“You Only Get What You Give”

(James 2: 14-17, NLT) 14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

Recently, I saw a need within a family that was far greater than what I could supply, yet their situation would not leave my heart and mind, so I decided to take action.  I began to reach out to people, and I was absolutely stunned by the response that I got on behalf of this family who had captured my heart.  I had become anxious — worrying about “how” and the Lord kindly urged me, “Just ask.”  So that’s what I did…and He did not disappoint.  Money and donations came absolutely flooding in, and I am still overwhelmed when I think of it all.  People were steadily asking me what they could do to help out, and I know that this was a direct response to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  The need was quickly supplied — exceedingly and OVER-abundantly!   God did that, and He was able to do so because of His children putting their faith into action. 

You may see a need, have compassion in your heart for the situation, and even consider the ways that you could help, but without the actual administration of care and concern — by ministering to the physical needs through provision, shelter, resources and attention — your compassion is a farce.  Fake.  Phony.  …it is dead and useless.

Compassion is that compound emotion that should move our hearts so deeply that we have no choice but to take action.  An extension of love, compassion will set our minds, our hearts, and our lives into motion — moving forward in our faith, knowing that through our own sacrifice there is a greater reward for all who are a part of the activation of faith and love. 

(1 John 3: 16-19, NLT) 16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? 18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.

As children of God who are devoted to our faith in and love for Him, we must be so in tune with His heart that the things which grieve and move Him, are the same things that break our own hearts and push us face first into the busy, sometimes messy, yet always joyful activity that is true, sacrificial compassion.  And when we do respond, doing so together — as a unified body that represents Christ to the world — miraculous things take place.  We are never left wanting when we put our faith into action. 

Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for this reminder today that simply noticing a need and mentioning it to you is not always enough.  Help me to be more aware of the ways in which I can make sacrifices in order to help lift the burdens of the poor and oppressed people that I encounter.  Let me always be a light in the darkness, representing You with love and compassion that comes directly from Your heart.  Amen. 

“To Love the Unlovable”

(Jude 1: 22-23, The Message) Go easy on those who hesitate in the faith. Go after those who take the wrong way. Be tender with sinners, but not soft on sin. The sin itself stinks to high heaven.

I have found that we like to put sin in boxes.  We categorize it all from what we deem understandable or acceptable, to what is most unforgivable and horrendous, and then all of the stuff between.  I’ve done it, and I know you have as well.  But really, isn’t it all just sin?  It’s all bad, it all separates us from God, and it all “stinks to high heaven.” 

Not many people who know me would consider me an optimist.  I tend to be more of a realist than anything.  However, I have a deeply compassionate heart, and I always seem to find a way to see the good in others.  In this way, I am hopeful.  I see the beauty that is the human soul, made and formed in the image of God, and I am often able to look past what people are doing or have done and love them anyway.

I wasn’t always so loving.  For many years of my life, I had a very distrustful, resentful and hard heart.  I had to ask the Lord to help me open my heart to others, and He has.  In my walk with Christ, I have learned that compassion and love are simply not optional…they are requirements!  We are not asked to love others…it is a commandment…in fact, it is the greatest of all commandments…that which must govern and influence every aspect of our lives, and will ultimately keep us from many of the sins that may tempt us.  Love and compassion must be evident and ever growing in our lives…

The most difficult part of love is extending that grace and compassion toward those who are the most difficult to understand and forgive.  Because of our “sin boxes” that we have created, there are just some things that we can’t seem to get past — the big, bad sins — the things that our worst fears and nightmares are made of — the things on the news that make our stomachs turn and boil our blood with anger and outrage.  But where does love fit into it?  We must remember that it has to…we have to make it fit.  If we are to “go after those who take the wrong way,” then we have an obligation to stretch ourselves — to love the unlovable, right?

So what do we do?  How are we to be tender with the sinner, yet hard on the sin?  The answer will always be the same:  just love.  Open your eyes and see a person, a soul created by God, imperfect, yet never too far gone for God to reach.  When you pray, ask the Lord to restore that person, and instead of rebuking them, rebuke the powers of hell that have been allowed to take hold of that life.  You see, we can hate sin all day long, but we have been commanded to love others. 

A few years ago, my husband and I were at big youth conference in Knoxville, TN.  We take teens from our church every spring.  That particular year, a singer named Matthew West was there.  He sang a song called “Forgiveness,” but before he sang it, he told a story that has stuck with me.  I want to share what he said about why he wrote that song:

“The song is about Renee, who lost her daughter Megan in a car accident at the hands of a drunk driver, a 24-year-old named Eric who was by all accounts a great young man, but made a tragic mistake. Renee’s been on a journey of hatred, and bitterness, and she’s learned how to forgive the young man who took her beloved daughter’s life.

