Praise God for His Kindness and Goodness

I need to praise our God this morning. The Lord has been so incredibly kind and good to me this Advent season. I’ve been struggling mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and even some physically the past few weeks.

Many of you may know that I work for a homeless outreach ministry here in Big D. The long and short of it is that it’s been a struggle recently to love some of the people we serve and minister too in the way that I believe Christ has called us to love them.

The Great Commandment

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:34-40 (English Standard Version)

A period of deep reflection, Advent is a time of preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Messiah and a time of anticipation as Christian believers look forward to the return of of Christ.

Advent is season of preparation and anticipation that focuses on the source of love, joy, hope, and peace, both individually and collectively. Through an exploration of our faith, we find a God who is profoundly personal and who desires a relationship with us, His crown of creation.

God is the source of love, joy, hope, and peace imbedded in us by the Holy Spirit through the sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ. It is Christ who makes it all possible. Apart from Jesus, we would remain lost and forlorn, separated from God, our Father and devoid of the Holy Spirit. In Christ, God’s perfect creation is restored and, one day, made fully new.

“Unfulfilled and fulfilled promise are related to each other, as are dawn and sunrise. Both promise and in fact the same promise. If anywhere at all, then it is precisely in the light of the coming of Christ that faith has become Advent faith, the expectation of future revelation. But faith knows for whom and for what it is waiting. It is fulfilled faith because it lays hold on the fulfilled promise.”

Karl Barth, Swiss theologian

Through faith in Jesus, you and I are made new immediately—right now. Yes, gone are our old ways. By Christ’s righteousness, we are clothed in the newness of love, joy, hope, and peace dwelling in us through the Holy Spirit. By each passing day, we grow more and more in our Christlikeness.

So what’s been my struggle?

In some ways, I’ve felt somewhat Scrooge-like. Surely, you recall the central figure of Charles Dicken’s beloved story “The Christmas Carol” ?

In his classic novella, Dickens tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an old, miserly business man who is visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley and then the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. After these visits, Scrooge is left changed, transformed into a kinder, more loving, and gentler man.

As Dickens demonstrates through the tale of Scrooge, I believe through the Holy Spirit, God has continued His work in my heart. For the Christian, heart-work is continuous and ongoing throughout our walk with the Lord.

I’ve struggled with those among our homeless friends who appear seemingly unmovable. It’s a small percentage, but nonetheless, weather by resignation or self-determination, a few of the guests we serve aren’t interested in growing in Jesus or getting off the streets. With them, it can feel like you are banging your head against a very solid brick wall.

This tension is exasperated by the onset of inclement weather. When below freezing weather swoops into North Central Texas, our team goes into overdrive to help save lives by manning an overnight shelter. During our regular gig, we are a hub of day services and solutions. We aren’t normally in the business of providing overnight shelter. Our other community partners excel at that far more than we are equipped to do. However, in an exercise of His providence, God has put us in the driver’s seat in leading a city-wide effort to keep homeless people from dying on the streets during extremely dangerous weather conditions. It’s an effort that I’ve been tasked with helping get ready for as Winter arrives. Getting ready for Inclement Weather Service has increasingly become my focus since shortly after Halloween. Get it right, we save lives. Get it wrong—-people could die. And somewhere in that moment, I recognize that we would not be here were it not for the unmovable few. And there’s the rub. There’s the tension. And, the disappointment in myself. Amid the rush of preparing a plan I pray we don’t have to execute, it’s a humbling moment.

Rainer Bantau
The Devotional Guy™

Jesus Feeds the 5,000

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.

Matthew 14:13-21 (English Standard Version)
#NobodysaidfollowingJesuswaseasy

Finally, after a lot of prayer, preparation, and consternation the light came on. I remember why I’m doing this. I recall what it is God has called me to do. I embrace the challenge of the ministry work the Lord has tasked me to do.

In His love, God has been kind and good to me. He worked with me. I know that He is for me, just as the Lord is for you, my friend.

