July 2022 Devotional: A Godly Character

By Major Millie Bearchell
Personnel Officer – College for Officer Training

“The true test of a man’s (persons) character is what he does when no one is looking.”
UCLA former basketball coach John Wooden

There was a brief period in time when Brian and I were not Salvation Army officers due to a family situation that needed to be addressed. During the seven years, Brian completed his master’s degree and obtained his teaching credentials and began a new career as an elementary school teacher. I worked at a large mega church as the director of their care and concern ministry department. Together, we had the arduous journey of “beginning again” with a new direction and journey in life.

During this time, we attended the church where I was employed, and we eventually became involved in ministry as much as our schedules allowed. Money was very tight to say the least, as we had to relocate homes, find jobs, and make the adjustment to living with a substantial increase in monthly financial obligations.

We have always relied on God and growing up we were taught the importance and value of tithing. I would have to say, that this time in our lives, as older, mature adults, we relied on God more than we ever had. We never wavered though in our tithing. Even though we were attending a mega church, with a large budget and our tithe was small in comparison, it never occurred to us to not tithe. There were times, when we only had $20.00 for gas, or $75.00 for food, but we never went hungry and not once did we suffer or lack for our needs being met. Times were tough, but Scripture and prayer were my (our) lifesavers.

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4

The word “character” is from the Greek word dokime, which is a noun. The verb form is dokimazo, which means: “to be approved, to put to the test for the purpose of approving.” Thus, it means: “proven character”. It is through the trials of life that we mature in Christian character.

Do suffering and trials always cause a believer to mature? Could suffering and trials have a negative effect on Christians? Sure, they could. Hebrews 3:12 (NKJV) says, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.

The author is writing to believers telling them to constantly be watching out lest there be found in them an evil heart of unbelief. Listen, believers, we ALL have the potential to doubt God, the capacity to unbelieve. We are capable of doubting God, and it is particularly under the pressures of stress and trouble that can cause our hearts to harden and our character to be tarnished.

Using our story as an example, God sees each of our hearts. He is a God of love and grace. He never gives up on us and no matter what circumstance comes our way, or we find ourselves in this day, God is developing and molding our character so we can be more like Him. May we hold onto the promises and keep our eyes focused on Him so that we can claim the promise of Romans 5:5, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

June 2022 Devotional: Sea Glass and Souls

By Major Nancy Helms
Spiritual Care Director – College for Officer Training

I LOVE SEA GLASS. Some might even say I’m obsessed. That is a claim I absolutely will NOT deny. The process by which sea glass becomes a smooth and beautiful gem over time never ceases to amaze me. At a point in time, a piece of garbage is tossed on the shore or over the side of a cliff or sea vessel. That piece of garbage breaks into pieces that becomes shards of glass. After years of being tumbled and tossed about in water, sand and rocks, what was once a dangerous object that could harm, becomes refined and smooth. Doesn’t that just excite you? I know it does.

I can literally spend hours upon hours combing the beach in search of someone’s old, lost marble, a piece of broken bottle, or a beautiful chunk of pottery. My curious mind will make up stories about who has played with the marble, taken a drink out of the bottle or eaten off the china. Get my sister out there with me, and we are like two crazy middle-aged women on a critical mission, with hope in our eyes and renewed breath in our lungs. It’s like a huge treasure hunt, only without the map.

A couple of years ago, my sister and I were able to make a dream come true when we traveled to the North Sea, in England, finding glass, marbles and pottery dating back to the 19th century. We would leave our place at the crack of dawn and stay until we could no longer see the sea. Our backs had this beautiful ache from bending over to get the best view of what was in front of us. At one point, I found myself climbing a large wall covered in seaweed, only to get to the top where I lost my footing and slid all the way down. I was bruised, cut, smelled like fish and covered in seaweed, but not deterred. Praying nobody saw me, I hurriedly collected my loot that had spilled and moved on.

I’m not sure I have ever found a “perfect” piece of sea glass. Even the best pieces usually have some sort of flaw. It may take a microscope to see them, but they exist. There are some colors and shapes more coveted than others. To me, each piece has value, as well as a story to tell.

