God’s plan for when you struggle

Focus: Joel 2:12-13 “Yet even now,” the LORD says, “return to me with all your heart– with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your garments!” Return to the LORD your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and boundless in loyal love–often relenting from calamitous punishment.

One thing that is true about all of us is that we are all in one of three places in life: 1) We are either going into a storm 2) in the midst of a storm or 3) coming out of a storm. It is the reality of the world we live in, and it will stay that way until one day the Lord returns to gather up His followers. God knows the situation His people are in, and he is gracious, compassionate and patient with them when they fail. We can see the Lord’s grace and patience especially in the prophetic writings, and it goes clear back to his covenant with Israel. God has given his people a plan for when they are in trouble.

In Joel’s short book, he describes an invasion of locusts. There was a huge locust plague that completely destroyed Israel’s crops and devastated the land. The reason this is significant is for two reasons. First, Israel was an agrarian culture. Their very livelihood was codependent on the land. Famine and pestilence could have the potential to wipe out an entire generation. Second, a locust plague was indicative of divine judgment.

In Deuteronomy 28:38-39, the Covenant stipulated that God would judge his nation with locusts and famine if they sinned by turning away from Him and failing to follow His commands. His judgment was so that Israel would return back to Him. In 1 Kings 8:37, when Solomon finished the temple, he led his people in prayer. In his prayer, it was assumed that God’s people would sin, and one of the divine judgments was plagues of locusts. Solomon’s prayer was for God’s people to return to Him and repent when they were in bondage because of sin.

Joel was writing to a nation that had long departed from the ways of the Lord, and they were experiencing divine judgment. God was disciplining his people for their hardness of heart, and the land was in chaos. They were in the midst of a storm because of their sin. Yet, God gave provision for his people. He called them to tear their hearts, not just their garments. The tearing of garments was an external symbol of remorse, but God wants inward change more than outward appearance. God’s judgment is a call for authentic repentance and return to Him.

When God’s people turn back to Him, they will experience his mercy and compassion. It will not guarantee that the pain will immediately capitulate, but God’s promise is that He will restore His people. Especially throughout Israel’s history, God promised in His Covenant that when they repented, he would return them back to the Land and bless the land and make it fruitful. They would live in blessing and peace. God’s promise is still valid today for those who trust in Him. He will restore us back to peace and make our lives fruitful and abundant with blessing if we return back to Him with our whole hearts.

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What does God think about your church?

Amos 1-5

Focus: Amos 5:21-24 “I absolutely despise your festivals! I get no pleasure from your religious assemblies! Even if you offer me burnt and grain offerings, I will not be satisfied; I will not look with favor on your peace offerings of fattened calves. Take away from me your noisy songs; I don’t want to hear the music of your stringed instruments. Justice must flow like torrents of water, righteous actions like a stream that never dries up.

In today’s culture, most of us live moment by moment for our own pleasure. We can see this in many ways. We build bigger houses and buy faster cars while the poor go hungry around the world. Because of misplaced priorities, many live in marriages that are “undivorced” where there is no mutual affection, and emotional or physical affairs are rampant. We are also people are not honest in the way we live. We get upset when someone cuts in front of us at the grocery store, but we don’t speak up when millions of babies are aborted each year. Injustice thrives in our culture like mold growing in wet places.

Our religious hypocrisy is worse. We go to a church building and call it church- and we attend it as long as it fits our needs. We sing a song and call it worship, but we have no regard for God during the remaining 6.5 days of the week. We give our money and call it tithe and offerings, but we give out of our wealth or convenience. We rarely or never give sacrificially to the point where it affects us or stirs our hearts. We say we love God, but how is that true?

When a man’s heart is stirred for the woman that he loves, he learns about what she likes and does it. His expressions of love take on new meaning in the eyes of the beloved. He buys her gifts and she accepts them because he has demonstrated his love for her.

In the same way, if we claim to have affection for God, then we must pursue God in a way that stirs His heart. In Amos 1-5, we can see that God rejected Israel’s religious gifts because of her adultery (worship of foreign gods) and evil lifestyle. God did not want Israel’s external symbols without demonstration of internal change. The same is true today.

