January 2023 Devotional: Flourishing During the Peaceful Seasons of Life

By Captain Sandra Solis
Salem, OR KROC Hispanic Ministries – Cascade Division

Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. Psalm 1:1-2 NLT

Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation; I will be honored throughout the world. Psalm 46:10 NLT

Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Psalm 37:7 NLT

Peace be with you; Shalom in Hebrew was a typical goodbye in the times of Christ. This simple phrase was not only a way to say goodbye but to wish their fellow man a peaceful rest of their day or journey, almost like a prayer or blessing upon the traveler, no matter if they were a loved one, friend, or stranger. Peace be with you, four simple words that some may not have thought about most of the time, but if we, as Christians, were to take up this practice of saying, peace be with you, as our fellow man leaves. To be able to wish someone Shalom, we must have peace in our souls as well.

We can look at our flourishing life is like a garden. If our garden is not tended to regularly, we can lose the peace and rest that the Lord gives us. We learn throughout the bible that we need to tend to the garden of our soul. This takes work, and it takes support. You cannot grow to an actual garden, but just planting the seed and walking away, you need to water it, supply nourishment, and pull the weeds. We need to do this; sometimes, we must remove the weeds that affect our peacefulness and joy. Remember, friends, when pulling out the weeds of life, we might run into painful moments, but they are necessary. These moments make us stronger and healthier and allow us to grow into the person God has intended us to be.

We must remember that we need the Lord with us, maybe even more during our times of tending the garden of our soul, because when we let the weeds come in, our peace and stillness are affected. These are the times when we honestly need Him the most. This is because we don’t reach out to our master gardener when we feel like everything is going well. We feel like we can handle things ourselves. However, we need to stay connected to God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit at all times by reading the word, staying in intentional prayer, attending Bible studies, and fellowshipping with our church family. We must remember that when we flourish, we do so by studying God’s Word.

Prayer:
Lord God, we pray that your Holy Spirit brings those into the lives that can help us tend the garden of our soul. Please give us the right mindset to hear what you have for us. Let our hearts discern the counsel that your Holy Spirit is giving us. When we seek your will in our lives, let us follow you and not get complaisant or get in your way by saying, not now, Lord. Let us be willing to accept the path you have walked before us with a generous spirit. In Christ’s name, Amen!

December 2022 Devotional: Grace in the Grinding Season

By Angelina Koenig
Northwest Division

“But he answered, ‘My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds it full expression through your weakness. So, I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I have three best friends with whom I text almost daily or chat with every couple of weeks. One of the things that I find with my best friends is that I text them about life. It could be when I am having a good day, not-so-great day, downward spiral of thoughts kind of day. What I appreciate about my friends is that each one will respond. The responses I receive are anything from encouragement, accountability, Scriptures, and sometimes memes that make me laugh.

I recently texted my friends about a not-so-good day I was having. Things were stressful and I didn’t have a clear mindset that could help improve my situation. My friend texted a picture of her devotional book and there was the verse from 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he answered, ‘My grace is always more than enough for you, and my power finds its full expression through your weakness. So, I will celebrate my weaknesses, for when I’m weak I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me.”

“I sense more deeply the power of Christ living in me” part of the Scripture hit me to the core. It made me pause and think, what if I lived this verse out each day, conscientiously, in my life? Would there be a difference in how I operate and interact with others?

In the grinding season of December, we find ourselves in various beautiful geographic locations throughout the Western United States. Yet, we find ourselves in one season at the same time—Christmas. The time where we are grabbing a Starbucks, Dutch Bro’s, or a favorite drink from our local coffee shop not just one time a day, but maybe two times. It is the season where we “need” the extra to help us through the daily grind of serving others and forsaking ourselves. We all understand this. Yet, during the grinding season of Christmas, there is something important for each of us to strive.

It is a time where we want to strive for grace. Grace in the grinding season. Grace for ourselves. Grace for those we love. Grace for those we serve. When I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ living in me and loving me throughout each moment of the day. Christ is loving me through His promises of walking with me and speaking to me. When I recognize the grace of Christ in me, I am more apt to show grace to those I love.

