Day 1 Be Alert: Set Your Spiritual Radar on High Luke 19:1-10
“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today. ‘ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’ But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’” NIV
One hectic day, I rushed into the grocery store to run an errand. In the checkout line, my eyes fell on the word, “faith,” tattooed on the young lady in front of me. After checking out, I hurried to my car and prepared to travel to my next appointment. Suddenly, I looked up and there she was—the tattooed young woman, carrying a heavy load of grocery bags, walking towards the street. I didn’t have time; I didn’t know her. But, I felt the pull of the Spirit and pulled up next to her, offering her a ride. “I was praying that someone would help me, and then you stopped,” she said.
Jesus looked up and saw Zacchaeus. If anyone was overcommitted, bombarded by distractions, and preoccupied with deep thoughts, it was Jesus. Yet his spiritual radar was set on high, and Jesus saw this little man, hidden among the branches of the sycamore tree. Before we can share our stories, we have to be aware of those who need to hear.
Reflection: Is your spiritual radar on high? Who does God want you to invite to the banquet of God’s love?
Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to see as you see. Move me from my own selfish agenda to really see the people you have placed in front of me who need your love. Amen.
Day 2 Be Bold-Take a Relational Risk John 4:7-10
“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?’ (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’” NIV
I was preaching a sermon on homelessness, and wanted to interview a homeless person. At the church’s soup kitchen, Larry and I discussed his experiences living under the bridge. This turned into a relationship that continued way beyond the sermon. We kept in touch through email, even after Larry moved away, and I was blessed to find out he now has a job and a home.
Larry shared with me that he longed for others to look at him as being human, instead of being seen as “vermin.” It was a gift for someone to look him in the eye and smile, instead of avoiding him, afraid he might ask for a handout. Taking a risk relationally, I was deeply moved by how much God used Larry to teach and bless me, when I thought I would be the one helping Larry.
God took a relational risk, entering our world in Jesus Christ. God risked rejection, misunderstanding and ridicule to reconcile the relationship between God and the people God created. Jesus reached out to the woman at the well to share “living water,” taking a relational risk, especially in that culture. We cannot share our God stories, if we will not take relational risks. Maybe the first step is to really look others in the eye and smile, acknowledging their worth, even if they are different from us.
Reflection: Are you willing to risk a relationship with someone you don’t know to love them as Christ loves us? What first step do we need to take to reach out?
Prayer: Lord, let our loving be bold. Let our actions and words reflect your bold love for us. Amen.
Day 3 Be Real– Let Your Life Song Sing 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” NIV
Some say that music is most powerful when it contains notes of dissonance, sounds that produce tension and a desire to be resolved. Concerned about what others think about us, we often want only our achievements and strengths to be the notes of our life song. However, it is those dissonant parts of our lives that sometimes speak most powerfully to others – the sin overcome, the fear removed, or the weakness that leads us to depend on God. Sharing honestly conveys that there is tension in the Christian life, places of weakness that we desire to be resolved, transformed. It is risky to be transparent to the world, but it is through honest testimony that God can speak with power to those who struggle with weakness and sin.
I struggle with Attention Deficit Syndrome. My desk reflects my struggle with organization. I finally confessed my need. Without judgment, a woman at church offered to organize my files. Her strength met my weakness and I was overwhelmed with thanksgiving and joy! God is able to harmonize our dissonant notes as we open our lives honestly to the love of God. This song of hope sings to the world, in need of healing and in need of joyous song.
Reflection: What are your dissonant notes or your areas of weakness? Does your life song proclaim to others the transforming power of God?
Prayer: Lord, I offer my life to you with all its conflicting notes and unresolved issues. Create a new song of thanksgiving that bears hope to the world. Amen.
Day 4 Be Persevering—Don’t Give Up 1 Corinthians 13:7, Matthew 13:1-23
“It [love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” NIV
“Then he [Jesus] told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.’ The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’ He replied, ‘Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the Word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the Word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the Word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the Word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’” NIV
What kind of farmer is this sower in the parable? If he knows that the seed will only grow in good soil, why not plant it there? Isn’t that a waste to sow good seed in places it probably won’t grow? Isn’t that so like God? God’s love is poured out on all, grace given freely, even if there is no guarantee of a harvest. God knows that some will fall into the hearts of those ready to respond. God’s love never gives up on us.