If we want to enjoy a mutual love relationship with the Lord, then justice must flow like torrents of water, righteous actions like a stream that never dries up. Our religious hypocrisy must go. The Church needs to start being the Church and engage with the surrounding culture in a meaningful way. If the Church is marked by extending love and justice into the community, then it is probably on the right track. How is your church doing?

What does God want from me?

Micah 5-7

Focus: Micah 6:6-8, “6 With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Yesterday, I wrote about a woman I met when I was flying home from San Antonio. This woman was rejecting the Church because she witnessed the hypocrisy of her “Christian” mother who ruined several marriages through adulterous affairs. Yet her mother was one who faithfully attended church three days a week, tithed, read her bible, and was baptized. This woman, like so many, equated religious deeds with pleasing God. But that is not what God wants from her or anyone else.

In Micah 6, the people of God are in God’s courtroom. They were a nation filled with religious activity, yet God was bringing charges against his people. Dishonest individuals who demonstrated no concern for treating others fairly ruled the Israelites, and they took advantage of and neglected the poor. They also prostituted themselves to idols by having sexual intercourse with temple prostitutes who were trying to give the fertility god Baal an orgy. Israel tolerated wicked sinful behavior. Israel was in serious breach of Covenant with God. But they were really good at doing spiritual things, right? Then why was God so mad at them? After all, they prayed and sacrificed and faithfully performed their religious duties. Shouldn’t that have made up for their shortcomings?

Micah 6:8 shows us what God wanted from his people. He wanted them to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. God wanted them to be people who have been changed by His grace. Literally, to do justly simply means to do the right thing. God wanted his people to do what is right all throughout life. To love mercy means to demonstrate loyal committed love toward God and his people. The love of Israel should have been God and his people. To walk humbly with God means to have daily communion with God, much like that which Adam and Eve had with God in the Garden before they sinned. God wanted Israel to enjoy the blessings of being in his presence.

Not much has changed today. God will reject those who simply say “I am a Christian” but do not do what is right, have committed loyal love toward God and his people, and share a daily communion with Him. This is a lesson that spiritual activity does not equal transformation. In other words, if our lives are not changed, it does not matter if we go to church 1 day a week or three days a week. It does not matter if we read our Bible, fast, are baptized, or give our tithe. Our outward symbols and actions should be visual reminders of inward realities (See Deuteronomy 10:16). If our lives are truly changed and we are doing the right thing, demonstrating loyal love to God and others, and walking humbly with God, then our religious activities actually take on new meaning. That is what God wants from those who call him Lord.

What should you expect when you pray?

Isaiah 56-60

Focus: Is. 58:6-7 No, this is the kind of fast I want. I want you to remove the sinful chains, to tear away the ropes of the burdensome yoke, to set free the oppressed, and to break every burdensome yoke. I want you to share your food with the hungry and to provide shelter for homeless, oppressed people. When you see someone naked, clothe him! Don’t turn your back on your own flesh and blood!

This last Sunday was a special day at Watermark Church, Dallas. The first part of our service was a celebration of all the ways God has used our Church body to minister in Dallas, greater Texas, and abroad. The remainder of the service was visiting different stations that were set up in the Town Center (foyer). There were scores of ministries that we partner with represented among the booths, and each representative shared how our Church is strategically involved with them.

After leaving the service, I was reminded of how I must value justice and mercy, especially as it relates to the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable in our society. While Watermark may not be the perfect body, it is good to know that we are on track. Time after time all throughout Scripture, we can see God’s heart for justice and mercy. We can also see His repulsion against religiosity- the act of performing religious lip service without personal transformation.

Isaiah 58 is a great reminder of what our faith should look like as it translates into real life. God is not looking for people who would just pray for justice. God does not need individuals who would only pray for those who are hungry, nor is he so much concerned about us sending up prayers for those who need clothing and shelter. It does not matter how much we pray or fast about such things if our hearts are not moved to the point were we respond.

When I say respond, I am not talking about an exclusive emotional response of compassion.  I am talking about the proactive engagement in laboring against injustice, hunger and poverty. There is nothing to pray about except that God would show you how to use your own resources – time, talent, and treasures (that he has given YOU for such a purpose!). If you should pray, then expect to act on your prayers!

While we are not all called to be the deliver of resources, we are all called to be givers of resources.