When I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ when I love my family better. When I take a moment to pause and breath in Christ’s grace and exhale His peace in tiring moments. I take a moment to pause and breathe in Christ’s grace and exhale His peace when the schedule is crammed and another thing comes up that might make me explode with words on a loved on.

When I am weak, I sense more deeply the mighty power of Christ when I serve others without forsaking myself and my spirit. We have all been called to serve God and serve others in love. Yet, I cannot serve others when I forsake my spirit. My spirit, your spirit, cannot be what is getting grinded in the busy season of Christmas, or any season for that matter.

I feel more deeply the mighty power of Christ when I accept the grace, He has for me. It is more than the grace of salvation that Christ has for each one of us. It is the grace of love, of peace, of healthy thoughts, and physical well-being.

To help myself flourish in the grinding season of Christmas, my promise to Christ and myself, is this: I will pause in the morning to ask for help in accepting the grace Christ has offered me. I will ask for help in showing grace to myself and others. I will pause as often as possible to ask for grace in situations that arise and are difficult to handle. I will pause to give thanks for the ability to walk in the power of his grace and therefore, continually strengthen my spirit.

I have designed a small breath prayer that may be helpful to you if you find yourself in need of grace.


Dear God,
I breathe in your grace and exhale your peace over my life.
I breathe in your grace and exhale your peace over all situations I encounter today.
I breathe in your grace in my weakness to exhale your mighty power available to me.
I breathe in your grace in my weakness to exhale your mighty power in the life of my family.
I breathe in your grace because it is more than enough for me and I exhale your mighty power because your grace is perfect for me, for others, and for all situations.
Amen.

Sisters, may you know the deep and mighty power of the grace of Christ in your life during this grinding season. May you experience the grace that Christ has for you. May you know you are loved graciously and lavishly by Christ, Himself.

November 2022 Devotional: Contentment at the Feet of Jesus

By Capt. Tanya Pemberton
Administrator of Program at Santa Monica, CA Adult Rehabilitation Center

Working in The Salvation Army can have our wheels spinning, especially with this constant cycle of change and transition happening in our centers, corps, and lives. The truth is, I know I am called to be an Officer; and at this time, I am in the ARC; what a beautiful and fantastic ministry! However, God has taken me down some very overwhelming and uncomfortable paths over the past few years. Paths that I could not figure out on my own.

Things got so bad that I was told I could be put on OED (officer experiencing difficulty). That scared me, and I had to figure out how to go on. I was so depressed and wanted out. I planned out leaving officership. I was extremely frustrated and angry. I didn’t understand what was happening, but I couldn’t stop being so angry at the situation.

It was at this time I remember making a promise to God that I would never leave the ministry angry. This meant that I had to figure it out but didn’t know where to start. That’s when God whispered to my heart: “Go back to the basics” I had to remember that God wired me with gifts that I do exceptionally well. He also stretches me in areas to remind me that I am entirely dependent on Him, which must have been what He was doing.

So back to the basics, what is that? When I think of getting back to the basics, I immediately think of Jesus’ visit with Martha and Mary at their home in Bethany. Luke 10:38-42 talks about this visit. It says:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I know that no matter how hard I try to embark on my own strength, it all comes back to relying on God. I can never do it on my own, and I’m alright with that because things manage to work out better when I turn to Jesus for help: when I posture myself at His feet throughout my day, and that is just what I did.

First, I went to His feet, the feet of Jesus, in my mind. I sat there picturing Him, and me at His feet. It is there that I found a quiet place in my heart. Then I went back to the basics, back to truth, back to the foundation of sound teaching we have in Jesus Christ. Mark 12:30-31 says this, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

This started my journey to where I am now; flourishing in the season I am in – contentment! Focusing on God and the beautiful souls that God entrusted to The Salvation Army under my care, I let the rest go. It didn’t seem to matter as much as time passed.

Now I am not facing OED, quite the opposite. I am flourishing in my appointment and so are the people around me. Are there things I wish I could change? Definitely, but that no longer defines me, or my day. I can focus on the things that matter, God, others, and my family. And those things that matter to me the most are loving others just as Christ has instructed in his greatest commandment.

