Imprisonment

Let me tell you about my friend Lisa. Lisa is the co-author of a book on grief that we wrote together several years ago. (Mourning Break) She is actively engaged in prison ministry. Her dedication to the women in the Georgia state prison system is incredibly admirable. She visits them, writes emails to them, prays with them, prays FOR them, and has helped one write a book on devotionals from prison. With all the ways that she is a true Barnabas who supports and encourages others, she is first and foremost obedient to what Christ has called ALL of us to do.

In this passage in Matthew, Jesus explains how we all will be evaluated at the end of our days. The king in the story has separated the people into two groups: those who are righteous, who are positioned on the right, and those who ignored his call, whom he placed on his left.

Matthew 25 (Common English Bible)

34 “Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. 35 I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 36 I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.’

This clearly is the standard by which the world will be judged. Those who fed the hungry, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and gave the cool cup of water to the thirsty will inherit the kingdom. Taking care of the sick and visiting people in prison also enable believers to receive all the good things the father has to bestow upon his people.

37 “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’

I think about my friend and her prison ministry when I read this passage. Jesus explains that when we do loving and caring things for others, we are doing them for Christ himself. Can there be a higher goal in life than to do acts of beauty and kindness for Jesus?

You may not have a way to visit someone in prison like Lisa does, but you probably know someone who is imprisoned by their situation, their defeat, their hopelessness, their poverty, or their choices. Can you make a difference? Can you reach out in non-judgmental love and offer a plate of love, a cup of justice, a coat of warm acceptance, or a handshake of welcome? (OK, maybe a wave from six feet away…)

Take this scripture to heart. In a world that is imprisoned in despair, be a Lisa. And when you do, you’ll be serving Christ himself.

You Welcomed Me by Mark Poblete

Invest Yourself

There is a lady at my church who is exceptionally good at anything having to do with hospitality. She can organize a kitchen full of cooks, is able to serve food while hot, has the ability to decorate the entire place like an events coordinator, and she can always make herself available to do whatever we need. She is a BLESSING.

What are you good at doing? Can you teach? Sing? Do finances? Talk with teenagers? In church language we call these talents “spiritual gifts.” We understand that everyone is good at something. God is the one who gives you the ability, and he calls you to use it for the good of the kingdom. We encourage people to discover their gifts and to serve in places that match their special abilities. We also encourage people not to volunteer in an area that they are not gifted to do! Trust me, nobody wants me on the Finance Committee. My eyes glaze over if you show me anything with numbers.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells a lengthy parable about a master who entrusted three servants with different financial gifts. He left them on their own to decide how to invest what they had been given. It went well for two of them….

Matthew 25 (The Message)

19-21 “After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

22-23 “The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

But woe to the last servant, who was given the smallest amount. He chose a very strange place for his investment…

24-25 “The servant given one thousand said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’

This man squandered his gift.

Are you squandering yours?

26-27 “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.

28-30 “‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’

Jesus is not playing here. When you receive a gift or talent, God wants you to use it for his glory. To bury what you are good at doing is a terrible waste. The play-it-safe life is not acceptable.

Maybe you’ve been told you don’t have a spiritual gift that’s worth anything. You’ve been told wrong. Everybody is somebody in the Body!

Whatever you’re good at, do it. Do it joyfully. Do it gracefully. Do it obediently. When you invest your talents in the service of the Lord, it comes back to you with eternal rewards.

A Glimpse of the Kingdom of God by Wende Pritchard

Never Put Off ‘Til Tomorrow

Here is a macabre question for you today. If you were to die in the next hour, what business would you leave undone? What words would you wish you had said? What regrets would you have as you draw that last breath? What is left to finish in the next sixty minutes?

The human spirit is a powerful thing. I have watched dying people hang on for days and weeks in order to finish something. I’ll never forget sitting at a bedside with a church member for weeks as she waited for her estranged daughter to come. Every day she asked for her, and every day the daughter didn’t show up. Finally the other daughter drove to another state to get her sister, and when she walked in, she and her mother finally reconciled. They held each other and cried, forgave all past grievances, and expressed their love. The mother died peacefully in minutes.

Sorry for the “Debby Downer” tone of this devotional! But the question is legit. What unfinished business is lying around in your soul?

Today’s passage is a reminder that we never know the day or the hour of our last breath. We never know the moment when this world and all of its horror will suddenly be replaced by the Kingdom of God. (Come, Lord Jesus, COME!) The point is to be ready.

Matthew 25  (Common English Bible)

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten young bridesmaids who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom. Now five of them were wise, and the other five were foolish. The foolish ones took their lamps but didn’t bring oil for them. But the wise ones took their lamps and also brought containers of oil.

“When the groom was late in coming, they all became drowsy and went to sleep. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Look, the groom! Come out to meet him.’

“Then all those bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. But the foolish bridesmaids said to the wise ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps have gone out.’

Jesus is not being coy in this parable. He is clearly delineating the wise people from the foolish ones. The foolish people think they have time to make amends, pursue righteousness, reconcile bitter divisions, and walk in obedience. They are wrong.

The wise ones live each day as if it were the last one on earth. They are ready to meet their maker.

“But the wise bridesmaids replied, ‘No, because if we share with you, there won’t be enough for our lamps and yours. We have a better idea. You go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 But while they were gone to buy oil, the groom came. Those who were ready went with him into the wedding. Then the door was shut.

11 “Later the other bridesmaids came and said, ‘Lord, lord, open the door for us.’

12 “But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’

It was too late for the foolish bridesmaids, but it’s not too late for you. Today is a good day to reflect on your readiness. Do you need to repent? Should you ask God for forgiveness? Have you hurt someone and need to apologize? Are there unreconciled relationships that require your attention?

Don’t wait. Tomorrow may be too late.

13 “Therefore, keep alert, because you don’t know the day or the hour.

The Hour is Upon Us by Michelle Robertson