If your heart is beating and you are alive to read this, one valuable resource you have is time. How can you give of your time to act in a meaningful way? If you are uniquely gifted, talented or trained, you have talent. How can you use your skill set to be an advocate for another who is in need? Also, check your bank account. Do you have a job that brings in income? Great. You have treasure. How can you use your treasure to partner with those who are on the frontlines in this battle for justice and mercy? What can you do? What will you do?

Does God care about justice?

Isaiah 46-50

Focus: Isaiah 47:1-3, “Fall down! Sit in the dirt, O virgin daughter Babylon! Sit on the ground, not on a throne, O daughter of the Babylonians! Indeed, you will no longer be called delicate and pampered. Pick up millstones and grind flour! Remove your veil, strip off your skirt, expose your legs, cross the streams! Let your private parts be exposed! Your genitals will be on display! I will get revenge; I will not have pity on anyone.” (NET)

There are times in life when I have wondered if God cares about justice. I have often wondered if God will ever do something about the wickedness that plagues our planet. The problem of evil is not new, but it is still difficult to address. While I know that Scripture deals with the problem of evil, I am shocked at just how graphic it is as it deals with God’s plan for evil and injustice.

Isaiah 47:1-3 is a prophecy against the wicked nation of Babylon. The charge against Babylon was that she tried to appropriate the throne of God. God’s judgment against her was severe. His plan was for the ultimate humiliation and destruction of Babylon. Babylon, a propagator of evil and injustice, was going to be stripped of all the things that she gloried in. Her rebellion would be crushed.

Truly, this passage gives a glimpse of one of God’s passions. God is passionate about justice. Micah 6:8 says, “He has show you man what the Lord requires, but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Even while God has a special love towards His people, and when God disciplined them for their sin, His plan still was to restore Israel. God was vindicating His people who were thwarted by the wickedness of Babylon. God was bringing justice to Israel through His judgment and ultimate shaming of Babylon.

Babylon was stripped and humiliated because of her sin. She was charged with making a mockery of Yahweh and trying to assume His throne. This passage should give us significant pause. Are our hearts in rebellion against God? Do we have an independent spirit that has no regard for the King? Have we submitted to his authority and Lordship in our life? How are we fighting for justice on behalf of the weak and vulnerable?

God is passionate about justice. If Babylon had her day in court, so will we. If Babylon was completely exposed, stripped and utterly humbled, what will God make of those who do not turn away from their rebellion and continue to commit evil? The glory of mutiny against God’s throne will no longer be so glorious in the Day of Judgment. It will be a dreadful day for propagators of evil. It is clear and there is no question that God is passionate about justice. Are you? How are you a part of God’s mission against evil?

The Great Lover, The Great Pursuer

Isaiah 41-45

Focus: Isaiah 45:22-25 Turn to me so you can be delivered, all you who live in the earth’s remote regions! For I am God, and I have no peer. I solemnly make this oath- what I say is true and reliable: ‘Surely every knee will bow to me, every tongue will solemnly affirm; they will say about me, “Yes, the LORD is a powerful deliverer.”’” All who are angry at him will cower before him. All the descendants of Israel will be vindicated by the LORD and will boast in him.

Reading this promise that God gave to His people is stunning. God is making his case against His people’s infidelity, but even as he presents His case, he pleads with them to return to Him. Israel was an idolatrous nation. They worshipped idols and their hearts were preoccupied with other gods- Baal and Ashera. But the Lord demonstrates that there is no other true God besides Him. He is God alone. He has no peer. Yet, while Israel was unfaithful, He did not completely reject them. In fact, he pursued His people.

The God of Israel was great and merciful to His people. Even while their hearts wandered, He had great patience when they rebelled. Not only that, but God went after His people when they walked away from Him. He went after them like a lover who goes after his bride. God promised that Israel’s great affair with other gods would one day come to an end. She would be vindicated by the Lord and boast in Him. What does that mean?

Israel’s sin brought her into severe bondage. It ruined her. Yet, the Lord was compassionate and had a special love for His people- even when they went in directions that were not life giving. Even when His people rebelled against Him, God pursued them with His great love. Why? So that they would boast in Him.