My hope and my prayer is that this devotional touched your heart today and it allowed you to understand that while you’re going through the storms of life, Christ is there, go back to the basics, and depend on him in all that you do and say, and he will guide your footsteps.

Tanya with her family

October 2022 Devotional: The Ordinary Season

By Captain Jessica Stevens
Family Care Director – College For Officer Training

It’s back-to-school season, and like many moms and caregivers, I feel like my life is being overrun by to-do lists. With two kids in two different schools, a dog, and two cats my days are filled with mundane and ordinary moments. School supply lists, first day of school outfits, extracurricular activity registration, and annual medical and dental appointments all fall (mom pun intended) into the month of September.
These are the days, and this is the SEASON OF THE VERY ORDINARY.

Now, as a kid, I dreamt of being an adult. I pictured being a Grown Up Lady that stayed up as late as I wanted, wore fancy shoes, and, delight of delights: ate at the restaurant of my choosing for dinner. Actual adulthood looks very different than my childhood imaginings. Sometimes I feel a little like Bill Murphy in Groundhog Day: every day looks very similar to the one before.

  • Alarm: 6 am
  • Take dog out, pour cup of coffee, complete Wordle
  • Devotions/breakfast prep/make school lunches
  • Morning routine/put in a load of laundry/remind kids to wear deodorant
  • Pack backpacks, computer bags, purse, lunches, water bottles, to go coffee into the van
  • 8:00 am depart
  • Work, make dinner, do dishes, coral kids for chores, check homework
  • Sweep floors, listen to 67 stories about Roblux, remind kids to shower, argue about reading, take out the dog
  • Start bedtime routine, program coffeemaker, fold laundry, read to kiddos

Repeat ad nauseum.

I know I’m not alone in this. Friends and sisters and aunties share similar stories of fatigue and emotional labor. Meme after meme tells the story of frazzled women hanging on by their threadbare leggings.
As a girl, I read Bible stories about David fighting Goliath, Esther saving her people, Paul preaching to the crowds, and Miriam singing songs of freedom. I dreamt of lofty things, and now I’m folding socks and jeans.

A few years ago I realized I was sorting my prayer concerns the way I sort laundry. I had a mental basket of “big” things I was consistently bringing to the feet of Jesus: school issues, family rifts, medical diagnoses, etc. But smaller, more ordinary concerns were being left out. While in my head I knew that God in His goodness cared about all my cares; in practice, I was filtering my prayers. I was weeding out the ordinary concerns of my life: math homework, sibling disagreements, my own weaknesses and fatigue.

But Scripture is full of the ordinary. Of course, as a child, I loved the adventure stories. Deborah, Esther, Ruth – what girl wouldn’t love these tails? These biblical heroines provide examples of strength, courage, faith and grit and are dear to me still. But in this Very Ordinary season, I see the Spirit just as much in other, less glamorous verses.

The oft-quoted Romans 12:1, paraphrased by Eugene Peterson in the Message reminds us “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” In this season, 90% of my life is sleeping, eating, going to work/school, and walking around; of course the God of my heart is present in these moments and in this season.

From Genesis to Revelation, from ancient times to today, if we look closely we can see a God who cares deeply for us and our small, human concerns. The God Who Came Near shows us this in Scripture: look close – you’ll see it, too. Don’t believe me? Read Leviticus. God cared so deeply for his people Israel he was very specific about their safety, worship, planting, livestock, meals and so much more.

We have only to spend a little time in the Gospels to see this in the character of Jesus himself: his stories are full of human concerns, lost coins, lost children, seeds and shallow soil. We frequently see him eating communal meals and going to people’s homes. Do we think he lived a human life and didn’t have human concerns or ordinary days?

We don’t sort have to sort our prayer concerns like laundry. If it’s on our minds or hearts, silly or serious, we can bring it to the Gentle Father. We can look through the whole of Scripture and see the love of our God in the ordinary and in the adventure. We can be like Deborah; speaking frank truth. We can be like Esther, listening to the Spirit and knocking on doors that aren’t open to us. We can be like Ruth, providing for our families and loving loyally. And in every single moment, we can lay our ordinary, sleeping, walking, going to work lives before the feet of Jesus.

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

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