“Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” Luke 19:5B
Jesus would have been lousy at Instagram. While Jesus would have millions of followers, likes and shares on any social media site, something tells me He wouldn’t have spent much time trying to get the perfect photo to share or musing on creating a viral meme.
And when we look carefully at Jesus’ ministry, He never appeared interested in the big numbers. Instead, he almost always focused on the “one,” or only a few.
Yes, Jesus spoke to hundreds and even thousands, but we never see Jesus trying to pull together a crowd. There were no banners proclaiming, “Jesus to Speak on the Mount Today! Don’t Miss it!” If crowds showed up, Jesus didn’t turn them away. But most of Jesus’ most memorable moments took place with one person here, a small group there.
Think about it. Jesus chose just twelve disciples. Many others followed and were disciples as well, but Jesus zeroed in on just twelve. We see story after story of Jesus healing one blind man, only ten lepers, one boy possessed by a spirit, one centurion’s servant, one blind man, one man suffering from dropsy. We could go on—the list is long.
And Jesus’ stories? He told us of one lost sheep, one good Samaritan, one prodigal son and his relationship with one loving father.
Jesus spoke to one woman at a well, one curious Nicodemus, and called out for one Zaccheus, almost lost in a huge crowd.
Yes, Jesus fed thousands. He healed . . . who knows how many? But at His core, the good news Jesus talked about spread because of one here, one there. Because of Jesus’ focus on the “one,” He earned the trust and love of the thousands.
As we serve those we see, we likely wonder sometimes whether we’ve made much of a difference. One came in the other day and we’re not sure we reached her. Another made a life decision, but we can’t know for certain what her future holds. We wonder, is our work truly making a “big” impact?
Jesus knew how to make a “big” impact. He reached one here. Then, he walked for miles and reached one more. Then, another. And another. By doing so, He created a blueprint for us in the pregnancy help community—one we follow each day.
We don’t know if following this model will make us social media influencers or draw crowds of people desperate to hear us speak. But we do know this model is Jesus-inspired. And, regardless of whether we see instant results, connecting with the one brings God-sized results.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement SpecialistHeartbeat International
So when the Samaritans came to Him, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. John 4:40
The story of the Woman at the Well is familiar to all of us. We often think about this story in terms of Jesus reaching out to someone struggling in relationships and life in general. And we consider how Jesus chose this woman to reveal Himself as the Messiah.
It is a story of love, hope and new beginnings.
And, it is a story of a common-sense approach to racial reconciliation, a great need in our culture today.
The Woman at the Well was a Samaritan, and we know mainline Jews never talked to Samaritans. Upstanding Jews never traveled through Samaritan areas, never connected with Samaritans, had no place for them in their synagogues.
But Jesus cut through all of this, building a bridge of connection with five powerful actions.
Jews went around Samaritan villages, not through them. But Jesus made it his mission to go into Samaria and connect with the woman at the well.
Starting with a simple request for water, Jesus engaged the Samaritan woman in conversation. He never judged, never pushed his opinion on her. He let her do as much talking as He—a great lesson for all of us.
When the Samaritan woman tried to bring Jesus into a debate about theological issues (“You people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship”), Jesus didn’t take the bait. Instead, He focused on bigger issues (“An hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.”).
By not debating the smaller matter of where to worship, Jesus could zero in on the major issue--Who to worship. In doing so, Jesus opened the door for anyone—including the Samaritan woman—to join Jesus’ team.
When the Samaritan woman told Jesus she knew the “Messiah is coming,” Jesus didn’t hold back, sharing with her that He was the One she was looking for. Because we’re talking about Jesus, it’s easy to overlook: Jesus was taking a risk. She could have laughed at him. She could have argued with him. She could have walked away in dismissal, even if still wondering how Jesus found out about her background of having five husbands.
Because we know the rest of the story, we know she went to her city, proclaiming that she may have met the Messiah. Through her story, many followed Jesus. But it all started because Jesus was willing to risk sharing His identity.
