Your Spiritual Journal

As Christians who are concerned about reaching all the world’s people with the gospel, we can learn much from the example of one famous woman who powerfully lives out the good news among the poor of India.

Mother Teresa was born in Yugoslavia in 1910, and left home at age seventeen to be a missionary in India. Her ministry began there not among the poor, but in teaching the well-to-do young at a school in the city of Darjeeling.

Later she moved to the larger city of Calcutta, where she lived in a convent that was next door to a large slum known as Moti Jheel. Her biographer, Desmond Doig, tells what happened to her there.

Mother Teresa’s room at the convent looked out upon the acres of squalor and poverty and the unattended sickness of Moti Jheel…. She was increasingly disturbed by what she saw. She asked permission to go into these slums with such meager aids as she could lay hands on-a few tablets of aspirin, bandages, iodine, and the powerful will to help. Perhaps she did not know it then, but there would be no turning back.

Mother Teresa willingly gave up a secure, comfortable position to serve the less fortunate. She followed the example of our Lord, who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). A living model of what it means to be a sacrificial missionary in a foreign culture, her ministry reflects Christ’s earthly mission: “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

By 1948 she was ready to begin the ministry she is known for today-serving the poor and abandoned people living in the slums. Her motivation was simple, as we learn in her statements quoted by Malcolm Muggeridge in Something Beautiful for God. “I wanted to serve the poor purely for the love of God. I wanted to give the poor what the rich get with money.”

Muggeridge also related Mother Teresa’s thoughts about opening a home for the dying, an act which characterizes her self-giving spirit.

The first woman I saw I myself picked up from the street. She had been half-eaten by the rats and ants. I took her to the hospital but they could not do anything for her. They only took her in because I refused to move until they accepted her. From there I went to the municipality and I asked them to give me a place where I could bring these people because on the same day I had found other people dying in the streets.

The city offered her an empty pilgrims’ resthouse, which she accepted. Within twenty-four hours the Missionaries of Charity-the mission which Mother Teresa founded-brought their first patients to the new home.

You and I—must find them and help them; they are there for the finding.

She describes the continuing purpose of the home in these words:

First of all we want to make them feel that they are wanted. We want them to know that there are people who really love them, who really want them, at least for the few hours that they have to live, to know human and divine love-that they too may know that they are the children of God, and that they are not forgotten and that they are loved and cared about and there are young lives ready to give themselves in their service.

We are to be all love, all faith, all purity for the sake of the poor we serve.

No one taken there is allowed to die in despair, unwanted, unfed, or unloved.

What keeps Mother Teresa and her companions going as they carry out their mission in such a setting? In Mother Teresa’s mind, three ingredients seem to stand out: love for God, prayer, and practical action. Each reinforces and strengthens the others, resulting in lives that unite prayer and action. Spirituality becomes practicality, and love becomes personal action.

She explains that loving people is a way of loving God.

Our neighbors we can always see, and we can do to them what, if we saw him, we would like to do to Christ…. Our hearts need to be full of love for him; and since we have to express that love in action, naturally then the poorest of the poor are the means of expressing our love for God.

Her example can help us express this same love in our own lives for those who are, in her words,

unwanted, unemployed, uncared for, hungry, naked, and homeless. They seem useless to the state and to society; nobody has time for them. It is you and I as Christians, worthy of the love of Christ if our love is true, who must find them, and help them; they are there for the finding.

Mother Teresa clearly recognizes the worth of every individual.

I do not agree with the big way of doing things. To us what matters is an individual. To get to love the person we must come in close contact with him. If we wait till we get the numbers, then we will be lost in the numbers. And we will never be able to show that love and respect for the person. I believe in person to person.

To carry out these convictions among the poor in Calcutta, Mother Teresa and her co-workers live in poverty themselves.

Our rigorous poverty is our safeguard. We do not want to do what other religious orders have done throughout history, and begin by serving the poor only to end up unconsciously serving the rich. In order to understand and help those who have nothing, we must live like them…. The only difference is that these people are poor by birth, and we are poor by choice. It is nonetheless true that without the conviction that it is Christ himself that we see in the outcasts, such a lifestyle would be impossible.

For Christians in richer nations, her example challenges us to reexamine our discipleship. And for believers in poorer countries, her faith and loving service are a symbol of hope. God does indeed care about the plight of the poor. He is concerned for both their spiritual and their physical well-being, and he uses his faithful servants to lighten the darkest comers of the world.

Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity begin and end each day in prayer-an indispensable part of their work, and of their pursuit of holiness.

We must become holy, not because we want to feel holy, but because Christ must be able to live his life fully in us. We are to be all love, all faith, all purity for the sake of the poor we serve. And once we have learned to seek God and his will, our contacts with the poor will become the means of great sanctity to ourselves and to others.

“Love to pray,” Mother Teresa exhorts us in her book A Gift for God. “Feel often during the day the need for prayer, and take trouble to pray. Prayer enlarges the heart.”

Although she has focused her ministry among the poor of India, Mother Teresa’s mission has responded to needs worldwide. She says,

People today are hungry for love. That is why we are able to go to countries like England and America and Australia where there is no hunger for bread. But there, people are suffering from terrible loneliness, terrible despair, terrible hatred-feeling unwanted, feeling helpless, feeling hopeless.

The Missionaries of Charity now include thousands of members who serve the sick, the lonely, the destitute, and the dying in thirty nations. In 1979 Mother Teresa received the Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of this work.

Materially poor yet spiritually rich, Mother Teresa’s life can be a model for Western Christians who want to be missionaries or who are sending out and supporting missionaries to work among the billions of unreached people in the world-most of whom battle the ravages of hunger and disease. And most of them are still beyond the reach of our present missionary efforts.

To become servants who are adequately equipped to cross these cultural frontiers with the message of God’s love in Jesus Christ, we must learn from pioneers like Mother Teresa, whose Christlike love shows the way.

Praying God’s Word

Expose your heart one more time … just to Jesus. After all, this is what his father sent him to do.

Lord, according to Your Word, what a man desires or craves deeply is unfailing love (Prov. 19:22). Every other use of the words “unfailing love” in Scripture is attributed to You alone. You are the only one capable of perpetually unfailing love.

Help me to understand that my deep cravings for someone to love me with that kind of love were meant to be satisfied in You alone.

Lord God, in Your love You kept me from the pit of destruction; You have put all my sins behind Your back (Isa. 38:17). You will never fail to forgive the truly repentant sinner, O Lord, because You love us so much, You want us to have the full measure of Your joy within us (John 17:13).

In His Footsteps

After saying these things Jesus crossed the Kidron ravine with his disciples and entered a grove of olive trees. Judas, the betrayer, knew this place, for Jesus had gone there many times with his disciples.

The chief priests and Pharisees had given Judas a squad of soldiers and police to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons they arrived at the olive grove.

Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him. Stepping forward to meet them he asked, “Whom are you looking for?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. And as he said it, they all fell backwards to the ground!

Once more he asked them, “Whom are you searching for?”

And again they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

“I told you I am he,” Jesus said; “and since I am the one you are after, let these others go.” He did this to carry out the prophecy he had just made, “I have not lost a single one of those you gave me.”

Judas was given a contingent of police and soldiers in order to seize Jesus and bring him before the religious court for trial. The religious leaders had issued the warrant for Jesus’ arrest, and Judas was acting as Jesus’ official accuser.

Don’t Run Away

John does not record Judas’s kiss of greeting (Matthew 26:49; Mark 14:45; Luke 22:47-48), but Judas’s kiss marked a turning point for the disciples. With Jesus’ arrest, each one’s life would be radically different.

For the first time, Judas openly betrayed Jesus before the other disciples. For the first time, Jesus’ loyal disciples ran away from him (Matthew 26:56). The band of disciples would undergo severe testing before they were transformed from hesitant followers to dynamic leaders.

You may have made big mistakes in your life, committed sins you’re ashamed to remember. Yet nothing is beyond Jesus’ forgiveness. He can help you become the person he wants you to become, but you must allow him to forgive you and work in your life. He did it for these disciples—and they changed the world!

Your Spiritual Practice

Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”

Who among us has not experienced the need to be forgiven? Forgiveness is part of the daily activity of being in relationship with others. Sometimes we are the ones called upon to forgive and forgiving those closest to us can be the most difficult. That seems to be where Peter’s question comes from. Jesus’ answer goes right to the heart of the matter-forgiveness has no cap, no boundary. We have been forgiven everything by the Father, and we are called to do the same for others. Easy? No. Rewarding? Eternally.

How do I ask forgiveness from someone I love?

Merciful God, you showed us forgiveness by sending your Son, Jesus, to suffer, die and rise again in glory. Help me to show my gratitude to you by being generous in forgiving those who have offended me.

