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The Greater Hunger

“I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.” (Matthew 15:32)

They were still there! Think about it— the crowd had been with Jesus for three days, eaten through their entire food supply, now edging toward collapse, and they were still there. What draw could possibly be so compelling? What craving of the spirit could outweigh any hunger of the stomach?

Physical hunger is a powerful force; we reach a point where we would do virtually anything to assuage it. Yet there abides in humankind another kind of need, a yearning of the soul that gnaws at us; life is empty until this need is fed, until this thirst is slaked.

compassionWhat was it about Jesus that satisfied the crowds? Of course, they feasted on His miracles, His display of compassion with power: the lame walked, the blind saw, and the mute spoke. Surely they tasted of His wisdom and truth, the “soul food” of their innermost longing. He was to them the savory blend of understanding, power and care, feeding the body, soul and spirit—the whole meal “bread of life” nourishing the entire person.

So He sends us likewise to serve people all around us every day. We stop neither at the stomach nor the soul, for God cares about every aspect of every person.

God, all around me are people who hunger, some in their stomachs, some in their souls. Open my eyes to see, and my heart to care. Open my hands to serve, and my mouth to speak. Today. Amen.

[Read today’s Scripture in Matthew 15:29-32.]

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Hospitality To Go

Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:13)

From time to time, I marvel at friends of ours, a couple who are particularly good at hospitality. They have a special knack for putting their guests at ease and drawing them into an atmosphere of acceptance, peace, and inclusion.

aloneWe typically think of hospitality as hosting others in our own space, such as in our home, our office, or even a hospitality suite. And rightfully so, for opening to others our place of peace is a gift thoughtfully offered and refreshingly received. Yet the longing to be welcome, warm, and wanted follows people wherever they go, and, unfortunately, public places where we know no one can be the loneliest locations on earth. I know it’s not just me, because I see isolation on faces wherever I go—in the bakery-cafe, in the grocery store, or at the gym. It can be especially pronounced in church, where people seek hope, only to come and go, untouched.

So I’ve decided to respond to “alone in a crowd” when I see it. Often it takes no more than a genuine, purposeful smile that says, “You matter.” Sometimes, it is a helping hand that elicits the silent shout, “Someone cares about me!” And we may never know the impact of stepping away from the comfort of our group and into the life of an uncomfortable stranger.

Hospitality can be served up at home, or we can make it to go. For people savor “You are welcome here” wherever it is found. May they find it in us.

Lord, today help me see people in need of a touch of hospitality, and grace me to know how best to extend it. Amen.

[Read today’s Scripture in Romans 12:9-16.]

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Speechless

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. . . . Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. (Acts 9:5-7)

speechlessThink for a moment, have you ever been left searching for words only to come up empty? It usually happens when actual events exceed anything we could have anticipated. Perhaps it was someone’s sacrificial act of kindness that locked up your lexicon for the moment. Maybe it was beauty beyond belief that completely abridged your inner Webster. On the other hand, it could have been an affront you didn’t see coming, or just plain fear.

It happened to the men in Saul’s entourage. On their way to arrest believers in Damascus, a brilliance surrounded them, and they heard the voice of One they could not see. They stood there, overwhelmed and at a loss for words. Scared speechless we might say.

I’m guessing sensory overload was not the only thing that dumbfounded the posse on their would-be roundup that day. For inside of Saul now burned a fire that overshadowed any light they beheld with their eyes, and it changed their leader in an instant. The One he had persecuted to this very moment, Saul now called “Lord.” From those he had intended to arrest, he now humbly sought guidance and help. In a flash, he was transformed from doubt to belief, from one seeking to imprison others to one declaring their spiritual freedom. Even his name was new: Saul had become Paul.

God transforms us in astounding ways—ways that leave us confounded and, yes, speechless. Today, take a quiet moment to reflect on His “body of work” in your life or in someone you know well. Marvel at his craftsmanship, how He shaped you through His word, a caring friend, or just the circumstances of life. Contemplate how you have come to trust Him, even as He draws you closer to Himself. And let your life praise Him in return, even when your tongue falls silent.

Father, I don’t have the words to describe the love you have shown me. Fill me with your Spirit that my life would declare your faithfulness. And use me to bring hope and promise to others as we journey this life together. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

[Read the story of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9:1-17.]