The story of the Samaritan woman doesn’t end with her going back to her village. A few verses later we see the Samaritans asking Jesus to stay with them. Jesus moved quickly from place to place, but for two days—a long time for Jesus—he stayed in a land forbidden to Jews.
Simply put, Jesus stuck around to invest in the community. While there, “many believed because of His word.”
In today’s chaotic world, we can become overwhelmed with the news of the day, believing society’s problems are too big, too complex to solve. They aren’t.
As we serve those who come in our door, we know that—regardless of our color—we will serve those who don’t look like us or believe like we do. Differing backgrounds often create differing world views.
Jesus is our example for how we approach these situations. First, He went out of his way to find those different from Him. From there, He started a conversation, didn’t leap in to take a side when a tough subject came up, risked transparency . . . and He invested in a community which was not His own.
And, He changed the world.
And after that, He went out, and noticed a tax-gatherer named Levi, sitting in the tax office, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he left everything behind, and rose and began to follow him. - Luke 5:27-28
The calling of Matthew is as simple as it gets. In Luke’s account, Jesus is only passing by Matthew’s office when he says, “Follow me.” That’s it. From there, Matthew hops up and follows. Easy, right?
But wait a minute. Why did Matthew follow? No one this side of Heaven knows for sure.
We know only one piece of information on Matthew, that he was a tax collector. On the plus side, tax collecting was lucrative work, because tax gatherers like Matthew normally extracted more from the taxpayer than the owed amount. They kept the extra drachmas and denarii for themselves. This practice didn’t win friendships, but it certainly paid the bills.
. . . and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Arise and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road). Acts 8:25B -26
We know the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, right? Philip is called by the spirit of God to approach the eunuch, who happens to be reading from the book of Isaiah. A brief conversation ensues and the eunuch—amazingly—wants to be baptized and join Jesus’ family of followers.
It’s a great story of Philip hearing from an angel, then obeying the prompting of the spirit.
But what happens before this episode may be more important than we might think. Isn’t it interesting that just before the angel speaks to Philip, the apostles and crew were sharing the good news with Samaritans?
Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which means, ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23
While some Bible translations tell us the word “Immanuel” means, “God with us,” many include the word “is” in the text, giving us a literal translation of Immanuel as “God is with us.” This is fascinating, because we can see the translational challenges even in the version I use most, the New American Standard Bible.
I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers, night and day. Longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, that I may be filled with joy. -- 2 Timothy 1:3-4
Suddenly the new phrase, “Social Distancing” is an integral part of our culture’s vocabulary, thanks to a pandemic none of us expected.
In a recent Heartbeat International staff meeting however, our staff was considering another way of thinking about this new catchphrase. Instead of saying, “social distancing,” we’re inviting ourselves to say, “Physical distancing and social connecting.”
“. . . First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5
The verse above completes one of Jesus’ teachings on judgment, outlining how we should address another’s challenges regarding faith and life. But it’s fascinating that this verse is probably the least quoted in this section of The Sermon on the Mount.
For instance, we often hear people tell us, “Do not judge lest you be judged,” which is the first portion in this teaching. It’s true, we’re not ultimate judges. We should not suppose ourselves to be the final arbiters of another’s life. It’s not our job. Quoting only this verse, however, leaves us with only a small part of what Jesus is trying to say.
Jesus goes on, letting us know we do have a role to play in helping others dealing with their failings and the baggage they carry.
Jesus begins by reminding us about human nature: We’re quick to see someone else’s faults, which He describes as a speck in the eye. Of course, He’s right. He’s also correct by telling us we have issues, too,
But here’s the problem: A speck in our own eye, even if we don’t want to deal with it, causes such disruption to our lives that its impact—on us—is that of a log in our eye.
The good news? Instead of walking away after pointing out the hypocrisy of berating others for their “specks,” Jesus brings hope for us.
