When No One Notices, He Does!

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Tuesday’s staff devotion examined the section of Scripture from Matthew 25.    Jesus is having a dialogue about service.

The discussion that follows can be found in the Common English Translation:

37 “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’40 “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’

What is noticeable in this exchange is the reaction of the righteous when Jesus points out their good deeds.   They appear completely unaware of their behavior. Christians, motivated by the love of God, do things every day that goes unnoticed.  It is the nature of the righteous.  It is the nature of God’s workers to serve in relative obscurity with little thanks or recognition, not giving much thought to the sacrifices they make.  Would it be nice to have an end of the year celebration for volunteers, staff and other tireless workers? By all means! However, they will serve not for the promise of a party or the recognition, but because they love their God and they love His people.  Service flows naturally out of the love of God that is welling up inside us.   Servants are surprised and thankful when it gets attention. In the end it is about the privilege, Christians have been given to serve an amazing and awesome God.

I shared with the staff today, even though you probably do not hear this often, thank you for your service. We also discussed the reality that whether or not anybody in the church ever notices all the hard work and effort they put into their area of ministry, receive this acclamation, God knows. He notices.

The righteous are taken aback when Jesus acknowledges their service? “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’”

It happens during those times we care for the person in need God has placed our midst and without thinking, serve. The response of our Lord in Matthew 25 screams this point, “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’”

Jesus has a word of thanks and encouragement for you today from Matthew 25:21,  “His master replied, ‘Excellent! You are a good and faithful servant! You’ve been faithful over a little. I’ll put you in charge of much. Come, celebrate with me.’”  May God bless you and may God bless those who serve!
Pat on the Back

Remembering A Strong-willed Woman

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My mother, Elma Haney was a proud and very strong will woman. Strong-willed is a kind nice way of saying whatever was on her mind, she would share with you. Now if you asked for that option that was your own fault. There were plenty of times she would give you the advice you did not solicit. On a side note for those who know me, that is where I get it from. I would love to say that is something I am working on but that would be untrue. Therefore, I will own that flaw and blame it on my mother.

As the day arrives each year that we have set aside to remember and give thanks to the unique way God used the spirit and heart of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr I thought now is a fitting time to share some unsolicited thoughts, a few of the lessons my mother shared with me.

Now keep the opening description in mind, she was a strong-willed woman. Unfortunately, she grew up at a time in our society where being a strong-willed at that time colored woman, was not a trait that was encouraged by society in the deep south where she grew up. As a matter of fact, her outspoken nature could have gotten her in really deep trouble. We would often ask her, “How in the world did you survive in that context?” I just figured she like Mary kept those thoughts close to her heart. Unlike Mary when she got the chance never stop letting those bottled up thoughts out on any and everyone who would listen.

As I reflect back on her life and witness, though, I understand with greater clarity why the things she valued in life were so much a part of her character. 1) She valued that fact that as a known African American woman she accomplished a lot of firsts. The first president of the Telephone Company’s employee union, first African American Trustee of Trinity Lutheran Church in Baton Rouge just to name a few. It was her way of letting the world know that you may limit what you think I can do, but God does not. She would often say nothing is too big for God. 2) She demanded high achievements from her children and grandchildren. I never appreciated why until later in life. However, she knew how hard her road had been and did not want us to let any opportunity get away instead she would encourage us to take advantage of what God placed before us. Her motto was never settled for what was given to us, but strive to be the very best. And 3) She celebrated every accomplishment. Whether is was me making the Marching Band at Southern Lab, home of the Mighty Kittens (yea I know not the toughest mascot name) or finishing third in a reading contest. We celebrated every accomplishment and every achievement. And when her grandkids started college, got their first job, finished confirmation or just got a base hit in a little league baseball game, grandma was on the phone with a big way to go.  She knew what Dr. King and others had worked so hard to achieve through the working of the Holy Spirit moving in the course of human history. God used this southern preacher to secure her freedom to be strong-will and opinionated. That now is passed down to her kids and grandkids so watch out the world.

Thank you, mom, for instilling your spirit, your heart for hurting people and your desire to cheer us to achieve great things. Your spirit lives on in us. To God be the Glory!

Bittersweet Memories

Who Is My Neighbor?

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I ran across a fantastic quote by Dr. King. “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”― Martin Luther King Jr.

We are dealing with a lot of very emotionally charged issues in our country these days: police shootings in urban neighborhoods, Syrian Refugees relocating to the United States, and Hispanic and Latino undocumented works and immigrants. All of these issues challenge us to deal with the same exchange Jesus had with the young Jewish expert in the law.

The conversation went like this:

25 A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?”

26 Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?”

27 He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”

28 Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”

29 But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25-29 (CEB)

At the heart of this famous exchange is a call to change. That change is still needed today.

Jesus goes on to tell this young expert in the law a story.

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. Then as the account goes, a Priest sees him and leaves him for dead. Then a Levite sees him and is too busy to get involved and leaves him for dead.

At this point, things are looking rather grim. Then along comes a Samaritan. Now if you are a Jewish person hearing this story. You are thinking to yourself well this guy is toast. There is now way in the world this enemy will stop and help. If anything he might come along and put him out of his misery. Samaritans in that day were viewed with the same level of hatred as Blacks were during the civil rights movements of Dr. King’s day.

So here we have a Jew and a Samaritan and the unthinkable happens.

33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

What is amazing about all of this is if the man had know who was helping him he probably would have rejected the help. And the Samaritan took a chance walking into town with this injured Jewish man on his donkey. The town’s people probably assumed he did it. It was like an Indian walking into town with an injured cowboy. But I love what the text says. The Samaritan man looks on him and had pity on Him.

In the next section, we get the purpose of this parable.

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

The challenge of our times how do we model the example of our Lord and Savior Jesu Christ? How do we show mercy on those whom God has placed around us as our neighbors?  It is a sad reality that Dr. King’s dream has come to fruition. Jesus’ desire to bring back all the lost sheep of the house of Israel is not complete. The kingdom’s work is not done. As long as there are people who are persecuted and disenfranchised the Church of Jesus Christ has work to do to see the dream become a reality. As long as there are groups of people who face hatred and oppressed the dream is not complete. As long as there are people that we walk by in need, and we think we are too busy to stop and give aid the dream is not complete.

We are called by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to be a neighbor to the ones who need mercy. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. And who is our neighbor? Anyone, we come into contact with,  not just the people who look like us and think like us, but everyone God places in our lives is a neighbor.

Like the Good Samaritan our mission in the world is to “Go and show mercy.” In doing so, you model for those who are far from God the love of the Savior and the mercy and grace of God. So go and do likewise.
Good Fences?

The Power of Vision

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“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference.”Joel Barker 
What a powerful quote. As we approach the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr holiday I am reminded that if Dr. King had stopped with just having a dream about a better America but did not move that dream to action none of the changes that I am benefiting from today would have been possible. As Churches seek to discern God’s will for their ministry it may begin with a dream or a vision of what could be.  However in order to see fruits from that dream or  vision  it requires hard work, action and a moving of the Holy Spirit to become a reality.  What a privilege I have in my current vocation to come alongside dreamers and visionaries to see the amazing work of our Awesome God come to fruition. If God has placed on your heart a dream or a vision for ministry don’t just stop with the dream.  Don’t let fear of failure or success derail you.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will move you to act on the dream God has placed on your heart because it can have a kingdom impact.

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