Wednesday, January 05, 2005



About a year ago, Dennis Maranello came up to me after the morning service and shared a word with me that he felt was from the Lord. Even though Dennis had no way of knowing that I had been praying about whether or not I should move forward with the desires in my heart to serve the poor, his word was encouraging and exactly what I was waiting to hear from God about. Essentially, it was a word that confirmed to me that God was indeed calling me to step out and launch this Compassion Ministry here at The River.

Fast-forward to just last week when, after visiting a family at the Motel, I went across the street to the Albertson’s market. As I got out of my car there was Dennis Maranello standing next to a Fire Truck talking with another fireman.

He and I were both shocked to see each other in such an unlikely place, but soon we were talking about the motel across the street. It seems that Dennis is often called there as part of an emergency response team with the Fire Department. We did some small talk and caught up on family holiday plans for awhile but soon we both had to part and so we said our goodbyes and I started back into the store.

That’s when it struck me. Almost exactly a year later, here I was serving the poor in direct response to the word that Dennis shared with me, and I run into him in the parking lot across the street from the motel. It was like God hit me on the head with a soft hammer of confirmation. “Yes, Keith, this is what I was calling you to do.”

If I’ve learned anything this year in the ministry of compassion, it’s that it’s not about taking the compassion I’ve got and giving it to those who need it. The fact of the matter is, I’m the guy who needs more compassion. I need loads more of it than I really have to give. The truth is, this ministry of compassion has been more like a school for me to discover just how little compassion I really have for people in need.

It seems that compassion is something you pursue and receive from God along the way, in order to give it away to others as you go. At least, that’s how it’s worked out for me this last year.

The other realization I’ve made this last year is that, no matter how much we do, no matter how “successful” our service to the poor might be, I always walk away feeling like we barely scratched the surface. “We could’ve done so much more,” I think. It always feels like we’re inadequate to the calling we’ve received.

The reality is, God is the one who does the giving and not us. While we may always feel the “lack” of our resources, the Spirit of God has a limitless amount of Grace, Mercy and Love to funnel through us as we simply step out and say “yes” to Him.

I’ve also learned that, deep down, I’m not really a “people person”. That might seem like a shock, especially coming from a pastor who oversees ministry to children and to people in need. But, the truth is, I’m more comfortable being alone, or with my family, than I am in large crowds or social situations. Still, what I’m learning is that following Jesus is NOT about being comfortable. Far from it. Being a follower of Jesus involves, almost exclusively, pursuing a life that steers as far away from comfort as you can get.

“If any man would come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”- Jesus (Matthew 16:24)

God is in the process of changing me into the person He wants me to be, even though it may seem to be an agonizingly slow process. I may never become a “people person”, and that’s ok. But what I will become is more open to the leading of the Holy Spirit in my life, more open to that voice that urges me to go and share and give freely to people in need. My heart’s desire is to cooperate with Him in every single way that I possibly can. If that means continuing to place myself in a position of discomfort for His will to be done, and for His Kingdom to come, and for my spiritual formation, then by all means, let the discomfort begin.

So, as we move into this New Year, I pray that we could lay down our comfort in exchange for the Kingdom of God and the cross that Jesus has for us to carry for His glory, and for His eternal fame.

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