April 24 | Holy Spirit

Text: Galatians 5.22-26

Serving our brothers and sisters in Christ provides a great opportunity for God’s Spirit to produce his “fruit” in our lives: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5.22-23). Demonstrating compassion, unlike anything else, provides spaces for the Spirit to develop these characteristics only he can produce.

This is an important point to remember: we don’t (and can’t) produce these qualities on our own. As Pastor Manion said, “We have outside help.” Only the Holy Spirit can produce them in those who are surrendered to Jesus. As we spend time in The Chair, and as our relationship with Jesus grows, these fruits will be produced: “I [Jesus] am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15.5).

To help you remember the fruit God desires to produce, write Galatians 5.22-23 on a 3×5 card and carry it with you. Pray for God to develop these characteristics as you demonstrate compassion to others.

April 23 | Word and Deed

Day 4 | 1 Peter 3.15

Two specific activities defined the early Church: telling others about Jesus and serving others. “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…there were no needy persons among them” (Acts 4.33-34). They didn’t just preach and they didn’t only meet needs—they did both and did them together.

Typically, we’re good at one or the other of these. We can either comfortably talk about our faith or are willing to jump and lend a hand whenever needed (probably most of us). But both are the highest priority. When we serve, we need to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3.15). What we say is as important as what we do.

As you consider the next time you’ll meet a need, prepare—in advance—to “give an answer” as to why you’re serving. This will take time and planning to do well. One way is to simply engage those you’re serving in a conversation. As you listen, be open to the Spirit’s leading to speak of God’s grace. Be prepared to share your “story” from Day 2.

April 22 | Complicated

Text: Acts 5-6

Demonstrating compassion gets complicated. We’re not sure exactly what to do, our motives may be questioned, others will take advantage of us, and people may not change and make better decisions. Situations requiring our compassion are almost always challenging and often involve difficult people. As we step into compassion, we need to be prepared for its “messiness.”

It was “messy” for the early Church as well: a couple lies about the money they give (Acts 5.1-11) and there’s a huge disagreement, ultimately racial in nature, over the distribution of aid (Acts 6.1-7). As Senior Teaching Pastor Jeff Manion reminded us, the early Church didn’t get it right all the time and neither will we. But we still do it, even if imperfectly.

Compassion can be exhausting and frustrating. It often won’t turn out the way we want. But that’s OK—God has it under control. Our responsibility is to reflect God in the process as we make loads lighter.

This leads to this week’s One Big Question . . . Who are you looking out for? If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. It’s the same question we asked last week. We think, if answered honestly, it’ll take more than a week to figure out. So take your time and prayerfully consider who you need to look out for, recognizing it could get complicated.

April 21 | Fueled by Grace

Text: Acts 4.32-37

In the earliest days of the Church, soon after Jesus ascended to heaven, we see the difference between “have to” and “get to.” With the significant needs of fellow believers in Jesus right in front of them, “…there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales…and it was distributed to anyone who had need” (Acts 4.34-35).

Responding to the grace they’d received from God, those who had the ability demonstrated that grace to those in need. Because someone “looked out” for them, they did the same for someone else.

As recipients of God’s generosity and grace, it wasn’t a situation where these believers “had to” assist the needy: they “got to” help them. We get the sense because they recognized the helplessness from which God saved them, it was only natural they do what they could to alleviate the helplessness they saw with their brothers and sisters in Christ. Understanding the helplessness from which God has rescued us motivates us as we “get to” help others. Grace fuels our compassion.

To better understand God’s grace in your life, and to be able to tell it well, write your story. Spend some time on this and really think it through. Condense it to one paragraph (three minutes speaking). For help, especially if you’ve never done it, go here.

April 20 | Compassion

Text: Psalm 145

Our compassion for each other is rooted in God’s compassion. We’re to be compassionate, primarily, because God is compassionate. When we identify with those who are suffering—and move to alleviate that suffering—we’re not only reflecting God’s character, we’re showing the world how God acts toward us.

Israel’s second king, David, highlighted this aspect of God’s character, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalm 145.8-9). One of seven places in the Old Testament where this statement appears, God is adamant that his people know he is compassionate: “To the suffering, the weak, the foolish, the despondent…he feels for them, he feels with them” (C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vol. 3, p. 378).

God’s compassion was just one of many reasons David exclaimed, “I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise you for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever” (Psalm 145.1-2).

In the same way David was driven to worship by God’s compassion, so should we. Listen to Elevation Worship’s “Mercy Reigns” as you begin what may be a very busy week. Welcome God into it by worshiping him for his compassion.

April 17 | Magnetic

Text: Matthew 5.13-16

When someone does something heroic or courageous, it has a “magnetic” effect. We’re hardwired to celebrate benevolent accomplishments and aspire to be good ourselves. It’s part of being made in God’s image.

