Learn to do good

March 31, 2021 | Brad Bierwagen

Editor's Note: This year’s Lenten Devotional from Presbyterians Today invites us to reflect upon the gift of Shalom, the Hebrew word for peace:
“In the Bible, shalom can be translated not only as peace, but also as tranquility, security, well-being, health, welfare, completeness, and safety.” The writer goes on to encourage, “How can we each receive this gift of shalom and, in turn, bestow it upon the world?”
On this journey, we’ve come through 33 days and 5 Sundays since Ash Wednesday, when we reflected on “we are dust and to dust we shall return.” Now we arrive at Holy Week beginning with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his death on a cross, and the joy of his resurrection. This process reminds us that in Christ, God was reconciling the world.
In the aforementioned devotional, Ivy Lopedito, Christian Brooks, and Donna Frischknecht Jackson highlight one way forward:
“As we journey through Holy Week, think of hurts, grudges, and hatred that need to be nailed to the cross and laid to rest in a tomb. Think about the healing power of reconciliation and where you have seen it in your life.”
Join us this week as we consider all these things and seek God’s presence on our journey.

About the author: Brad Bierwagen grew up at ZPC and has been a member here since 1994. His wife Karyl joined the ZPC ranks in 2018. They have two daughters, age 12 and age 9. Brad and Karyl serve as ZPC Home Group leaders. 

So often God gives us the simple path. It's clear, plainly stated, and prioritizes what is important. Simple is not easy. 

Isaiah 1:17

Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

What peace I would have if one day at my funeral they said I lived out this call. What satisfaction I would have about my life being one that was well lived; reflective of the blessings, opportunities, and love I have been given. And yet, as I think about those words, it's overwhelming.

There is so much hurt and brokenness in the world. How can I begin to know where to start helping? And once I start - just how much 'loving others' am I signing up for? How much of myself, and my ideas for my life, and my security am I willing to sacrifice? Indeed God's path is so often simple, but never easy. It's Grace, Dangerous.

The verse from Isaiah begins with 'Learn' to do good. I like this part. It means that it's a process and we're not expected to start from a place of having it all figured out. It is said that success is where preparedness meets opportunity. What have I done to prepare my heart and mind to be this servant. Have I prayed for my eyes to be opened to opportunities to help the oppressed, the orphan, the widow?

A few weeks ago during our Home Group, we were wrestling with the lessons in Mark 10:17 - about the Rich and The Kingdom of God. It was a hard message to grapple with, and yet, God was logged into the Zoom call :) and blessed our group's conversation. We prayed for opportunities to give sacrificially to others. Karyl and I left with insights and wisdom from our friends, and conviction for ourselves.

Within 3 days, our next door neighbors had a great need that was beyond any one family's love or financial support to solve. Karyl and I felt their despair in an overwhelming way, and felt hopeless and insignificant. God had been in our home group's conversation and had prepared us to be ready to support our neighbors in small ways. Far beyond any contributions we made, God continues to use the entire community in miraculous ways to move mountains for a blessed child of God.

I do not believe this was mere coincidence. Nor do I believe this family's struggle was brought into the world for the benefit of teaching me something. But I do believe that Christ is big, and mysterious, and wonderful. I do believe he honors us Learning to do good. He answers our prayers when we ask him to make the path clear of how we can live out his call to us.

During this Holy Week I think of the feelings of despair and helplessness the disciples must have felt on Good Friday. What would their path be – how could they overcome a situation so much bigger than them? And yet, Jesus worked in amazing ways, outside their understanding, to change the world and share his grace and love.

May we all trust God, and celebrate that he has saved us through sacrificial love. May we know God will provide the miracles, beyond our scope of understanding, and we just need to do the plodding, sometimes hard work of following his clear path. May we learn, by preparing our hearts and asking for opportunities to pass on this love to the Oppressed, Orphans, and Widows of the world. Shalom.


God, I know I am called to be something greater than I am today. I pray not for an easy life, one isolated from the hurts of the world. Give me shalom, joy, peace and wholeness through a life that honors you. Make clear the many opportunities around me to love my neighbors.