I think what I love most about sea glass is the way it reminds me of my own broken and restored life. Because of dumb choices I have made, falls from metaphorical ladders I had no business climbing, selfish desires and unpredictable storms, I have been tossed and turned in God’s immense ocean of love, where he has refined me, and continues the refining process. He has made beauty from the broken pieces of my life. Some of the refining has taken years, while some of it is still taking place. Some flaws are still visible, and others God has to show me. I don’t dare leave this ocean of love, because He who began a good work is still faithfully restoring my soul to His perfect image. What was once an individual that was broken has been healed and made new and beautiful through God’s deep ocean of love. If nothing else excites you, I hope the idea of a transformed life from the inside out does.

O ocean of mercy, oft longing I’ve stood
On the brink of Thy wonderful, life giving flood!
Once more I have reached this soul cleansing sea,
I will not go back till it rolls over me.
William Booth

Note: Check out this month’s craft, Sea Glass Ideas, and this month’s Bibles study, Transformed Treasures, that coordinates with this devotional.

September 2022 Devotional: Making Head Knowledge into HEART Knowledge

By Major Ronalee Fenrich
Honolulu, HI Adult Rehabilitation Center

Everyone has favorite foods, and I am no exception. I love avocados! But I had really only been exposed to one type of avocado my entire life. Spending nearly all of my 52 years on the West Coast, I was familiar with the Haas avocado. To be honest, I hadn’t even considered the fact there may be other types of avocados to choose from!

Two years ago, I moved to Hawaii. That has been an adventure in and of itself! I am surrounded by plant and animal life I had never been exposed to before, and it has been quite the project to learn all about these beautiful creations so new to me. One of the things I have had to learn more about – Avocados!
There is a large and very old avocado tree in my backyard. However, the avocados growing on it are very different that what I am used to. This tree grows Dominican avocados, most commonly found in Florida. Unlike Haas avocados, when Dominicans are fully ripe, they do not fit nicely in the palm of your hand. They grow so large they take tow hands to hold. They are HUGE, and it takes skill to harvest them off the tree, because one wrong move means you will get whacked in the head with a heavy piece of fruit! When Haas avocados are too soft to the touch, that is a sign they are rotting. However, Dominican avocados need to be soft to the touch. If you try to cut one open before that point, all you find inside is rock hard fruit that can’t be used.

It may seem strange I would invest so much time in trying to understand more about avocados, but when I realized what was growing on the tree was different than what I was accustomed to, I had to start doing some learning!

I think it is human nature to gravitate toward what is familiar, and what we already know to be true. There is often comfort in “knowing what we know.” The downside to that, however, is when we are too comfortable in our knowledge, we are often unwilling to consider there may be more information we need to take into account. This is especially true when we are learning God’s Word and working to apply it to our lives.

When I was in college, I moved to the city of Seattle. I was a Salvation Army Officer’s kid who had moved around a lot, but never in my life had I lived somewhere so big! The Corps I attended was at least four times larger than the last one I had attended before leaving home, and the congregation was so diverse! It was all an enormous adjustment. For the first time in my life, I was being exposed to various viewpoints and opinions I had never heard before. I remember being in some sort of friendly debate with other young adults in the Corps about a Biblical concept. Someone in the group said something to the effect of, “I was taught to believe this way.” Another said something about the importance of Church traditions. I eventually said something like, “I was always told to do it like this.” One of the Corps Officers who had been standing by listening to us, popped his head into the group, smiled, and said, “But what does the Bible say about it?”

That was a wakeup call for me! After some reflection, I realized I had been basing my entire belief system on what I had always heard and was guilty of not really studying the Bible for myself. Perhaps what I had always believed to be true was correct, but how would I truly know until I compared it against God’s Word?

Recently, I was looking at the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. It is one of the most basic and easy to understand sermons Jesus ever taught. It is a sermon I had heard and read so many times, I admittedly had started just “speed reading” through it rather than taking the time to reflect on each word.

This time when I read, I tried to really focus on what Jesus was saying, and you know what? There were some important things I had been missing!

