Building benches isn’t James Warren’s job. He started building them, however, when he noticed a woman in Denver sitting in the dirt while waiting for a bus. That’s “undignified,” Warren worried. So, the twenty-eight-year-old workforce consultant found some scrap wood, built a bench, and placed it at the bus stop. It quickly got used. Realizing many of the nine thousand bus stops in his city lacked seating, he made another bench, then several more, inscribing “Be Kind” on each one. His goal? “To make people’s lives just a little bit better, in any way I can,” Warren said.
Compassion is another way of describing such action. As practiced by Jesus, compassion is a feeling so strong that it leads us to take action to meet another’s need. When crowds of desperate people pursued Jesus, “he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). He turned that compassion into action by healing their sick (Matthew 14:14).
We, too, should “clothe [ourselves] with compassion,” Paul urged (Colossians 3:12). The benefits? As Warren says, “It fills me up. It’s air in my tires.”
All around us are needs, and God will bring them to our attention. Those needs can motivate us to put our compassion into action, and those actions will encourage others as we show them the love of Christ.
“Is church over?” asked a young mother arriving at our church with two children in tow just as the Sunday service was ending. But a greeter told her that a church nearby offered two Sunday services and the second would start soon. Would she like a ride there? The young mother said yes and seemed grateful to travel the few blocks to the other church. Reflecting later, the greeter came to this conclusion: “Is church over? Never. God’s church goes on forever.”
The church isn’t a fragile “building.” It’s the faithful family of God who are “members of his household,” wrote Paul, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19–22).
Jesus Himself established His church for eternity. He declared that despite challenges or troubles facing His church, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18
Through this empowering lens, we can see our local churches—all of us—as a part of God’s eternal and universal church, being built “in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!” (Ephesians 3:21).
In 1917, a young seamstress was thrilled to get admitted to one of New York City’s most renowned fashion design schools. But when Ann Cone (later Ann Lowe) arrived from Florida to register for classes, the school director told her she wasn’t welcome. “To be blunt, Mrs. Cone, we didn’t know that you were a Negro,” he said. Refusing to leave, she whispered a prayer: Please let me stay here. Please let me stay here. Seeing her persistence, the director let Ann stay, but segregated her from the whites-only classroom whose back door would be open “for you to hear.”
Undeniably talented, Ann still graduated six months early and later attracted high-society clients including former first lady of the US Jacqueline Kennedy, whose world-famous wedding gown she designed. She made the gown twice, seeking God’s help after a pipe burst above her sewing studio, ruining the first dress.
Persistence like that is powerful, especially in prayer. In Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow, a widow pleads repeatedly for justice from a corrupt judge. At first, he refused her but “because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see she gets justice” (Luke 18:5).
With far more love and generosity, “will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?” He will, said Jesus (v. 7). As He inspires us, let’s seek to persistently pray and never give up. In His time and perfect way, God will answer.
When Bill Pinkney sailed solo around the world in 1992—taking the hard route around the perilous Great Southern Capes—he did it for a higher purpose. His voyage was to inspire and educate children. That included students at his former inner-city Chicago elementary school. His goal? To show how far they could go by studying hard and making a commitment—the word he chose in naming his boat. When Bill takes schoolkids on the water in Commitment, he says, “They’ve got that tiller in their hand and they learn about control, self-control, they learn about teamwork . . . all the basics that one needs in life to be successful.”
Pinkney’s words paint a portrait of Solomon’s wisdom. “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Proverbs 20:5). He invited others to examine their life goals. Otherwise, “it is a trap,” said Solomon, “to dedicate something rashly and only later to consider one’s vows” (v. 25).
In contrast, William Pinkney had a clear purpose that eventually inspired 30,000 students across the U.S. to learn from his journey. He became the first African American inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame. “Kids were watching,” he said. With similar purpose, let’s set our course by the deep counsel of God’s instructions to us.
As a traveling executive, Shawn Seipler wrestled with an odd question. What happens to leftover soap in hotel rooms? Thrown out as trash for landfills, millions of soap bars could instead find new life, Seipler believed. So he launched Clean the World, a recycling venture that has helped more than eight thousand hotels, cruise lines, and resorts turn millions of pounds of discarded soap into sterilized, newly molded soap bars. Sent to people in need in more than one hundred countries, the recycled soap helps prevent countless hygiene-related illnesses and deaths.
As Seipler said, “I know it sounds funny, but that little bar of soap on the counter in your hotel room can literally save a life.”
