Seeing the Shame Beneath the Sin

“For you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly. John 4:18WomanattheWell

Servants of Excellence

The Woman of Samaria (or The Woman at the Well) is one of our favorites in pregnancy help ministry, for good reason. In this story we see Jesus talking to someone with a checkered past, living with a man outside of marriage. But instead of condemning her, we see in verse 18 that Jesus affirms her for her honesty.

Then, later in the story, Jesus tells this woman something he has yet to tell anyone else: That he is, indeed, the messiah she’s been waiting for.

Leading up to this moment, Jesus talks to the Woman at the Well about the living water he offers. She wants this, badly. But Jesus gives a condition: “Go, call your husband and come here.” Why does Jesus say this? I’m not sure, but perhaps a clue comes in her answer, “I have no husband.”

Aha. Jesus knew this, and his reply is more than she could have imagined. “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband,’” he says. “For you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband. This you have said truly.”

It’s easy to look at this and say Jesus was correctly pointing out the woman’s past sin (Five divorces? Whoa!), and proving he knew she was again . . . in sin. She was shacking up, right?

But what if there is something else here? Remember what Jesus was talking about, the living water? And offering her this living water, a water that would bring life to those who were dead, a life which would never end?

Maybe, just maybe, this woman’s biggest problem was not her sin, but her shame and brokenness.

In her culture, it wasn’t women who filed for divorce. It was the men. A guess? Not one, not two . . . but five men, at different times, dropped her like a bad habit. With a piece of papyrus, they told her, “Get out.” In her heart, she had failed five men. She was unwanted, dismissed as a worthless piece of property.

And now, she was living with a man, probably thankful anyone would have her even if he saw no reason to marry her. She was broken. Ashamed. Head down at a well, drawing water . . . probably for someone else.

Perhaps for the first time in a long, long time, someone affirmed her. Remember, she could have lied, saying the man she was living with was her husband—just hoping Jesus wouldn’t figure it out. Instead, she was honest and transparent. And Jesus thanked her.

It’s a lesson for us all. Many of those who come in our door can be seen in two ways. We can address the sin, but while we might be “right,” we may be missing the bigger picture.

Jesus went deeper, addressing the shame the woman at the well dealt with every day. Instead of condemning her, he affirmed her. This launched a new conversation which led to her reaching out to other villagers, who then followed the messiah.  The Woman at the Well, then, was one of Jesus’ first evangelists.

As we reach out to those who come in our door, it’s easy to see the sin. But if we look deeper, we might find the shame at the root of our new friend’s problem. Let’s go deeper, because when we do, healing can begin.


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
Heartbeat International

Thankfulness Beyond the Rules

“Was no one found, who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” HealingLeper
Luke 17:18

The story of Jesus cleansing the ten lepers fascinates me, because it is a great study of how we sometimes view thankfulness.

In brief, here’s the story: Jesus is headed to Jerusalem and is between Samaria and Galilee when he hears ten lepers crying out, “Jesus, master, have mercy on us!” They broke the rule for lepers, who were supposed to cry out, “Unclean” to keep people away from them.

But instead of berating them for breaking the Mosaic Law, Jesus says to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests,” which is what the Law instructed for those healed. Aha! And as they turned to go to the priests, they were indeed, healed. Great news, right?

Nine of the men kept going, on to the priests to fulfill the Law’s instructions. One however (and a Samaritan at that), turned back, falling at Jesus’ feet in thanksgiving and glorifying God “with a loud voice.”

When this takes place, Jesus asks a good question. “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they?”

Jesus continues. “Was no one found, who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”

An argument can be made that the nine fulfilled the rule of law. By law, they were required to go to the priests, who would then—at some point—declare them clean again. Unfortunately, by only following the rules they missed something bigger, an opportunity to know the Son of God.

It’s interesting to note, they were more than willing to break the rule of Law when they were desperate for healing. Instead of crying out, “Unclean,” they begged for Jesus to heal them. But after healing, it was back to the rules and nothing more.

Jesus was never obligated to heal the nine. Yet when he did so, the nine treated him as if he had only met the minimum standard, overlooking him in their rush to gain their “Clean Again” certificate from the priest. As a result, they missed their big opportunity.

In our everyday encounters, we have service employees, co-workers and so many others who perform tasks which make our lives easier. No, they aren’t necessarily doing something as miraculous as healing us of leprosy, but they often meet needs for us.

They may save us time. Or, fix something we’re not equipped to repair. Or, they do us a favor when we don’t expect it.

When these things take place, let’s be the one who goes the extra mile to say, “Thank you.” When we do, it opens the door to a greater relationship and more opportunities to build hope into their lives.

We can often view Jesus as stoic, leaving feelings aside as he pushed toward Jerusalem and his sacrifice on the cross. But I can’t help but believe Jesus was moved by this one who thanked him, seeing him as an encouragement on his road to Jerusalem.

The nine received healing but missed the greater blessing. Let’s break the rules and be the one. We never know what might happen.


by Kirk Walden
Heartbeat International Advancement Specialist

Praying That They May Know

FaithWorth“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling . . . .” Eph. 1:18A

Servants of Excellence 

We pray for friends, family members, and many times for those who come in the door of our pregnancy help ministries. When we do, we might pray for specific situations, such as health, relationships, employment, finances and more.

As we pray for those in our circle of influence, let’s ask this: “How would the world be different if God answered every one of my prayers this week?”

One pastor, made this point by asking his congregation, “If God answered all your prayers, what would happen? Would you merely see your food blessed, a few people get over their colds and have traveling mercies to grandmother’s house? Would that be all?”

Tough words!

But look at what Paul prays for his Ephesian friends. Let’s peek at Paul in his prayer closet:

“ . . . That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.” (Eph. 1:17-19A)

Now that’s praying. Paul goes beyond the requests we so often think of and straight to the heart of the matter. Because he knows, if his friends in Ephesus capture a clear understanding of God’s love, everything else is going to fall into place.

As he continues, Paul’s greatest desire is that those receiving his letter have eyes to see the hope of what it means to be in relationship with Jesus Christ.

Which is something for us to remember. When a friend, family member or client asks for prayer, what is our primary focus? Do we focus on the situation in front of us? Or on the greater need?

Me? I tend to see the surface need and focus my attention on whatever I’m asked to pray about. But what if I also asked for something bigger, that my friend understand, “the hope of His calling” and to effectively grasp God’s love for us?

Paul focused on the greatest needs of his friends. As I pray for others, it’s a good idea to do the same.


by Kirk Walden, Heartbeat International Advancement Specialist

What’s Your Story?

“And it came about that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me.” Acts 22:6

Servants of Excellencedamascusroad

As we know, the Bible is full of stories. The Old Testament tell us story after story of everything from the first sin, to the rise of Israel, to heroics and failures of people like Samson, David, Solomon, Ruth and so many more.

The New Testament tells us the story of Jesus, including the stories he told. And, we also see stories of those who followed Jesus . . . and the stories they told.

Do we see a pattern here? Sharing our faith almost always begins with stories. And there is no greater example of this than Paul.

Yes, the Paul, the great theologian who gave us so many New Testament letters. The Paul who gave us everything from the great doctrinal book of Romans to the love chapter in I Corinthians 13. That Paul.

His faith began with a story. One place he tells his story is in Acts 22. Defending his work before the Jewish council, Paul launches his story by recounting his advancement in Judaism. He mentions (v. 3) his education under the great Gamaliel, and his zealousness in persecuting that ragtag bunch of heretics known as The Way (v. 4).

But, Paul’s story shifts on the road to Damascus, where he met the man he was persecuting. Jesus. Paul tells of a bright light, of being blinded and falling to the ground. And, he tells of a life-changing conversation with a man he thought to be dead, which turned him from persecutor to a promoter of this new faith.

Reading Luke’s account of Paul telling his story, we see his listeners throwing fits of anger. This says much more about Paul’s listeners than his story. Because as we know, Paul told his story to people everywhere, launching churches all over the known world.

The point? While Paul’s story is more dramatic than most, all of us have a story.

We sometimes get caught up in trying to know exactly how to best share the hope within us. We search Bible verses, learn techniques and avail ourselves of trainings. None of this is wrong, but often our best approach is the simplest: Tell our story.

Just like with Paul, our story is our own. Someone could argue with Paul, but they could never take his story away. More important? Paul’s story—like ours—allows us to be transparent, which always draws in listeners.

The next time someone—whether inside our ministry’s doors or in our neighborhood—wonders why we believe what we do, perhaps it is time to do what Paul did so well: Let’s tell our story.

Our story may be a conversion story, like Paul’s. Or, it may be a story of a time when we clearly saw God’s hand in our lives. If our listener is open, our story may invite a transparent conversation—a conversation which opens the door for our listener to begin, or extend, their own story of faith.

The good news? If we have faith, we have a story. And it is often our story which may inspire the stories of others.


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist

Be a Rule-Breaker: Love

Servants of ExcellenceHealingSabbath

And the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the multitude in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; therefore come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Luke 13:14

The synagogue official, staunch defender of tradition, must have been a fun guy to hang out with. Because after seeing the miraculous healing of a woman who spent 18 years with a sickness which kept her from ever standing upright, his first thought is to defend a man-made rule which God never intended when He created the Sabbath Day.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day voiced plenty of complaints about their Messiah. They didn’t like his friends, weren’t happy with His drinking habits, and vehemently opposed how Jesus spent His Saturdays.

In their minds, Jesus was nothing but a rule-breaker; a tradition-stomping, disrespectful insurrectionist who wanted nothing more than to thumb his nose at anyone with authority.

But we know Jesus was quite the opposite. He was—and is—the authority, a man who loves His Father so much that He defended the Father’s love . . . above the rules men created for their own benefit.

Love doesn’t care what day it is, because every day is the perfect time to love the hurting. Love doesn’t fret over the status of someone else, because everyone is worthy to be loved. Love isn’t bound by tradition because love has no shackles, no limits.

What about those of us in the pregnancy help community? Thankfully, we don’t have man-made religious rules which keep us from loving.

On that Saturday, Jesus saw a woman who was, for 18 years, beyond healing. For 18 years, her illness kept her from standing upright. Nothing helped. Likely in pain every single day, no one’s prayers made a difference. Others probably took care of her.

But somehow, on that Saturday she made it to the synagogue to see Jesus. And on that day, everything changed. It was her right time, regardless of the rules.

If we are reflections of Jesus, part of our mission is to love enough to see those who come in our door as at “just the right time” for healing of emotional, spiritual and possibly even physical wounds. Because for love, there’s no time like the present. And that’s a rule we can always live by.


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist

 

Leadership? Or Servantship?

 

Servants of ExcellenceLeadership

“But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant.” Luke 22:26

“Leadership” is today’s burgeoning industry. Bookstores are filled with books on leadership, online classes populate the web, day-long leadership seminars abound and leadership coaches reach out to us, ready to provide assistance as we seek to be . . . leaders.

This isn’t wrong, in any sense. In fact, many Christians are leaders in this field because they first learned the importance of leadership from Jesus. They are successful because they teach what Jesus taught regarding leadership—and it works.

And, just like Jesus, they teach that anyone can be a leader, by following one simple rule: Leaders serve.

There it is. No challenging formulas, no fancy steps.

Yet, servanthood is the opposite of what so many believe leadership is about. Jesus dealt with this during The Last Supper, as the disciples—about the time Jesus was washing their feet—argued over who was the leader of the pack.

Jesus stopped the conversation in its tracks. He pointed out that in the world, those with titles and money were “leaders,” but in his kingdom things would be different.

“But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader becomes the servant,” Jesus told them.

Then he asked, “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves?” Before anyone could answer (probably a good thing), Jesus continued. “Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”

It would be easy to end the entire leadership conversation with, “If you want to be a leader, go out there and serve.” And this is true. In Mark, (9:35), Jesus said as much: “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.”

But there might be something even more basic in what Jesus said at The Last Supper.

Perhaps, just perhaps, Jesus was asking his closest followers not to focus on leadership, but to instead live a life of service—regardless of whether one becomes a leader.

This world needs good servant-leaders, no doubt. But perhaps just as much, we need those who serve, those who wake up each day determined to do at least one act of service, for no other reason than this is what Jesus taught.

Today then, let’s find just one way to serve. Let’s build our lives so this is our habit, our way of life. Will we become leaders as a result? Maybe. Maybe not.

But one thing we’ll know for sure, we’ll become incredible servants. And maybe this is what Jesus wanted all along.


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist

 

Modern Day Foot-Washing

Servants of ExcellenceFootWashing

“Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.” John 13:5

Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet during His final Passover meal is only mentioned in one of the four gospels (John), but for centuries Christians have focused on this moment’s significance, impact and lessons for us today.