First of all, I was reminded Jesus was talking to a large group of mostly Jewish people who had grown up hearing the law of Moses and the Ten Commandments. He knew they had most likely been basing their beliefs on what they had always been taught about the law, rather than learning the law itself. Jesus made sure they understood the purpose of His teaching about the law, when in Matthew 5:17 He says, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.” He then went on to challenge their understanding of what God taught through Moses.

As Jesus preached, he would begin by saying, “You have heard.” You can see this beginning in Matthew 5:21. Basically, Jesus was saying, “You may think you understand what the law is about, but there is so much more you need to know!” He would then immediately follow the statement, “You have heard” with “But I say.” He pointed His listeners to God’s true intent of the law, and covered areas of life such as anger, family life and marriage, making promises, revenge, and how to deal with our enemies.

Matthew Chapter 5 ends with words from Jesus about how to apply God’s law in our interaction with those we see as our enemies. In Matthew 5:43-45 Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and unjust alike.”

In today’s deeply troubled world, we are almost encouraged to be divided and live-in opposition with one another. But that isn’t what Jesus taught us to do. He taught us a better way, and that is to reflect His pure love in the way we interact with our enemies. This can’t be a phony or half-hearted kindness. Jesus says we are to pray for them, and sincerely ask God to work in their lives. We are to show true and intentional love toward them. This is they way God requires us to live.

Jesus taught it wasn’t enough to show up in Church regularly so we can know ABOUT God’s Word. Jesus taught it was vital we know God’s Word so intimately that we LIVE it! The only way to make that a reality is to be active students of His Word, asking God to help it take root in our heart so it will change the way we live.

“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” Romans 10:2

Let’s all vow to become committed students of God’s Word, and let it plant deep in our hearts!

Download a printable version of this devotional

August 2022 Devotional: Eyes Wide Open

By Jacqui Larsson, Territorial Social Justice Ministries Director
Territorial Social Justice Department

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV)

When I read this verse recently, it struck me in a new way. If you read the context, it defines “the least of these” as those who are hungry, thirsty, unclothed, sick, imprisoned, and estranged. I’ve often imagined that “the least of these” would be easy to identify – like those who live on the streets that we see almost every time we take a walk of drive our cars through the city – but unfortunately this is not always the case, and we actually need to have our eyes and ears wide open to see those who are hurting all around us. Sadly, the traffickers in our communities have figured this out too and are experts at doing just that – their eyes and ears are wide open! These perpetrators, both men and women, seem to be able to spot the potential victims, the vulnerable, those who feel “unseen”, and deliberately move in on their prey to show them that they can be cared for, given a place to stay, even showered with gifts – which results in them being lured into trafficking situations where they are exploited, sold, treated as objects and often hurt or even killed – all whilst tricking these young women, men and children into believing that they are being taken care of, and no one will ever “see them” and “treat them” as well as their pimp or trafficker.

Jesus was the perfect example to each of us of how we can interact with others in society to ensure that they know they are seen, not only by us, but by our heavenly Father who looks past our circumstances, the people we associate with, and the decisions we have made, in order to love us and save us from a world of hurt. Jesus saw the criminal hanging beside him at Calvary and said the words “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus saw the Samaritan woman at the well as He went against all cultural expectations and moved beyond hostility toward restoration, putting his own “religious cleanliness” into question as He shared a cup with, not only a woman but a woman, who was clearly an outsider in her own community (John 4:1-26). Jesus saw the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), he saw those suffering from mental illness, disabilities, and sickness (Luke 5:18-26), the list goes on and on. He was willing to surrender his privilege to cross cultural boundaries and draw these people into relationships, and He still does this for each of us today. Just like Jesus, we need to have our eyes opened to see those in need so that we too, can cross boundaries and build relationships!

Traffickers work tirelessly to see the vulnerable in society, to be the first people to greet the young girls and boys leaving foster care, to reach out to those who have run away from toxic home situations and need a place to stay, and to spend time with kids when they leave school for the day and have nowhere else to go. It is our responsibility to let those same kids know that we see them and more importantly, that God sees them too!

Prayer: Lord, please give us eyes to see and ears to hear those around us who need you – help us be brave as we look into the darkness to share your light. Show us how to help and give us courage to speak up. Protect these men, women, girls and boys from predators who offer promises of a better life but are actively planning their destruction. Use us to seek out and fight for the least of these.

Note: Check out this month’s Bible Study, To Be Seen By God, and this month’s craft, Lights Shining in the Darkness, that coordinates with this devotional. Also check out the resource Red Flags and Responses.

May 2022 Devotional: My ‘More’ List

By Major Noelle Nelson
Divisional Women’s Ministries Secretary – Golden State Division

Sometimes ‘more’ just feels right! I know we’re instructed from our earliest years that wanting more of something is a bit selfish. I suppose that could be true. More cool shoes, more fun toys, more food on our plate, more delicious pie… But seriously, what’s the problem with wanting more cool socks to go with the cool shoes? Is it wrong to want more new books to read when I’ve already got a bookshelf stuffed with ‘still to be read’ books? And is it a crime to want more flowers delivered directly to my office desk? at lunchtime? when everyone passing by can ‘oooo’ and ‘aaahhh’ at their beauty?

I guess one could get a bit carried away with wanting ‘more.’ Because wanting more always leads to wanting… more. Where does it stop? When do we reach the resting place of, “Ahhh! I am at peace because I now have enough!” The answer is pretty obvious, or at least it should be: It will never, ever happen. And yet we sometimes get to thinking it will. We are given a terse reminder in Matthew 6:19, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”

I can relate. I once had the opportunity to buy a beautiful, soft, woolly sweater in Scotland. It came with a card explaining the care and keeping of such a fine garment. In addition to being hand-washed in cold water with a special fiber-preserving cleanser (sold separately), the sweater was to be stored with mothballs as it was a particular variety of wool that moths were prone to eat quickly. Have you smelled mothballs?? And my sweater would smell like THAT!? That was way too much hassle (and bad smell) to keep the moths at bay.

I can also relate to thieves breaking in and stealing. One Sunday we came home from the Corps to find our house broken into and ransacked. It was such a mess, it was difficult to figure out what was actually missing. The few things we did have of any value had all been taken. And things of sentimental value, like the beautiful little cedar chest on my dresser, had been smashed. “…where thieves break in and steal” became a hard truth for me. I still don’t like to have valuable things in my home, just in case.

More, more, more. Is this ‘more’ inherently destructive? Is it ever okay to want ‘more’? To have ‘more’? To be ‘more’? Believe it or not, where Christ is concerned, it is absolutely okay! “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:30). When we want MORE of Jesus and continue to put Him first, our priorities and desires shift. As we seek MORE of Him, He fills our lives with more good things than we could ever imagine or hope for! It is exciting to me that God wants us to HAVE MORE! But it’s not the same ‘more’ that the world says we need. When we allow God to shift our desires from ‘stuff’ to the ‘treasures’ that earth cannot take away, we will be filled to the top with wonder, amazement and gratitude! What we get is MORE love, power, peace, joy, and forgiveness than we can comprehend. And that is something we definitely could use MORE of. God wants us to enjoy the fullness of life while we’re here on earth. Instead of filling it with more ‘stuff,’ what God-honoring activities and things could you incorporate more of into your day? Create a list (you can call it your ‘More List’) of what you really need more of. Let’s change the focus of what our ‘more’ is, to what brings glory to Him!

Here’s a little list of ‘good things’ you can aim to get more of:

  • Get MORE sleep (can I get an amen?)
  • Drink MORE water
  • Get MORE exercise
  • Read MORE
  • Get MORE organized
  • Explore MORE
  • Relax MORE
  • Have MORE patience
  • MORE of Jesus, less of ME!

April 2022 Devotional: Strength and Hope

By Major Cathy Quinn
Angoon, AK Corps – Alaska Division

The Sovereign LORD is my strength. HE makes me as sure footed as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. Habakkuk 3:19

In February of 2020, I was out hiking with my dogs on a trail near our house. When I came to an especially narrow part of the trail my foot slipped and I reached out to catch a branch that turned out to not be attached to anything. Needless to say; I went tumbling halfway down a steep embankment. I heard a “pop” in my left ankle as I began my descent. When I finally came to a stop and gathered myself, I knew that my ankle was broken.

I was half of a mile from my vehicle, with no cell reception. Even if I had had cell reception to describe where I was and to get help getting out didn’t seem to me as being feasible. So, I said a prayer for strength, limped the rest of the way down the embankment to the beach and back to my vehicle.

Several months later, after surgery and a very frustrating time of recovery, I decided to face that trail again. By this time, my husband had cleared a trail through the woods that bypassed the narrow part where I had taken my trip. Honestly though, I was a little nervous the first time I walked that trail after my recovery.

Spiritually, we often trip walking on the narrow way and sometimes we reach out for support to things or people that are not able to support us. During these times, we need GOD’s strength and support to get us where we need to go.

We also need to allow GOD to make our paths straight and renew the hope within us. Just because we took a tumble doesn’t mean that we must stay by the wayside. With GOD we can and will walk the narrow way again and enjoy the journey.


March 2022 Devotional: Compassion…Pass it On

By Captain Joanna Wang
San Gabriel, CA Corps – California South Division

A few months ago, I was walking in my neighborhood with my two-year-old son. I decided to pick up the pace a little and started to jog. Things were going great until, all of a sudden, I found myself falling. I couldn’t stop myself and fell on the ground, scraping my hands and knees. For a split-second, I was in shock, unable to move, feeling like it was almost a dream. Then I remembered where I was and who I was with. I looked over at my son, getting ready to tell him to come and hold my hand, realizing the possible danger of the situation, and wanting to make sure that he didn’t run into the road. And then I realized that he was lying beside me on the sidewalk. He was copying my movements. Then, as I sat up, groaning and near tears from the pain, my son sat beside me and took my injured hand in his little hands. He then kissed my hand while looking up at me and saying, “Aw!” Not only did he not run into the road or down the sidewalk where I might not have been able to catch him, but he just stayed with me until I got up and hobbled home. For the next few days, when he looked at my scraped-up knee or injured hand, he would say, “Aw!” with sweet compassion and would proceed to try to kiss the pain away. Such sweet compassion I experienced from the actions of a two-year-old!

I was deeply touched by the compassion that my little boy showed me during that time. In fact, as I experienced my son’s compassionate response to my pain, I was also reminded of how our Heavenly Father shows us compassion as well. Psalm 103:8 says, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” Our God is full of compassion and He demonstrates it to us time and time again. In fact, this was one of the characteristics of Jesus that stood out the most during His time on earth as He interacted with and ministered to people. We see His compassion when He raised the widow’s son from the dead in Luke 7. Verse 13 says, “When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, ‘Do not weep.” Even though He was going to bring the boy back from the dead, He knew that her heart was broken, and He showed compassion to her in the midst of her grief. Again, we see Jesus’ compassion in Matthew 15 when He feeds the four thousand because they had been with Him for three days without food and He knew that they were in need. In verse 32 it says, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, ‘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.’” Also, in Matthew 9:36, we see Jesus compassion yet again. This verse says, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.

Psalm 103:8

Jesus cared deeply for people and showed compassion to them over and over again. Today, He continues to show us compassion because of His immeasurable love for us. He knows that we too are in need. We too are heartbroken at times. We too are in need of things. We too need the Lord to guide us in our lives as we navigate the challenges that we face in this world. And the wonderful thing is that God meets us right where we are, filled with love and compassion, and He shows us that He is with us. And because He is with us, we know that we are not alone, and we will never be alone. Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you are.”

This promise of God’s presence with us is a beautiful demonstration of His compassion for us. And as we experience His compassion, we can also show compassion to others. Second Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

Is your heart hurting today? Do you need our God of all compassion to minister to you? Cry out to Him. He is there! Have you experienced God’s compassion? Ask the Lord to help you to pass that compassion on to others, helping them when they are in need, encouraging them, ministering to them as He leads you. As we experience God’s compassion, may we then pass it on to others so that they too can see Jesus and experience His compassion for themselves.