There was a youth at the church who tried my patience, pushed my buttons, and hurt my feelings repeatedly. Yet, I could see below the surface, a beautiful girl, gifted to serve. I wanted to throw in the towel, more than once, but God’s loud whisper in my soul was, “Keep loving her, don’t give up on her.” Some years later, she came to me and apologized for how difficult she had been to me. She was glad I never gave up on her. I rejoiced in knowing she was growing into her faith and using her gifts. God’s love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Reflection: How can you scatter the seeds of God’s love with no guarantee that someone will respond? Are you able to share your story with someone who rejects your words, and still continue to love them?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for never giving up on me. Enable me to love with your relentless love that gives with no expectation of return. Amen.
Day 5 Be Simple. Let Your Light Shine, But Not Your Words Confuse Matthew 5:14-16
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” NIV
Christian leaders sometimes like to use a lot of big “churchy” words, like sanctification, incarnation, and redemption when we preach and teach. Even words like glory and sin may not be clear to those who have not grown up in the church. Other Christians avoid sharing their faith because they feel inadequate to explain religion and believe they should leave these conversations for pastors. Jesus never used the word justification or atonement. He just told stories about sowing seeds and letting our light shine.
I was leading an after school program for middle school students in the community. Around Christmas, I had a nativity scene set up. One of the students asked me what that was about. I was caught off guard. There are some things we assume everyone understands. I started talking about the shepherds and the star, and then he picked up one of the wisemen and said, “Is this God?” I realized that this student had no biblical background. I said a silent prayer and began to tell the story of Joseph and Mary. I shared Mary’s encounter with the angel and that she became pregnant with God’s son, Jesus. The boy rolled his eyes, and exclaimed, “And Joseph believed that story!”
Reflection: Are we able to share our personal faith stories with simple words and illustrations? If someone asked you who Jesus is, would you be able to share that in a way that was simple and understandable?
Prayer: Lord, enable us to share the story of your love in language that others can understand. You are always accessible to ordinary people. Let our words be simple, yet powerful expressions of your love. Amen.
Day 6 Be Loving—Imitate God Ephesians 5:1-2
“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” NIV
The word “imitate” in Ephesians 5:1 is mimetes in the Greek, from which we also get our words: mime, imitation, and mimic. With no props or words, mime artists can convince you they are climbing a ladder, eating an apple, or other actions. Professional mime artists learn their moves by carefully observing and then copying exactly those actions. Jesus was the perfect mime of God. We are called to observe his actions carefully and do likewise, even offering our lives sacrificially.
I visited a friend who is well advanced in age, frail in body, and mostly confined to her home. Always active in service, she has been discouraged by her physical condition and asked, “What can I do now?” I reminded her that she can now devote her life to loving, which she is very gifted to do. Her words, her prayers, and her ability to make all who visit her feel loved is a holy service to God. When I leave my friend’s home, the fragrance of Jesus lingers in my spirit.
Reflection: How can you imitate God in the example of Jesus in your encounters with others? Do your non-verbal actions reflect your internal faith? How can you live a life of love, rather than just a life of busy?
Prayer: Lord, let me remember how dearly loved I am as your child. Enable me to live my life with integrity, expressing my faith through loving actions. Transform me into the image of Christ. Amen.
Day 7 Be Praying—Be Ready to Tell Your Story Colossians 4:2-6
“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” NIV
In the intersections of the world, in our jobs, our neighborhoods, and our families, there are people who need to be invited to God’s banquet of abundant life. We scatter the seed of God’s love on everyone, shine our light into dark lives, and live a life of love. As we pray, we invite God to interrupt our lives with opportunities to share our God story and amazing things happen.
I missed my connection due to a mechanical problem with the plane and now had two hours to kill while I waited for the next flight. As I grumbled about this delay, I heard the song, “My Favorite Things” from the musical “The Sound of Music.” I laughed, as I wasn’t sure thinking of my favorite things would make everything better, but I prayed that God would use this delay for God’s purposes. Much later, I boarded the plane, and a young soldier in uniform sat down next to me. As we took off, he started singing, “My Favorite Things” quietly. All I wanted to do was sleep on this late flight home, but the Spirit’s alert was loud and clear. This was no coincidence. I took a chance and started a conversation with the young man. This led to a spiritual discussion about his life and a chance to share my God story.
Reflection: Have you prayed for opportunities to share your story? Are you willing to allow God to interrupt your life for a greater purpose?
Prayer: Lord, I pray that this day, you would use us for your purposes. Open our eyes to your divine appointments and give us the boldness to speak honestly in love. Amen.