Clearly, this act—on Jesus’ final night before His crucifixion—is one of servanthood. We would not think the king of the coming kingdom would serve anyone. He should be served! But Jesus chose instead to paint a poignant picture of who we need to be as His followers. And He did so by washing the grimy, calloused feet of those who followed Him.

Which creates a question. What is a modern-day equivalent of foot-washing?

While many still practice actual foot-washing as a reminder and example, because we aren’t as likely to wear sandals (well, we do wear Chacos) and walk on dirt roads all day, what is 21st century practice which follows Jesus’ powerful act of service?

May I offer one, which I often overlook? Listening.

Here is why.

In today’s world, society is wedded to IPhones, Droids, laptops. We’re texting, Facebooking, Twittering, Instagramming and Linking In. Any conversation is easily derailed by the distraction of a call, a “Let me just text him/her back really quickly” or a need to rush off to the next thing in our busy lives.

Today, we don’t worry about dirty feet too much. Still, our lives get messy. And sometimes, the only way to wash off the dirt in our lives is to vent to a friend who listens, as we try to make sense of it all.

Our modern dirt is often found in a metaphorical desert, where our spiritual life converges with the challenge of trying to live out our faith in a mixed-up world. When the wind and rain of circumstances hits us from all directions as we try to walk out this faith, our spiritual feet get dirty.

Our dirt may not be a sin with which we are struggling, and it may not be a situation which demands fixing. In fact, because social media and first-world standards almost force us to hide our grime, it’s difficult for anyone to see the muck and mire which clutters our lives.

And, we try to ignore our messes as we rush to keep up with the frenetic pace at which we live.

Still, we need someone around who will listen. Because for all of us, that moment comes when we look down at our feet—trying to walk forward in this path of faith—and see they are covered with the cares of life. They need washing.

Jesus, on his final night with his disciples, stopped. He took the time needed to thoroughly wash each man’s feet. He listened as Peter asked, mistakenly, for more. And we can be sure He listened to others as He carefully cleaned those feet which had taken the journey with Him over three years.

Sometimes, the best example of servanthood we can offer to another is the gift of listening. No judgment, no quick fixes, no pat answers. Just. Listening.

If we offer this gift, perhaps our friend will experience a refreshing rain as the overwhelming circumstances of life wash away. And the feet our friend needs to walk this journey are once again clean, ready for another next step toward the One who loves us.

When Healing is Complete

Servants of ExcellenceSimonsMIL

And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she immediately arose and waited on them. Luke 4:39

Reading through Luke’s narrative of Jesus’ life, we quickly find Peter (and others) asking Jesus to heal his mother-in-law, suffering with a potentially fatal fever.

What captures me is not just that Jesus healed her with a quick rebuke of the fever but what happened next: “and she immediately arose and waited on them.”

Okay, no jokes about the hypothetical reason Jesus healed her (“They needed dinner!”). My guess is, upon being healed, Peter’s mother-in-law wanted to get back to living life. No reason to sit around, right?

If Peter and the disciples were Southerners, I can imagine the conversation:

Peter’s Mother-in-Law: “I feel great! While you’re here, let me get something for y’all to eat.”

Peter and the disciples: “No, no. Sit down, momma. We’re fine. Get some rest.”

Mom-in-Law: “Nonsense. Nobody walks out of my place starving! I’d never forgive myself. Don’t treat me like an old woman—now, eat up!”

Peter and the disciples: “Yes, ma’am.”

Obviously, I’ve taken some liberties with the conversation. But the point is important. Once healed, Peter’s mother wasted no time. She got up immediately and began serving those in her home.

While it didn’t happen in this instance, many times Jesus would forgive the sins of someone before healing them of a physical malady. After the forgiveness and the healing, there would be immediate change in the life of the person Jesus touched.

It’s the same with us.

Immediately. If we have something in our lives we regret, Jesus will heal us. Once He does, our healing is full and finished.

Yes, we may need to make amends (as Zacchaeus was willing to do for those he defrauded). But any apologies or restitution are the fruit of healing, which is already complete.

Is there something—anything—in our lives slowing us from living life to the full? Something from last week or long ago? If so, let’s take it to the One who forgives completely. From there, let’s take a lesson from Peter’s mother-in-law.

She understood that once we are touched by Jesus, healing is complete. We are free to go and live life to the full. She knew she could get back to serving those in her world. We can, too.


