unfortunately, his suggestions consist mainly of generalities, revealing the church’s genuine lack of understanding concerning the true nature of outreach. Outreach embodies the practical outflow of loving God (i.e., “worship”) and loving our neighbor (i.e., “service”). When loving God fails to manifest itself in loving our neighbor, the biblical process for sharing the good news of the kingdom and making disciples breaks down. And the breakdown of that process cannot be “fixed” by presenting a more elaborate “killer show” (to use Matt Casper’s description) or by preaching better, snappier sermons (complete with video). As a genuine biblical community of faith, we simply MUST do a better job of obeying the three basic commands of Jesus. And that leads me to conclude our time together with one basic question.

One Basic Question

Let’s summarize all of this with one basic question which each of us needs to ask and answer for ourselves: What are you doing to make disciples of the Kingdom by serving others as an expression of your love for God and His love for you? Your personal answer to this question will be different from someone else’s answer, based upon the gifts God has given you, and what you have learned about yourself and the needs of others as a result of your personal journey through “30 Days And 30 Ways Of Doing Good.” How do you plan to answer this question for yourself. For me and my wife, our answer came in the form of serving on the Board of Directors of a men’s homeless shelter and serving dinner to 40 men on a regular basis. In addition, I lead a men’s discipleship study in the shelter every Saturday morning for those who want to grow spiritually and discover what it means to be disciples of the Kingdom (we take one lesson each week from my book, And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom: Biblical Reflections On Discipleship And The Kingdom of God). What is your answer to this one basic question, so that on that day when the King separates the sheep from the goats, you will hear him say:

“‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:34-40) 

View “30 Days And 30 Ways” on Amazon now!
Don’t Have A Kindle Reader? Click To Download Kindle Reader For Your Computer Free!

© Copyright 2015 Rising River Media. All Rights Reserved.

 

0 comments