The gathering up of something used or dirty to give it new life is also one of the most loving traits of our Savior, Jesus. In that manner, after He fed a crowd of five thousand with five small barley loaves and two small fish, He still said to His disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted” (John 6:12).
In our lives, when we feel “washed up,” God sees us not as wasted lives but as His miracles. Never throwaways in His sight, we have divine potential for new kingdom work. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). What makes us new? Christ within us.
Will I make the Olympics? The college swimmer worried her speed was too slow. But when math professor Ken Ono studied her swim techniques, he saw how to improve her time by six full seconds—a substantial difference at that level of competition. Attaching sensors to the swimmer’s back, he didn’t identify major changes to improve her time. Instead, Ono identified tiny corrective actions that, if applied, could make the swimmer more efficient in the water, making the winning difference.
Small corrective actions in spiritual matters can make a big difference for us too. The prophet Zechariah taught a similar principle to a remnant of discouraged Jews struggling, along with their builder Zerubbabel, to rebuild God’s Temple after their exile. But “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” the Lord Almighty told Zerubbabel (Zechariah 4:6).
As Zechariah declared, “Who dares despise the day of small things?” (v. 10). The exiles had worried that the Temple wouldn’t match the one built during King Solomon’s reign. But just as Ono’s swimmer made the Olympics—winning a medal after surrendering to small corrections—Zerubbabel’s band of builders learned that even a small, right effort made with God’s help can bring victorious joy if our small acts glorify Him. In God, small becomes great.
“Who is this stranger?” A college student in Georgia (USA) asked that question when a fellow student texted him saying a DNA test showed they could be brothers. Separated by adoption almost twenty years earlier, the young man texted a reply in which he asked what name the other student had been given at birth. He immediately answered, “Tyler.” Replied the other, “Yes!!! You are my brother!” Recognized by his name!
Consider how a name plays a key role in the Easter story. As it unfolds, Mary Magdalene comes to Christ’s tomb, and she weeps when she finds His body missing. “Woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asks (John 20:15). She didn’t recognize Him, however, until He spoke her name, “Mary” (v. 16).
Hearing Him say it, she “cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (Which means ‘Teacher’)” (v. 16). Her reaction expresses the joy believers in Jesus feel on Easter morning, recognizing that our risen Christ conquered death for all, knowing each of us as His children. As He told Mary, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (v. 17).
In Georgia, two reunited brothers bonded by name, vowing to take “this relationship to the next level.” On Easter, we praise Jesus for already taking the utmost step to rise in sacrificial love for those He knows as His own. For you and me, indeed, He’s alive!
The young campus minister was troubled. But he looked conflicted when I dared to ask if he prays . . . for God’s direction . . . for His help. To pray, as Paul urged, without ceasing. In reply, the young man confessed, “I’m not sure I believe anymore in prayer.” He frowned. “Or believe that God is listening. Just look at the world.” That young leader was “building” a ministry in his own strength and, sadly, he was failing. Why? He was rejecting God.
Jesus, as the cornerstone of the church, has always been rejected—starting, in fact, with His own people (John 1:11). Many still reject Him today, struggling to build their lives, work, even churches on lesser foundations—their own schemes, dreams, and other unreliable ground. Yet, our good Savior alone is our strength and defense (Psalm 118:14). Indeed, “the stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (v. 22).
Set at the vital corner of our lives, He provides the only right alignment for anything His believers seek to accomplish for Him. To Him, therefore, we pray, “
The handshake spoke volumes. On a March night in 1963, two college basketball players—one Black, one White—defied the hate of segregationists and shook hands, marking the first time in Mississippi State’s history that its all-White men’s team played against an integrated team. To compete in the “Game of Change” against Loyola University Chicago in a national tournament, the Mississippi State squad avoided an injunction to stop them by using decoy players to leave their state. Loyola’s Black players, meantime, had endured racial slurs all season, getting pelted with popcorn and ice, and faced closed doors while traveling.
Yet the young men played. The Loyola Ramblers beat the Mississippi State Bulldogs 61–51, and Loyola eventually went on to win the NCAA national championship. But what really won that night? A move from hate toward love. As Jesus taught, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).
God’s instruction was a life-changing concept. To love our enemies as Christ taught, we must obey His revolutionary mandate to change. As Paul wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). But how does His new way in us defeat the old? With love. Then, in each other, we can finally see Him.