As we approach Christmas Day, may you feel the love and goodness of God. May His kindness overwhelm you. May His grace redeem you. May His steadfastness restore you.

There you have it—-a glimpse into my daily walk with the Lord. It isn’t always easy. Nothing worthwhile rarely is. But, as long as the Lord is willing, I am going to continue showing up.

#WhoAmI?

Inclement weather is a type of public safety emergency. For some, it will mean the difference between life and death. Our team is determined to represent Christ by loving our neighbors with excellence. We are committed to doing what we can to keep people from dying out in the cold on the streets of Dallas.

Please pray for our team and for the multitude of people and partners involved in keeping people alive. The frigidly cold weather is expected to blow in sometime Thursday and linger at least through Christmas Eve, if not Christmas Day. That means people will be away from their families and loved ones during a season focused on togetherness.


My advent into homeless ministry began back in 2011 as I became the leader of our home church’s outreach ministry to the homeless by providing chapel services to the residents at the Union Gospel Mission. The other day, an instrumental part of that ministry went home to be with Jesus.

Ed Czarnecki was a bolt of joy and humor, an excellent musician, violinist, and choir director. More than that, he had a remarkable love for God, family, and country (and for the NY Yankees and NY Giants).

It was a supreme honor to serve alongside him for over a decade. He will undoubtedly missed here on Earth by many, including me. But, I can’t even imagine the massive grin that is on his face as he reunites with his beloved family that went onward before him, including his son-in-law Mark.

If there was an opportunity to participate in worship, you could count on Ed to be there. And now he is in Heaven experiencing 24/7 worship in the presence of his beloved Lord and Savior, Jesus. Merry Christmas, brother. Merry Christmas, indeed!

Bill Bailey, yours truly, and Ed Czarnecki

May the Lord go with you wherever you go. May peace follow you always. Stay confident that the Lord who called you also equipped you. 

Praise God for His kindness and goodness.

Blessings,

Rainer Bantau
The Devotional Guy™

#bgbg2#BibleGateway#Advent

9 Comments

  1. Amen, brother. Thank you for giving us a day in the life of Rainer. 🙏May our Heavenly Father give you the strength to serve the homeless—even the difficult few.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s my challenge. Remaining faithful to do what I am able, without trying to be the Holy Spirit. It is not my job to convict people. It is my job to show love and care, regardless of what the other person chooses. It is so hard! But God reminds me and gives me strength every day to stand firm. I pray the same for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Agreed. It’s helpful to remind ourselves of our roles and responsibilities. I was actually working on a document related to inclement weather operations regarding that…
    Thank you for your encouragement and for stopping by to read my post.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Happy to do so brother!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your heart buddy. Seriously!!!

    I replied a few moments ago elsewhere, with what I’ll reply here too.

    God isn’t after picture perfect people, but messily joyous people.

    You’re wonderfully the latter as you enter the world of those who God puts in front of you. You know you need Jesus too and that’s what makes you a brother I highly respect.

    I’ll share this too, from last night’s carol service (it’s a true story!)

    A hospital chaplian got sweared at everytime he passed by one particular bed – always obstinate cruelty towards him.

    One day that cruelty was paused, and the bed ridden man asked a question behind the meaning of the dog collar of the chaplian, and what was prayer about.

    The ensuing conversation led to that bed ridden man praying (the chaplian told him to pretend Jesus was sitting in the chair next to his bed, and just to speak out how he felt)

    A few days later that man died. But the nurse found him like this:
    He had pulled the chair towards him and, while still lying on his bed, was hugging the chair and looking right at it.

    In the days before he’d suddenly become energised and joyful.

    We don’t know the difference we can make. We rarely get to see it. But MY WORD what a difference we can make.

    May the Lord bless you Rainer – as He continues to use your serving the homeless to both show His love to them, and His love to you too 😊

    Andy B

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for this, Andy. Beautiful anecdote! Thanks for sharing it. At our place we joke that getting sweared at is just a sign of affection and a part of our morning ritual.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We’ll, they’ve certainly noticed you, whatever the language 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Amen, amen. Indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.