In a miraculous way, after Megan’s death in 2001, Renee began giving presentations, and in time, God put it on her heart to forgive this man and reach out to him in prison. She learned that until she was set free of the anger and bitterness she held towards Eric, she was going to be the prisoner even though he was the one behind bars.

As a result, Eric found his own personal faith in Christ and they developed a unique friendship to the point where she feels like she gained a son, and she even went to the courts to cut Eric’s sentence in half. He made a terrible mistake taking the life of two young girls, and yet he’s been forgiven. Renee told him that she serves a God who commands her to forgive and she needed to be set free as much for herself as for him.”

It took a lot of love, that could only come from God, for this mother to not only forgive the young man who caused her daughter’s death, but also for her to reach out to him and show him compassion.  Because she was obedient to God in her own life, she was able to be used of God to change his life forever, bringing healing to both lives in a remarkable and miraculous way — God’s way — the only way that it could ever take place.  That’s what I call a beautiful exchange.  And this, friends, is the perfect example of being tender toward sinners — of going easy on those who waver in the faith.  It may seem impossible, but we are called to go beyond what we think we are capable of, and we are commanded to love.

Show me how to love the unlovable

Show me how to reach the unreachable

Help me now to do the impossible


-“Forgiveness” by Matthew West

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, help me to see others through Your eyes. Give me Your heart, and help me to be brave enough to love those whom everyone else seems to reject.  Soften my heart, Lord, and help me to always let love win.  Amen. 

Dare to Love

(Matthew 25: 34-40, NLT) 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Yesterday, while driving with two of my good friends, Leslie and Kelley, we saw a homeless man by the side of the road with a dog.  He was holding a cardboard sign that read, “Need Help.  God Bless.”  He smiled, despite his obvious situation of destitution and despair, and he lovingly patted his dog.  Leslie looked over at him and said, “You know, that really hurts my heart,”  which sparked a short dialogue amongst us about how we, as Christians, respond to this type of circumstance.  In that moment, we all felt bad that we had no cash on us to give to him, and Kelley mentioned that she wanted to make up some bags of necessities to keep in her car to hand out in situations just like this.  I mentioned that I try not to give out cash if possible, but instead I will sometimes buy food and drinks to take back to someone like that.  Leslie admitted that, for her, it is sometimes hard to know whether or not someone like that is truly in need, to which I agreed.  Then Kelley said something that stuck to me.  She said, “You know I wonder that too, but then I remind myself that it’s not our job to decide if someone is in need.  It’s our job to respond to them,”  to which Leslie responded, “Exactly.  What if that was Jesus?”  I was instantly reminded of the above scripture and I quoted aloud verse 40:  “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 

Yesterday afternoon I wasn’t even thinking about this blog post.  Honestly, I hadn’t even sat down to read the daily scriptures for this date to decide what to write.  So when I did finally look at it, I couldn’t help but smile when this passage was there.  Okay God, I see what you’re doing here. 

We are too quick to pass judgement on the lowly and poor.  We pick and choose who we want to help…deeming only a select few worthy of our charity, based on assumptions and appearances.  We are hesitant to give our hard-earned cash because of the chance that it might be spent on an addiction.  We are in such a hurry all the time, that we don’t think to take a few moments extra to grab something to eat and drink and take it back to someone who is begging for food.  We don’t respond anymore.  We think someone else will do it.  We think, “Get a job like everyone else.”  We think so many things…some of it true, some far from it.  And the problem with all of this thinking?   It just isn’t good enough!  We are thinking more and doing less, and God did not call us to think about loving others in His name.  He has called us to respond in love without question.  And that is how the light and love of God will shine through the darkness of this world.  That is how we bring honor and glory to His name.  Love.  Always love.

Feed the hungry,

    and help those in trouble.

Then your light will shine out from the darkness,

    and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.

(Isaiah 58:10)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for Godly friendships, because as Your word says, “iron sharpens iron.”  Thank you for the gentle correction that sometimes comes in the form of a friend’s point of view.  As Your children, may we always work together to radiate Your love.  In a dark, sinful world, we can only be seen if we allow your love to shine through u.  So, Lord, help me become brighter and brighter, honoring You in all that I do.  Amen. 

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