Praying God’s Word

It is for freedom Christ has set us free. The question is whether or not we are ready to prepare the way for our liberator.

Lord God, You teach me that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deut. 8:3). Please develop in me a hunger for Your presence and Your Word that exceeds any physical cravings I could ever experience.

Your Word tells me that one handful with tranquility is better than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind (Eccles. 4:6). Please set me free from the false security that comes from having more of anything than I really need.

Help me to know Your love that surpasses knowledge—that I may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19).

In His Footsteps

And now they came to an olive grove called the Garden of Gethsemane, and he instructed his disciples, “Sit here, while I go and pray.”

He took Peter, James, and John with him and began to be filled with horror and deepest distress. And he said to them, “My soul is crushed by sorrow to the point of death; stay here and watch with me.”

He went on a little farther and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the awful hour awaiting him might never come.

“Father, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take away this cup from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.”

Then he returned to the three disciples and found them asleep.

“Simon!” he said. “Asleep? Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Watch with me and pray lest the Tempter overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak.”

And he went away again and prayed, repeating his pleadings. Again he returned to them and found them sleeping, for they were very tired. And they didn’t know what to say.

The third time when he returned to them he said, “Sleep on; get your rest! But no! The time for sleep has ended! Look! I am betrayed into the hands of wicked men. Come! Get up! We must go! Look! My betrayer is here!”

Jesus was in great sorrow and distress over his approaching physical pain, separation from the Father, and death for the sins of the world. The divine course was set, but he, in his human nature, still struggled (Hebrews 5:7-9). Because of the anguish Jesus experienced, he can relate to our suffering.

Wanting God’s Will

Was Jesus trying to get out of his task? Jesus expressed his true feelings, but he did not deny or rebel against God’s will. He reaffirmed his desire to do what God wanted. Jesus’ prayer highlights the terrible suffering he had to endure—an agony so much more magnified because he had to take on the sins of the whole world. This “cup” was the agony of alienation from God, his Father, at the cross (Hebrews 5:7-9). The sinless Son of God took on our sins and was separated for a while from God so that we could be eternally saved. While praying, Jesus was aware of what doing the Father’s will would cost him. He understood the suffering he was about to encounter, and he did not want to have to endure the horrible experience. But Jesus prayed, “I want your will not mine.”

Anything worth having costs something. What does your commitment to God cost you? Be willing to pay the price to gain something worthwhile in the end.

Your Discipleship Journal

It had been seventy long years since the captives had seen their homeland. Most of them were too young to remember what it was like, of course, but the older ones among them could not forget-and their enthusiasm quickly spread.

As they neared the ancient city, their hearts welled up with anticipation. But a heart-breaking sight awaited them. Not only had Nebuchadnezzar leveled the city of Jerusalem, but he had also completely destroyed the glorious structure that had once been Solomon’s temple.

After the initial disappointment had passed, the people, still grateful for their return, began the long, arduous task of constructing a new temple, a house where God’s presence could dwell. The foundation was soon laid and an emotional celebration followed (Ezra 3:10-13).

But before long the newly returned remnant met with opposition. The surrounding people-who were Samaritans-rose up against them and hampered the work (Ezra 4:1-5). Although the threat passed, the people failed to resume the reconstruction.

No doubt they intended to take up the work again at some point, but sixteen years quickly came and went. Their excuse? “The time has not yet come,” they said (Haggai 1:2).

Haggai, an aged, straight-talking prophet, stepped onto the scene with an uncompromising call to action. Speaking to the heart of the issue, he challenged the people’s priorities: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house [the temple] remains a ruin?” (Haggai 1:4).

The solution Haggai gave was equally succinct: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored'”(Haggai 1:7-8).

For sixteen years the people had been busily pursuing their own selfish interests, building and decorating their own homes. But they had neglected the one item which should have been given top priority-the rebuilding of the temple.

Though the temple itself was of no great importance to God, the end for which it was designed-the worship of God-was of monumental importance. Without the temple, the worship of God according to the Older Covenant had diminished.

Meanwhile, poverty conditions took hold in the land. Haggai twice challenged both the leaders and the people to reflect upon their experiences to understand why poverty had struck.

Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it….

“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty.

“Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.

“Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.” (Haggai 1:5-6 and 1:9-11)

Because of their misplaced priorities, the Israelites had once again fallen under the heavy-handed judgment of God.