There is nothing more life changing than when a person has messed up and has nowhere else to go. Their life is in chaos and there is no hope. And then another who is compassionate and merciful reaches out to that person who is hopelessly dead in their tracks. The guilty person is pardoned and accepted. The shame is gone, and the one who extended the hand is seen as a hero and deliverer who can be trusted. That is what God did for His people Israel. Ultimately he did it through the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Philippians 2 says that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the father. Jesus Christ is God’s hand reaching out to His people. His death on the cross is the sacrifice that vindicates anyone who trusts in Him. No matter what we have done in life, God has still pursued us. He is the great Lover who pursues His people so that they will live in a way that brings life. It begins by accepting Jesus extended hand, releasing guilt and shame, and boasting in Him- the great Lover and Pursuer of our life.

Below is a video about what a Lover IS NOT:

When I hurt, where should my focus be?

Isaiah 31-35

Focus: Isaiah 35:3-4 Strengthen the hands that have gone limp, steady the knees that shake! Tell those who panic, “Be strong! Do not fear! Look, your God comes to avenge! With divine retribution he comes to deliver you.”

Recently I have been learning about the prophets of Israel and how God used them to guide His people. Every time there was a passage of judgment in the Prophets, it was actually an offer of mercy. If his people responded to the message of judgment, then God in great mercy might set his judgment aside temporarily or permanently. Unfortunately, God’s people did not respond in a way that would have benefited them as often as they should have.

In this passage, God is proclaiming what He will do for His people when they return to Him and are faithfully committed to Him as their Lord. In the midst of judgment, when all hell has broken loose and God’s people have suffered because of their unfaithfulness, God gave a promise for what their future holds.

As part of God’s discipline and punishment for breaking the Covenant, Israel and Judah would suffer from the oppression of Babylon and Assyria. Yet God said to strengthen the hands that had gone limp. Steady the knees that shake. Israel was to be courageous and strong in the midst of their oppression. Why? Because of God’s promises.

God promised to bring retribution and deliverance for his people. God is just and he will pay back and avenge his enemies that bring Him loss. Not only that but God is merciful and cares for His people who are rebellious against him. Remembering God’s promises was to be the focal point for strength in the midst of discipline and trials.

Today, through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, people everywhere have the same hope. Even while we are all screwed up and live in a world that is jacked, we have the hope that we will one day be made new in glorified bodies. We will one day live in shalom, the peace of God.

Struggles and pain are a temporary reality, but our focal point in suffering should be in God’s deliverance. We need to strengthen our weak hands and steady our shaking knees. Have courage and be strong. For those who trust in the Lord, there will one day be freedom from all the struggles that discourage us and weigh us down.

Where is God in Haiti?

Isaiah 21-25

Focus: Isaiah 25:8 He will swallow up death permanently. The sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from every face, and remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. Indeed, the LORD has announced it!

Yesterday the world was literally shaken by an earthquake that devastated one of the poorest nations on earth. It is going to be recorded as the greatest disaster since the earthquake in China a year ago, and the Tsunami that hit Indonesia and India a few years ago. There is no way to estimate the total loss that has raped the land of Haiti. My prayers will be with these people. Haiti shook, and the lives of tens of thousands or more are in ruin. But their cries have been heard.

The recent tragedy is another reminder that death, sickness, injustice, unrighteousness, and evil still exist. The innocent continue to suffer, and the weak are still exploited. But where is God in these “hells” on earth? Doesn’t God care?

In short, the answer is “YES!” God does care, and it will be proven by the hands of his people who respond to tragedies like what has happened in Haiti. There is no plan B. We are God’s instruments to help others in their time of need. The world will witness the hand of God restoring the lives of those who have suffered, but a greater promise is in store for those who trust in the Lord.

One day the evil and injustice that we know will be destroyed. God will swallow up death permanently, and he will drench His people with His mercy. God himself will wipe the tears from every face and he will remove the shame from his people. This is what we are living for! While we live in a world that is not yet perfect, one day everything will be made new. This is the Christian hope. This is the promise for those who trust in the Lord.

I can only imagine what it will be like to stand in the Lord’s presence in the time that he has prepared a new home for me and for those who have been faithful to Him. The guilt and shame of my past failures will be completely gone. Fear from violence and evil will no longer be. This is the Christian hope! This is what Christ offers. This is His promise. The Lord has announced it. He has spoken. It will be so.