In Matthew 5.13-16 Jesus teaches we’re supposed to love and serve others in such a way that people living far from God will be drawn to him, “. . . let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5.16).

How we show love, kindness, generosity, and faithfulness gives the world around us a picture of the character and heart of God. God has staked his reputation to you and me. A life of consistent love and faithfulness is a magnetic life.

Today, consider reading a biography of a Christian who has lived a magnetic life, pointing many people to God through a life of selfless love and humble service. Begin by visiting a local Christian bookstore for suggestions on books you can read (and read to your children).

April 16 | Devotion

Text: Leviticus 19.9-10

Leviticus 19.9-10 shares a unique command about leaving some grain behind for those in need as one way of showing generosity. Businesswise, this seems counterintuitive. But the motivation is not profit margin, it’s “I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19.10).

The account of Boaz and Ruth is set against the backdrop of the “Time of the Judges,” a period of moral and religious degeneracy and foreign oppression. In that world of selfishness and corruption, Boaz stands out as an anomaly: he invites a foreigner to glean from his crops, drink from his well, and work under the protection of his authority. This is incredible kindness! His motivation: God commanded it.

While we might be tempted to view our acts of service from a utilitarian perspective, we enter into the pain and difficulty of others for only one reason: God desires it. Generosity is at the heart of God’s character and he desires for us to reflect him in our relationships with each other.

As you welcome God into your day, spend some time considering why you serve and give. Allow God to test your motives. Service is not about us, but about God, as you reflect his character to a world that desperately needs him.

April 15 | Who Are You Looking Out For?

Text: Ruth 2

As Ruth leaves to look for work, Naomi is greatly concerned. She knows the danger her daughter-in-law could encounter. An unprotected widow in a male-dominated workplace was vulnerable to all kinds of abuse.

Providentially, Ruth finds work picking up leftover grain in a field owned by Boaz. He notices Ruth, whose reputation precedes her: a foreign woman who selflessly devoted herself to her widowed mother-in-law, even at great personal risk. Boaz extends her great kindness offering her water from his well, protection from other men, and permission to pick grain during the harvest, not after.

Boaz took it on himself to look out for Ruth, even though it was the peak of harvest season. If there was ever a time to “shoulder-down” and get the work done, it was now. But Boaz allowed himself to look beyond his important and pressing schedule to bear the burden of another.

It’s easy for us to run into our days with lots of important and pressing work to get done. But in the process, we can easily miss the needs of people right in front of us.

Consider today’s One Big Question . . . Who Are You Looking Out For? Don’t answer just yet. Take time to consider who God has given you to look out for. Like Boaz, may we look out for someone who needs our help.

April 14 | Inconvenience

Text: Ruth 1

When Ruth’s husband died, she had no obligation to bind herself to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Their situation was bleak and dangerous: two widows with no family or property. But, broken for Naomi and believing in the one true God, Ruth commits herself to Naomi, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God will be my God” (Ruth 1.16b).

This type of love is compelling and challenges our 21st century preoccupation with convenience as we go through our day with a “Do Not Disturb” sign hanging on our hearts.

Ruth’s commitment to Naomi echoes the commands of Christ for us to love each other as he loved us, giving up his life and rights for us (John 15.12-13). Usually, this type of sacrifice is not some distant mission project, but right in front of us. We never have to look too far.

We are hardwired for efficiency and, often, entering into the life of a person of “high-vulnerability” requires us to slow down to their pace—we need a “rewiring” of our hearts to see with eyes of compassion.

Today, as you welcome Jesus into your day, take a moment to sincerely pray, “God, please show me how I can be inconvenienced today.” Instead of putting up a “Do Not Disturb” sign, ask God to “disturb you” by opening your eyes to a need you can step into and show selfless love. When he does, have the courage and faith to step out of your daily routine to love as Ruth loved Naomi, as Christ has loved us.

April 13 | Looking Up

Text: 1 John 3.16-20

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. – 1 John 3.16

In defining love, the Apostle John commands us to follow the example displayed by Jesus. But because we’re busy, driven people, we often don’t look up from our demanding schedules to even notice—much less engage—the significant needs right in front of us.

As followers of Jesus, he stands as our model and invites us to love with the same measure and intensity he demonstrated on the cross. When we “look up,” we’ll see the brokenness of those around us, especially those right in front of us at home or at church. We’ll enter into their pain with real and tangible acts of love—not in a “one-and-done” manner, but in a long-term and sustaining way.

This past weekend Pastor Jeff Manion, in the first week of the series Magnetic, took us to the Old Testament book of Ruth. Here we saw, in Ruth and Boaz, compelling examples—countercultural and inconvenient—of two people who “looked up” to see the needs in front of them.

Today, take a moment to listen to the song “Love Them Like Jesus” by Casting Crowns and pray for God’s direction as you “look up” and embrace the words of 1 John 3.18 to “not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”