Prayer:
God, thank you for the compassion that you show us because of your amazing love for us. Thank you for meeting us right where we are and ministering to us. Please help us to show your compassion to others too so that they can see you and so that they too can know your love and compassion for them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

February 2022 Craft & Devotional: Love Your Neighbor

By Captain Ryan Boyd
Missoula, MT Corps – Northwest Division

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[a]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 10:25-37

The story of the Good Samaritan is one that, like you, I have heard a million times. In it, we read that we should love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. And no doubt about it, the Good Samaritan showed great love to the man going to Jericho. But as I was reading this passage, it came to me. Often, we (as people) tend to be more like the expert in the law than the Good Samaritan.

As Jesus is telling this story, the people listening were probably feeing challenged by His words. If loving God means obeying his commands and loving our neighbor means loving with compassion, care, and cost, am I really loving? Am I living up to this standard? We probably feel this way as well when we read these words.

And because we are human, we start looking for a loophole. We know we haven’t lived up to these standards and so we try to bend the standards to fit what we can attain. God says, “do this” and we think “well, surely He meant only do this when I feel like it. I’m totally doing that. I’m such a good Christian.” So, when Jesus says to love your neighbor, immediately they think “well, who is my neighbor?” Because if my neighbor means those I am close to, those I agree with, those who hold the same religious and political beliefs that I do, then YES! Done. So maybe it just all depends on how we define who our neighbor is. So, the expert in the law asks that very question.

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Now this question is not really a question to find out who his neighbor is. It says right in the beginning that he wanted to justify himself. He knew he wasn’t living up to the standard. The question he asks, “who is my neighbor?” is really asking who do I not have to love? Who is my neighbor? = Who don’t I have to love?

That is what he really wants to know. Just how far does my love have to extend and where can it end? So Jesus tells the story of the Samaritan and asks the expert in the law “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

We hear the story of the Good Samaritan and think that is terrible that those first 2 people did not help. That Samaritan man was so nice. That is because we have heard this story so many times AND We don’t have the cultural reference points of those who were hearing this story the first time. I’m sure that the people listening to Jesus were appalled that he was using priests and Levites as the poor examples. Jews felt the priests and the Levites were good people, righteous in fact. And a Samaritan was one of the most despised people to the Jews. They were half breeds. They did not keep their race pure or their religion.

Jesus isn’t teaching people to believe like Samaritans. In this story, He is not even teaching that all priests and Levites are bad. Jesus is answering two questions and doing it in a way that is going to offend some and challenge those who have ears to hear. My goal is to be challenged every single time. The questions are: 1. Am I loving the way that God calls me to love? and 2. Am I loving WHO God calls me to love?

Am I loving the way that God calls me to love?

Am I loving WHO God calls me to love?

Sometimes, loving people is so easy it’s like second nature. We have the world’s best Home League Secretary, Norma, at our corps. She is so helpful and selfless and anticipates needs and meets them. When Josh started coughing during his sermon, the next week there was a water bottle. She takes such good care of us. She’s so easy to love that I want to shower her with gifts and words of affirmation. I want her to see what a blessing she is to me and the Kingdom.

I am all about being real and transparent. Sometimes, loving people is so hard I don’t want to do it anymore. There is a lady who comes in for services at our building all the time. We are the only place she can be inside in town and she suffers from trauma and severe mental health issues. She likes to call me names, she uses our lawn as a bathroom, and she yells at and berates us daily. I don’t want to buy her anything. In fact, days where she doesn’t come visit us are so peaceful.

But God calls me to love her just like I love Norma. The difference is Norma’s love costs me nothing. In fact, I gain with Norma. But loving the second woman costs me my patience, my pride, and, some days, my ability to show love. I don’t tell you this because I think I’m amazing – because I don’t think I am. In fact, I think I fail at loving her just as much as I succeed – but I think that she keeps coming back because she feels God’s love coming from our building. She is my neighbor. God calls me to love her as I love myself.

I can see why the religious people of the day were like Jesus, are you sure? And God is saying yes. 100%. I am sure that you need to love them as you love yourself. When I read the question “and who is my neighbor” I always imagine Jesus saying “everyone I died for is your neighbor. The whosoever.”