My heart is with those who are grieving their loss. My prayer is that they will turn to Christ as they begin to witness His power and see it for the first time. To those who are on the outside looking in at the disaster that has violated the lives of others, what are you doing to help bring justice and mercy for the innocent? What are the resources you have to help? This is your time to shine. There is no plan B. You are the face of God today in Haiti, and you are the hands of God in the lives of those who suffer.

How to measure your spirituality

Is. 1:17 Learn to do what is right!

Promote justice!

Give the oppressed reason to celebrate!

Take up the cause of the orphan!

Defend the rights of the widow!

This last year, George Barna’s survey indicated that many churchgoers and faith leaders struggle to define spiritual maturity. In America, this should not be! We are the wealthiest nation and have the most Spiritual resources on the planet. Yet we struggle to know what it means to be spiritually mature.

George Barna’s survey revealed 5 problems in the American Church: 1.) Most Christians equate spirituality with following rules 2.) Churchgoers are uncertain about what their church expects about spiritual maturity 3.) Believers have one-dimensional views of spiritual maturity 4.) Pastors fail to give a relevant definition of spiritual maturity with objectives; they favor activity over attitude 5.) Pastors don’t know where to reference the Bible for indicators of Spiritual maturity.

I once had a mentor who gave me a great definition of spiritual maturity (See below). Notice the phrase a Christian with a life worth emulating. What does that mean? What is the Christian life?

Spiritual maturity is:

The process where a Christian with a life worth emulating commits himself or herself for an extended period of time to a few individuals who have been won to Christ, the purpose being to aid and guide their growth to maturity and equip them to reproduce themselves in a third spiritual generation.

In Isaiah 1 we can get some helpful insight about what it means to be a Christian with a life worth emulating. In this passage, God is indicting Israel- not because they did not produce sacrifices, not because they did not pray enough, not because they did not go to the temple, not because they did not tithe. They did all of that, yet God said that he hated their worship. Why? Because it was sin-stained celebration. Based off this passage alone, we can discover what spiritual maturity is not.

Spiritual maturity is not:

1. Following rules

2. Engaging in spiritual activities

3. Confessing that you are a follower of God (or Christ)

4. A single-dimensioned definition

5. Vague and difficult to discover in Scripture

Measuring spiritual maturity begins with acknowledging who God is. Today we confess Jesus as Lord. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s revelation to man as foretold as early as Genesis 3:16 in Scripture. 1 John 2:6 says that those who confess Jesus must also walk as Jesus did. When someone does this, then he has a life worth emulating.

What did Jesus do?

When John the Baptist was in prison, he sent people to Jesus to find out who Jesus is. Jesus instructed John’s followers to tell John what they heard and saw: The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them. Jesus had strong affinity for mercy, justice and humility.

Spiritual maturity starts by confessing Christ, but it extends to the very core of our being. It is not about being doctrinally correct so much as it is about living spiritually correct. What I mean by that is that claiming to have faith in Christ is not just verbal. It also involves communicating with your life.

Indicators of faith include learning to do what is right, promoting justice, giving the oppressed reason to celebrate, taking up the cause of the orphan, and defending the rights of the widow. Life before Christ is one that tolerates injustice, propagates evil, and has no place for mercy. Yet as we mature in Christ, we learn to live according to the Spirit. When we do that, new fruits are produced in our life. We live as imitators of Christ.

If we let this concept guide our lives, then there would be less confusion about why we follow certain rules and engage in spiritual activities. Not only that, but we would not be so concerned about confessing our allegiance to Christ so much as living for Him in a way that extends justice, mercy and righteousness. When asked how we measure our spirituality, we will be less inclined to say that we tithe, pray, read our bibles and attend church. Instead we will humbly submit our story about the new fruit that has come from a radically transformed life and has fully engaged in the person and message of Jesus Christ.

Breaking Social Barriers

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John 4:27, “At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, ‘What do You seek?’ or, ‘Why do You speak with her?'”