His answer? “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
In Pregnancy Help Ministry, many of us—perhaps all of us—can bring our own “logs” into our work. Our issues may be pregnancy related, or from another area of our lives. Or—and let’s hope this isn’t the case—we could carry a log of pride into our work which screams, “I’ve got it all together and you need help.”
Jesus’ counsel on this is so powerful. First, he says, let’s ask ourselves if we have a log needing removal. If we do, let’s take the time to carefully do the heavy lifting. It’s not easy. Because, if we think about getting a log out of our eye, we understand the eye is one of our most sensitive areas.
But, once we’ve done the painstaking work of removing our own log, we’ll see clearly once again. With this clarity and our experience in removing our own log, we’re ready to help another. When we do, we’re more likely to listen carefully when they describe how the speck got in their eye. We’ll pay close attention to how it is affecting their vision and their decisions. We’ll note—with empathy--the pain it is causing.
Once we’ve taken the time to take in all this information, we’ll think once again about how challenging it was to remove our own log. So, when we gently reach to remove our friend’s speck, we will do so with reverence and caution, remembering the sensitivity in our own eye and how the slightest abrupt motion could damage the process.
In this work, we’re “Speck Removers.” It’s an important role for any of us, and we can’t shy away from it. Our apprenticeship begins by asking, “Do I have a log needing removal?” If we’re willing to do this—and to take on the work needed to remove our own logs, we’re well on our way to becoming outstanding speck removers, characterized by both sensitivity and patience.
They were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. Acts 2: 46B-47A
In Luke’s account of life in the early church, he gives us a few sentences of how the early Christians—after suddenly growing from a group of 120 people to more than 3,000—found a way to thrive and expand even more.
According to Luke, they listened to powerful teaching from the apostles, they hung out together, they prayed together and . . . they did a lot of eating together (v. 42).
In addition, as wonders and signs took place through the apostles, these brand-new Christians trusted each other enough to share whatever they had to support the cause.
But toward the end of what we know as the second chapter of Acts, Luke points out something we—as those involved in pregnancy help ministry—can easily latch onto every day. The early Christians, he says, took “their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God (italics mine).”
Aha! The first followers weren’t just eating together (which is always a good idea for volunteer and paid staff gatherings) because they needed food. They did so with sincerity and gladness . . . which seems like joy to me. These folks loved each other. Cared for each other. Over food, they delved into each other’s lives.
Here’s the thing: While those outside of the faith didn’t likely see any of this fellowship time, something happened as a result. Let’s let Luke tell it:
“. . . and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
You see what happened? Because of what was taking place around the tables, those outside the faith saw a palatable difference in the new Christians. This difference was so powerful, “all the people” were impressed. And the result? The Lord added to their number.
Of course, Jesus predicted this. In John 13:35 he told his disciples at the Last Supper, “By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Not surprisingly, he was right.
It’s a lesson for us. We do a lot of training in how to share Christ’s love with those we see, which is certainly good. But the most important way to reach others is behind the scenes, when they can’t see us. By developing a love for each other—maybe even over food—we create a culture which others can see so clearly, they want to be part of it.
Our thought for today? If we want our clients to embrace faith, our most effective starting point is each other. When we spend time together, we create a culture of sincerity, gladness and praise—one which is so obvious, others want to join in.
And to Ram was born Amminadab; and to Amminadab, Nahshon; and to Nahshon, Salmon; and to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab . . . Matthew 1:4-5
If we read quickly through Biblical genealogies, we’ll skip right over his name and assume “Salmon” always refers to a tasty fish. But there he is, mentioned two times (Luke’s narrative is the only other time Salmon pops up), and we never hear about him again.
But to us, Salmon should be both a hero and an example.
Salmon married Rahab. As in, the prostitute. The harlot. The woman of the evening.
C’mon, who marries someone like that? A hero, that’s who.
We know the story of Rahab, the harlot who hid Israel’s spies before the Battle of Jericho. She and her family were the only ones spared when Joshua and his army poured into Jericho in one of Israel’s first—and biggest—conquests.