I think there’s another side of this story that I never considered until I saw it on a meme. I don’t usually get my theology from a meme, but this one spoke to me. It said: “The Good Samaritan story is not just an example of compassionate spirituality. It is a critique against religious passivity. If “church people” won’t work for justice and mercy, God will find some other people who will.”

OUCH! God uses us to do his work on earth, but we are not the end-all-be-all for him. If we don’t follow his commands, he will find someone who will. His will is going to be accomplished. The question is do we want to be a part of it? And if the Samaritan man – if people who don’t know the Lord as their savior – are just as compassionate as those who do, what does that say about the church?

We need to do better. Who is our neighbor? It’s the whosoever.

Check out this easy craft that goes with this devotion: https://www.craftymorning.com/puzzle-piece-valentine-craft/

February 2022 Korean Devotional: Blessing is Channel of Love

By Captain Eunha Kim
Eastside, WA Corps – Northwest Division

하나님은 우리에게 성경을 통하여 사랑을 말씀하신다.
성경책은 사랑의 책이라고 하여도 맞을 것이다.
요한복음에서만해도 사랑이라는 단어는 50번을 넘게 우리에게 말씀하셨다.
주님은 왜 우리에게 사랑이라는 말씀을 계속하셨을까?
그것은 아마도 사랑한다는 것이 쉬운 것 같아도 어렵기때문일것이다.
왜냐면 원수도 사랑하기 힘들고 나를 괴롭히는 사람, 나를 싫어하는 사람, 내가 미워하는 사람도 사랑하기 힘들기 때문이다
그런데 하나님은 우리에게 말씀하신다. 원수도 사랑하라고 하시고 구약에서는 내 이웃을 네 몸처럼 사랑하라 말씀하시고 요한복음 13장 34절에서는 더 넓게 모든 사람과 더불어 서로 사랑하라고 말씀하신다
즉, 구약에서는 내 이웃에서 신약에서는 내 이웃 뿐만 이 아니라 내 지역 사회 그리고 더 나아가서 다른 민족까지도 서로 사랑하라고 새 계명을 주셨다
나는 요한복음 13장을 묵상하면서 오늘은 13장 1절 말씀 중에 ‘끝까지 ‘라는 단어가 유난히 눈에 띄었다.
우리는 사랑하기는 쉬어도 끝까지 사랑하는 것이 힘들지 않은가?
믿음 생활도 하기는 쉬운데 우리의 믿음도 끝까지 지키는 것이 힘들지 않은가?
주님께 순종 하겠다 하면서도 끝까지 순종하지 못하는 때가 많다
그러나 예수님은 우리를 끝까지 사랑하셨다 그리고 하나님의 말씀대로 끝까지 순종하셨다
우리는 너무 쉽게 사랑하고 너무 쉽게 사랑하는 마음을 잃어버리지 않는가?
그렇다면 어떻게 주님이 우리를 끝까지 사랑하신것처럼 우리도 끝까지 서로 사랑할 수 있을까?
주님께서 사랑하라 하셨으니 무조건 사랑하는 마음을 갖으면 사랑할 수 있을까?
너무나도 풍족 해지고 있는 이세상은 주님이 말씀하신것처럼 더 많은 사람과 함께 서로 사랑하기가 힘들어지고 있지 않은가?
삶이 풍요로워 지면 우리는 서로 나누면서 서로 사랑할 수 있을 것 같지만 지금의 세상은 점점 개인주의로 나를 중심으로 살며 나만 잘 살면 되고 내 가정만 잘 살면 되는 그런 사회로 변해가고 있다.
35절에는 우리가 서로 사랑하면 이로써 모든 사람이 주님의 제자인 줄 알 것 이라고 말씀하고 계신다.
주님의 제자가 된다는 것은 주님의 말씀대로 살아가는 것이 제자가 되는 것이다.
예수님의 제자로 살겠다고 주님께 날마다 기도하지만 끝까지 주님의 제자로 사는 것도 어려울 때가 많다.
왜냐면 우리의 삶은 항상 똑같지 않기 때문이다.
어떤 때는 평지를 걷다가 어떤 때는 오르막길이 나오고 산도 만나게 된다.그것이 우리의 인생이 아닐까?
오늘의 말씀처럼 어떻게 주님께서 주신 새 계명처럼 내가 너희를 사랑한것처럼 너희도 서로 사랑하라는 말씀대로 살수 있을까?
나는 그 대답을 룻기에서 찾을 수 가 있었다.
나오미에게는 룻과 오르바 두명의 며느리가 있었는데 사랑하는 남편과 두명의 아들을 잃어버리는 아픔을 겪고 두며느리들에게 떠나라고 권고한다.
그러나 두명 중에 한명 오르바는 비전이 보이지않자 자신이 자랐던 곳으로 다시 돌아가고 룻은 어려운 환경에 있지만 나오미와 함께 베들레햄으로 가서 보아스를 만나 결혼을 하게 된다.
나는 보아스를 만나게 되는 그 과정에서 사랑할 수 있는 답을 찾았다.
바로 축복 이였다.
보아스는 만나는 모든 이들에게 주님의 축복을 항상 원했다.
자신보다 낮은 자리에 있는 자들에게도 축복을 하고 힘이 없고 약한 여인들 에게도 축복을 전했다.
그리고 보아스로부터 받은 모든 은혜를 룻에게로 부터 들은 나오미도 보아스 를 축복해 주었다.
축복은 우리가 서로 사랑할 수 있는 축복의 통로가 되는 것이 아닐까?
하나님이 우리에게 원하시는 사랑은 낮은 자를 돌아보며 약한 자와 가난 한자를 축복 할 때 우리는 서로 사랑할 수 있을 것이다.
신앙생활을 하면서 상처를 많이 받는 곳은 의외로 가정과 교회라고 한다
배우자와 자녀를 서로 사랑하지 못하고 신앙생활을 같이하는 성도도 서로 사랑하기 힘들 때가 많다.