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist

Sometimes, a Fire is a Good Thing

Servants of ExcellenceFire

So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!” James 3:5

In James’ letter to the Christian Jews dispersed abroad, his references to the tongue (James 3:1-18) are quite a warning. He calls the tongue a fire, then goes on to say our tongues can be “the very world of iniquity,” --not exactly a walk into the world of positive thinking.

Sometimes we need warnings. They capture our attention (“Watch out!”), they caution us (“If you touch that, it will burn you.”) and they help us re-think our future decisions (“If you keep doing this, your health risks only increase”).

James probably realized his brothers and sisters needed a warning, but even in the warning he shows a way out. At the end of his missive on the tongue, he asks, “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.”

As I was reading these verses one morning, I sensed the Lord moving me to write a quick text of encouragement to a friend. He would be on a stage that evening, attempting to move people’s hearts to reconsider their views regarding Jesus—in a sense, he would be evangelizing in a debate setting.

Usually I let these promptings wait until I’m done reading, but this time, I snagged my phone to jot out a text immediately.

When pulling up my text feature however, I already had a text from a friend 2,407 miles away. This friend—a pastor I met at a speaking engagement more than a year earlier—was getting in touch to say I and my family were on his mind. He was praying for us.

Sure, it was “just a text.” But it was a tremendous encouragement. And it was coming at just after 6 AM his time. We shared a couple of texts as we built up each other, which gave me the words for a quick word of hope and help for the friend who was in the Carolinas for his speaking engagement.

Going back to James’ letter, I realized the tongue can certainly be a fire. It can burn down relationships, damage our ability to advance the faith, and wreck the hearts of people we may not even know.

But, as James says (James 3:4), just like ships “are still directed by a very small rudder, wherever the inclination of the pilot desires,” the tongue directs our lives. A friend in Oregon used his tongue (through something as innocuous as a text message) to direct not only his, but my life as well. And his text gave me an extra push to encourage another—who would be speaking to several hundred people that evening.

As I plopped my phone back down to get back to my buddy James, it hit me: Yes, the tongue is a fire. But not all fires are bad.

Some fires clear out bad stuff (scrub brush, etc.) so trees can flourish without fear of further fires. Other fires keep us warm and cozy.

Yes, a fire can be threatening. We don’t want our tongues starting those fires.

But our tongues can also burn away the dead brush in another’s life. And they can be a source of warmth for another when the world out there can be so cold.

Each day, we use our tongues to direct our lives—and those of others. In the process, we start fires. The question is, “Which kind?”


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist

The “Problem”—and the Joy—of the Good News

Servants of ExcellenceWorldUpsideDown

And when they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also;” Acts 17:6

Paul, Silas, Jason and others caused quite a stir in Thessalonica, where Paul spent three weeks with the Jewish community, convincing many of the good news of Jesus’ identity and mission.

Yet, whenever there is good news some will find a problem. So it was in Thessalonica, where the Jewish leaders became jealous as more and more were persuaded Paul was right by saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” (Acts 17:3)

Because of their jealousy, the religious leaders of the day formed a mob (Acts 17:5), then dragged Jason and some of Paul’s friends in front of the city authorities, falsely accusing that “. . . they all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” (Acts 17:7)

Paul probably made it clear that Jesus was not on earthly king, so why the false accusation? What was the real problem?

The real problem was about power. The religious leaders enjoyed being served by those they ruled over. They had full authority to make proclamations regarding not only religion, but about how the world around them (in this case, the Jewish community) would function.

No one was allowed to question their leadership or their authority. In short, they had a great life—and all of the power they could ask for. Until Paul showed up.

Paul, Silas, Jason and others were offering something new. This good news challenged the one thing the leadership held dear: Their power base. For if Jesus is king, the religious leaders were subject to him and suddenly, everyone was on equal footing.

To the religious leaders, this “turned the world upside down,” – their world.

It’s no wonder they were angry and jealous, creating mobs and making false accusations. They would do anything to protect their personal kingdoms.

For us and those we serve however, the good news is truly Good News. When we see Jesus as King, there is joy in knowing our King is one of reconciliation, hope and promise. Our King’s decrees aren’t those of a dictator (“Do this or else!”) but one of love (“Love your neighbor as yourself”).

And just like Paul and his friends, when we embrace this good news and share it with others, some—like in Paul’s day—won’t be happy. But if we’re faithful, we might see the results Paul did, where many choose instead to join with us in proclaiming the greatest news ever told.


by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist

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