Salmon is what happened next. He’s not mentioned in the Book of Joshua, however. Or, anywhere else in the Old Testament. It is only when Matthew and Luke put forth Jesus’ genealogical line that we see this man, the one who married Rahab.
We know nothing about him, Biblically speaking. But we know enough. For instance, we know he had the courage to accept someone outside of the Hebrew people. He not only accepted Rahab as one of his own, he married her. That’s a big step of faith.
And, we also know he married Rahab based on her present, not her past. Rahab’s past was, in short, a mess. What man wants to marry someone who has been with multiples of men—for money? Not only this, but everyone in the Israelite community knew it. No doubt, word got passed around about where the spies stayed during their visit. Of all things, they probably said, the only place they could find to hide out . . . was a prostitute’s lair! By the way, some scholars say Salmon was one of the spies. One day, perhaps we’ll find out.
But yes, everyone knew. And let’s not assume the children of Israel were super-human with their outreach and kindness to others. Like all of us, they had their failings. And if we think all of them surrounded Rahab with nothing but love, devoid of judgment, c’mon. Let’s be real.
Salmon however, did. Whatever was said behind his back, he chose Rahab. They gave us Boaz.
And Boaz? He married another outsider, Ruth. Which, according to Matthew, brought us to David . . . and Jesus.
When others saw a prostitute, seems like Salmon saw a woman of courage. When others saw Rahab as an outsider, Salmon saw a hero for his fledgling people.
Salmon saw a hero in Rahab, but he is a hero to us as well. Because his marrying Rahab led to our savior.
And, Salmon is an example we can all emulate. He didn’t focus on Rahab’s past, but on her present. When we see people—anyone—as Salmon saw Rahab, we do well. Because, many of those who come to our doors are begging to rid themselves of their past so they can have a better present.
Let’s choose to see with the eyes of Salmon. When we do, we may be better equipped to change the lives of those who need us most.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
So they were saying to him, “Where is your father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my father; if you knew me, you would know my father also.” John 8:19
When Jesus met the adulterous woman, he confronted those who wanted to stone her by asking only those without sin to cast the first stone. After her accusers left, Jesus asked, “Did no one condemn you?”
When she answered that no one had stayed to pass judgment, Jesus told her, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on, sin no more.”
It’s interesting. There were so many Jesus met who crossed the line of sin—people like tax-collectors, a woman at the well, and this woman, caught in adultery. Yet Jesus never seemed angered about their lives, their sin. Instead he refused to condemn these people, many times connecting with them on a deeper level and changing their lives.
But some people did anger Jesus. He said mean things to them. Called them snakes, vipers, hypocrites. Not the kind of things to be shared in polite company. As a result, Jesus probably didn’t get invited to the high-society parties.
One of these verbal rebukes comes just after Jesus’ encounter with the adulterous woman. Once she is gone, the Pharisees show up with questions, as they always did. They were the religious leaders of the day, the smart people who declared themselves purveyors of truth and righteousness.
Jesus claimed to be the light of the world, and the Pharisees were not interested. A debate ensued, leading to their question, “Where is your father?”
The answer could have been, “In Heaven, where He sits on His throne.” But Jesus’ answer wasn’t about where his father was. It was about who his father was. And his answer cut them to the quick.
“You know neither me nor my father; if you knew me, you would know my father also.”
Think about it. Jesus told the very people who thought they knew religion better than anyone that they didn’t know God at all. And oh, by the way, they didn’t know him, either. Quite a statement.
Jesus saved his anger for these people. But the adulterous woman? No condemnation for her, only love and a desire to see her whole again.
You know what? This is what we do. Our mission is not about calling out religious leaders, but it is to reach those who Jesus touched with kind words. Many come in our doors feeling condemned and worthless—even if they don’t admit it. Let’s love them. Build them up. Help them find a second chance.
And if someone comes along to condemn those we serve, maybe we need to call them out. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.
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