우리 모두는 하나님이 사랑하시는 똑같은 자녀이다
많고 적게 가진 자도 아니요 높은 자와 낮은 자도 아닌 우리 모두를 주님께서는 사랑하신다.
주님의 사랑은 나보다 다른 사람을 더 귀하게 생각할 때 축복하고 사랑할 수 있을 것이다.
오늘 하루를 나에게 만남을 허락하신 모든 사람을 더 귀하게 섬기며 축복할 때 우리는 서로 사랑하는 주님의 제자가 될 것이다.
“새 계명을 너희에게 주노니 서로 사랑하라 내가 너희를 사랑한 것 같이 너희도 서로 사랑하라” 요한복음 13장 34절

Download the English Translation of this devotional.

February 2022 Devotional: Choose Love

By Lt. Isabella Green
Bellingham, WA Corps – Northwest Division

Twenty-four years into my life and I’ll finally admit it, I was an angry kid. I had a short fuse that my sister especially was great at lighting. She would say something, push just the right button, and I would go off on her. Then, in true sister fashion she would run to my parents crying about how mean and awful I was, and I would be the one to get in trouble. Typical right? It sure was in my household.

After every spat and fight, my dad would sit me down, and I would say through my tears, “but Papa! She made me do it! She made me mad!” and he, in all his fatherly wisdom and patience would once again remind me that she can’t make me do anything. I chose to get mad. I chose to react. I chose to do something I knew would get me in trouble.
Choices. We all make them. We make good choices, we make bad choices, we make choices with unknown outcomes. Choices.

1 Corinthians 16:14 tells us to “do everything in love.” As believers in Christ, we are called to make choices that reflect that belief and relationship. We are called to make choices guided by love. When we read through Scripture we see time and time again God choosing love. The promise that the rainbow stands for is a promise of love. Gods continuous patience with Israel was a continuous choice He made with love. The birth and death of His son, and all the things Jesus did during His time on earth, is an incredible example of God choosing love, even if it was hard. God loves us, to the point of sending His son to die for all of us. We don’t always make it easy for Him either, but, He always chooses love.

Each and every day, we need to choose love, just as God does. When your sister pushes your buttons, you need to choose love. When your boss tests your patience, you need to choose love. When that car in front of you cuts you off and makes you late for an important event, you need to choose love. When it seems impossible to choose anything else, choose love.

Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Corinthians 16:14