High school was as difficult for me as it is for anyone. While I was not the most popular, people still knew me. For the most part, people liked me, but in some ways I felt like a misfit. I belonged to a youth group at my church, and that was a great experience. But when it came to school, I had a hard time clicking with others. I joined the band, played football, and ran track. I did the whole nine yards. But one thing I remember as well as anything was the desire to belong.

I found it hard to belong to certain groups because it meant ostracizing others. Belonging to one group of people might mean sacrificing my reputation with other friends. My goal was to have my first allegiance always be to Christ, so that put a damper on how loyal I was to any group.

Most of us can identify with the desire to fit in. Many go great lengths to be accepted, and when they finally find their ring of friends, they will do anything to keep it- including the exclusion of others. In the story about Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well, the disciples faced the exact same pressure to want to belong. In following Jesus, they finally have become involved with something in their life that has brought them deeper meaning. But what happens when the opportunity to belong begins to crumble?

In many ways, life was good for the disciples. They were following a leader who turned out to be the Messiah, the one who would deliver Israel. He could do ridiculously amazing miracles, and he had an impeccable knowledge of Torah, the “Bible” of the day. No one could argue with him. Not only that, but he could turn water into wine. How fun is that?! All was well until…

Jesus had this way of habitually jeopardizing the reputation of the disciples. In some ways, I wonder if the disciples were ever embarrassed for Jesus. Did he know what He was doing when He acted certain ways? After all, the Messiah should act like one, shouldn’t he?

This story is no different. At face value, Jesus “blows it.” He crosses social lines by talking with this Samaritan woman. In some ways, the text suggests that she was a prostitute. Regardless, she was Samaritan and she was woman. It would be an understatement to say it was taboo for a Jew to hang out with a Samaritan. Even more, a man, and certainly a Rabbi, would never approach a woman who was not his wife. Jesus violated social norms in order to extend mercy and grace to the outcast.

Which brings me to the point I wanted to reflect on…

Jesus’ disciples had gone into town to buy some food. When they entered back into the scene they were amazed to discover Jesus entertaining this woman. Amazed is a euphemism for “pooped bricks”. I can picture their jaws hanging open and the groceries slowly dropping to the ground as the disciples were thinking to themselves, “Jesus, stop! What are you doing?! You are messing up everything. Why are you hanging out with her? Don’t let anyone see you. They will never take you seriously. Start acting like the Messiah is supposed to act.” That is essentially how scripture paints their unspoken thoughts as it says, “‘What do You seek?’ or, ‘Why do You speak with her?” Breaking social barriers is shocking for others to see and often difficult to understand.

The story gets even better when the woman hurries into the city to tell everyone how her life was changed. It seems that the disciples were catching on to what was happening, so they tried to distract Jesus from paying further attention to the Samaritan people and thus harming his reputation even more. In effect, they said, “Would you look at the time? Hey Jesus, you’re hungry, right? Yeah, its time to eat Bro. Darn, we know you hate to miss out on ministry, but we gotta eat and run.” The temporal need for food became a distraction for the greater need to help others.  Distractions from good often come from those who are our social contemporaries and in the form of temporal obligations.

It turns out that Jesus stayed in that town for 2 more days and he did plenty more miracles- enough socializing with the outcast to make those closest to Him stock up on Rolaids. When we read this story, we all need to ask, “Who is our Samaritan woman of our day?” Who is it that we would never be seen with? Who is that person or people that if you saw your friend or pastor with, you would ask to yourself, “What are you doing hanging out with them? Isn’t that inappropriate?” Hopefully we don’t have that thought in us. Following Jesus means that we will transcend social barriers and distractions that would keep us from ministering to others.

Transcending social barriers eclipses the personal prejudice and barricades that are put up against others. What is interesting is that the very desire to belong often feeds intolerance of others. For some reason we intuitively think we cannot have both/ and. We think that if we demonstrate acceptance of those different than us, then our friends may think less of us. This would not happen in a genuine friendship, and regardless, a follower of Christ is ultimately concerned about what the King expects.

The reality is that we all struggle in some way with reaching out to those who are different. So my proposal is that we stop being amazed in the same way the disciples were when they saw Jesus ministering to the Samaritan woman. Extending love to weird people should not be shocking. It should be as normal as loving “normal” people. Who do you know that you have neglected, ignored or failed to help because they are different than you? What are some practical ways that you can extend mercy and grace in their life?