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Receiving Good from Samaritans

What began as a trip to the ER one evening a couple of weeks ago became a two-day stay in the hospital. My symptoms were clear, but diagnosis and treatment were slower in coming, so I was in a highly stressed state of mind, body and soul. At some point during the evening, the nurse said to me, “May I say something? You have been stressed and anxious since you got here, pacing, talking and trying to diagnose your own problem.” [Guilty as charged.] “The tension is only making matters worse for your body,” he continued, “Your job is to rest and to trust us to do our job.” He was right—there was good wisdom in his words—so I did my best to lie quietly and remind myself of all the technology and medicine in the hands of the experts caring for me. My role was to receive from them.

We love Jesus’ parable of the socially ostracized Samaritan providing care for a badly beaten Jewish man when neither priest nor rabbi would offer the same. Though fictitious, he remains today as the exemplar of “love your neighbor as yourself” and a continual call for us to do likewise. Yet there are two sides to care: giving and receiving. Both are humbling things; each calls us outside of ourselves. As one person gives in kindness and peace, another receives in gratitude and trust. Humility blossoms where pride once took root, and differences aren’t so different anymore.

Jesus said that when He returns, He will say to those on His right:

Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me . . . Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. —Matthew 25:34-36, 40

Did you catch it? Jesus gives care, of course, yet Jesus also receives care. How so? He is with you; He lives in you. He is so close to you that when you receive care, He receives care. He is inseparable from you, committed to you, and humble enough to receive with you. Then may we also be humble enough to receive care from people who give care, like Jesus does.

Father, send your Spirit to soften my heart to give as Jesus gives and to humble my heart to receive as Jesus receives. You are good, God. Thank you. In Christ I pray. Amen.

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God’s Faithfulness and Our Worth

Hearing the chirping commotion commence suddenly from just outside our front door, Peggy had an inkling. Over the past several years, she had stretched a barely visible hairnet over our Christmas wreath in order to prevent birds from nesting there. This time, however, two house finches seeking shelter had made their way into the wreath’s center, apparently gaining entry from behind. Both were trapped, and one was entangled.

Donning a pair of leather gloves, Peggy used scissors to extricate the frightened couple. As she cut the netting, Mama finch was able to fly free. Papa, however, was caught in the net, so Peggy gently wrapped one gloved hand around his fragile body while speaking to him in soft tones. As she reached with the other hand to pull back the netting, he gently tapped her gloved finger with his beak and held still, seemingly trusting her to do what he could not do for himself. She maneuvered him out of the netting, opened her hand, and he flew off to join his mate.

Jesus once challenged his disciples, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”1 Sometimes it doesn’t feel like God knows our predicaments and entanglements or the fear that makes them worse. But He does know them—be they physical, spiritual, relational, mental or emotional—and He assures us He is in control. So we trust Him and choose to take Him at His word: “Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”2 And I think we could add house finches, too.

Father, forgive me when I fear to trust You. Calm me in Your hand, and free me from my captivity, whatever form it may take. You are always good—I know this full well. Amen.

1 Matthew 10:29-30
2 Matthew 10:31

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Champions

Sports loves to crown its champions. This is why we grind and compete for an entire season: to win and to become the greatest. Baseball pops the cork on its World Series winners, Super Bowl rings adorn the gnarled knuckles of the NFL’s best, and hockey hoists Lord Stanley’s Cup. But NASCAR is different, for it holds its most elite event, the Daytona 500, not at season’s end, but at its beginning. Afterward the matter is settled: regardless of what happens the rest of the year—win or lose—whoever captures the flag at NASCAR’s inaugural event remains its greatest champion. This is likewise true of all who are born of the Spirit of God by faith in the Son of God: though our season on earth here continues, we have already won. “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us,”1 proclaimed Paul. It is fait accompli—a done deal, historic fact. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”2

Still, the rest of the season awaits its champions: we have miles to go, some of them grueling and some of them not. We will at times face rejection, persecution or dangers for the sake of the Kingdom,3 yet in Christ we are champions, and absolutely nothing will be able “to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”4 Then it is in this confidence—the complete certainty of God’s limitless love for us—that we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”5 We share the apostle’s assurance: “in the future there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”6 God loves to crown His champions.

Many have gone on before us in seasons of the past, and many will follow in times yet to come. This, though, is our season. This is our time to persevere in Christ as winners in Christ. Our crown awaits. It won’t be long.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2.

Father, You have already made us winners in Christ Jesus. Send us Your Spirit to lead us, that we would live as Your champions. Find us faithful. In Christ we pray. Amen.

1 Romans 8:37
2 1 Corinthians 15:56-57
3 Romans 8:35
4 Romans 8:39
5 Philippians 3:14 NASB
6 2 Timothy 4:8 NASB