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The Source of Our Sustenance

I’ve been journaling through the book of Esther lately. I’d award it a five-star rating, only because there is no sixth to give it. “A historically true story that reads like a compelling short story,” the accompanying review might read. The book’s namesake is a courageous young woman, raised by her wise uncle Mordecai after her mother and father passed away. The loss of Esther’s parents is a seemingly small detail in the story, yet one that resonates within me, for it speaks of God’s provision and care for those we love, regardless of their circumstances. And it takes me back to one of those “life lessons” learned along the way . . .

We had raised Matthew to look to the Word as his wisdom and authority and to bring life’s joys and challenges to God in prayer, and now our son had gone off to college where temptations loom large and character is stress-tested. How would he respond? What choices would he make? Who would influence him for better, and who for worse? All Peggy and I could do was pray. Over time, Matthew started telling us about new friendships and activities with believers, and when he came home after his freshman year, I saw the unmistakable light of confidence, peace and joy in his eyes. It was then that it occurred to me: God had always been—and always would be—our son’s sustenance. Matthew belonged to God, and whether through us or through others, it was God caring for him all along. What a humbling, encouraging and joyful moment it was for this parent!

It was King David who put these words to song: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling” (Psalm 68:15). As one who lost his own father at a very young age, I learned first-hand these words of the psalmist to be true. Then I have come to know—first as a son and then as a father—that whether we lose people to death or they venture forth from under our roof, God cares for His children. Through us, He sustains others; through others, He sustains us. We rejoice in this. We rest in this.

The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. (Psalm 146:9)

Father in heaven, in Your sustaining love, You send people to us. In humble faith, may we recognize Your comfort and receive Your care through them. Strengthen us, grow us, and draw us always near to Yourself. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.

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Face to Face Encounters

“Where else can you go and talk about Jesus to people who are coming to learn about Jesus?” my wife pondered aloud. Peggy was speaking about our weekly International Friendships (IFI) Bible study with students from other countries attending college here in the United States. She was right—it is a group made for each other. As I considered her observation, it occurred to me that Kairos Prison Ministry is similar in that regard—people come to hear about the love of God from people coming to share the love of God, an encounter ripe for spiritual birth and spiritual growth.

The two ministries share this in common as well: when participants receive the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus, no single volunteer can “take credit” for it, for in the wisdom of God, the love of Christ shines through the gifts and callings of all His people in a collective beacon of hope to others. When new believers speak of their faith in Christ, it is common to hear them recall the hospitality and love of Christians. “When I came to America, these people welcomed me into their home. I can’t imagine what it would have been like without them,” we often hear, or “I couldn’t believe people would take four days away from their families to be with us in prison.” These simple acts of kindness in Christ are turning points for many and cornerstones for future faith.

This is God’s matrixed design. He gives each of us spiritual gifts “just as He determines”1 and then works through all of us together to draw to Himself a people He calls His own. Jesus taught His disciples, “One sows and another reaps,”2 and Paul likewise used an agrarian analogy to assert the same: some plant, some water, but only God makes things grow.3 So what does it look like to encounter Christ face to face through His people? To some, it looks like hospitality in a welcoming home; to others, it sounds like true words, gently spoken. To some, it feels like open arms embracing a broken heart; to others it is the sound of their own voice finding sanctuary in a listening ear. To all, it is the good news of life in Christ—“the fragrance of the knowledge of him.”4 So Paul encourages us, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”5 For people who seek to find Him will do so through people who seek to share Him.

Father, you are always drawing people to yourself. Open our eyes to see them, and open our hearts to share You with them however you call us to today. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 1 Corinthians 12:11
2 John 4:37
3 1 Corinthians 3:7
4 2 Corinthians 2:14 ESV
5 Colossians 3:17 ESV