Haggai was one of the few prophets who was privileged to see the people respond positively to his message.

The whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. (Haggai 1:12)

It is important to note, however, that their obedience was not the result of their own moral uprightness or godly zeal. Indeed, their coldness of heart toward things of God had first necessitated Haggai’s rebuke.

No, the people now obeyed because the Lord was at work within them. “The Lord stirred up… the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God” (Haggai 1:14). God stirred them up “to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

And once they resolved to carry out Haggai’s instructions, the Lord reassured them of his continued presence, saying, “Be strong, all you people of the land, and work. For I am with you” (Haggai 2:4). The temple was finished just four years later.

The message of the prophet Haggai is as relevant to us today as it was to the people of his own generation. Several points are worth noting.

First, although a physical temple is no longer needed under the New Covenant (“For we are the temple of the living God,” 2 Corinthians 6:16), worship is still the single most important task in which we can engage. God is worthy-infinitely worthy!-of our worship. But in an age when people are “lovers of themselves” and “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4), we must be especially careful not to be squeezed into the world’s mold.

The best insurance against this subtle but dangerous temptation is to persistently maintain a daily time of personal worship of God. A consistent devotional life causes us to refocus our attention, turning our thoughts from ourselves to the Lord.

Second, it is easy to begin well-to “lay the foundations” and proclaim a celebration as the people in Jerusalem did-but not continue. After committing ourselves to the practice of daily devotions, how many of us really follow through? Unfortunately, like the Israelites of old, many of us lose heart after our early encounters wit enemy.

Nothing worthwhile comes easily, and this includes our devotional life. It took the people of Haggai’s day four years of hard work to finish building the temple, and it may take us a while to establish good devotional habits as well.

Third, we need to consider the serious consequences of not giving God the worship he deserves. The experience of Israel stands as a sober warning. Their failure to rebuild the temple had dreadful results, as God caused a terrible drought to grip their land. This action makes clear the fact that disobedience not only forfeits God’s blessing, but brings his discipline as well. Finally, as we agree to do God’s will and to give him the worship he desires, he in turn promises to live with us and to stir up our spirits to continue in the things that please him (Haggai 1:13-14). In other words, God endorses and strengthens our good resolves.

With that encouragement, let us join with the heavenly hosts and “fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives forever and ever” (Revelation 4:10).

M. Hyatt

Your Spiritual Practice

Matthew 5:44-45 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

Jesus tells us that God’s love does not discriminate between those who are good and those who are bad. Loving our enemies is no easy task, yet as followers of Jesus that is what we are called to do. Our love should reflect the love that God has for each person. Jesus encourages us to grow in love for all by praying for them. In that way, we can come to see through the eyes of God and love with God’s love.

Who are the people in my life that I consider enemies or persecutors?

Loving God, I am grateful for the many ways that you love me. Help me see with your eyes, that I may grow to love others as you do.

Who Are We Trying to Fool?

Why are we so safe in the things we pray? Who are we trying to keep from looking foolish? Us or him?

God, for now I know in part and I prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. I now desire to put my childish ways behind me.

Now I see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then I will see face-to-face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, Lord, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Cor. 13:9-13).

Help me prioritize the things that will always remain. Faith lives in all the places I wait to know fully.

Anyone He Can Devour

Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.—1 Peter 5:8

A woman once said: “I think you are giving too much credit to the Devil. He is such an insignificant person compared to God that we ought not even mention his name.”

In one way I can sympathize with this view, for when you listen to some Christians talk, you get the impression that they have a small God and a big devil.

It would be unrealistic to think, however, that we can go through life without coming into direct contact with Satan and his forces. What is even more unrealistic is to think that many (though certainly not all) of the problems which confront us day by day have no devilish strategy behind them.

Satan is responsible for more of our individual woes and international wars, our crime and violence, our human sorrow, sickness, and death than we may believe.

The late Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said: “I am certain that one of the main causes of the ill state of the church today is the fact that the Devil is being forgotten…. We are ignorant of this great objective fact—the being, the existence of the Devil, the adversary, the accuser, and his fiery darts.”

Does the thought of doing battle with the Devil frighten you? Then heed the words of Corrie ten Boom, who said: “The fear of the Devil is most likely from the Devil himself.” God has given us all the protection we need to defend ourselves against the attacks of Satan, and when we know how to avail ourselves of this protection, we will no longer be afraid of the Devil. Rather, he will be afraid of us.

%d bloggers like this: