Posts Tagged With: compassion

Revelation 1: The King is in Your Midst

Jesus figures significantly in this first chapter of Revelation.  There should be no wonder; this is the “revelation of Jesus Christ” as verse one tells us.

John greets the seven churches of Asia Minor with a grand praise of Jesus, their common Savior:

Jesus the Messiah, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. (1:5)

Now, stop for a moment.  Think how provocative that flourish of praise is.  John is ascribing a power to Jesus that is equal or even surpasses the Caesar.  Is this god of the Christians more powerful than the Caesar who rules all other regional kings of the Mediterranean?  What a dangerous way to start a book to people persecuted for their seditious beliefs!

Lest there be a misunderstanding, this is a different kind of king.  Yes, he has conquered kingdoms.  He holds in his hands trophies of powers that have been vanquished.

He touched me with his right hand. “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “I am the first and the last and the living one.  I was dead and look!  I am alive forever and ever.  I have the keys of death and Hades. (1:17-18)

Jesus is not a king like Caesar.  He certainly desires the hearts of those who address him as king, but he is not seeking more soil and greater riches.  He has conquered a power greater than Caesar himself.  His greatest victories are spiritual.

John not only says great things about Jesus in this chapter, he even has a vision of Jesus as well:

So I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me.  As I turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the middle of the lampstands “one like a son of man,” wearing a full-length robe and with a golden belt across his chest. (1:12-13)

As we start this book, it is important for us to note where Jesus is in this vision.  He stands in the midst of seven lampstands, which verse 20 tells us signify the seven churches to whom this book is written.  Thus, as we start this book we see Jesus standing in the midst of his suffering people.

Jesus is a mighty king but also a compassionate comforter.

What stood out to you in this chapter?

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Categories: Revelation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Titus 3: Remember From Where You Came

There is a very real threat in this whole discussion of how to stay strong in the midst of a sinful world.  People who diligently fight sin, who view their world as immoral, who do not want to become like those around them can very easily become  arrogant, judgmental escapists with superiority complexes.

Titus was living in decadent Crete, charged with strengthening young churches to the point where they could stand strong against sin, both internal and external.  Right alongside Paul’s admonition to create strong leaders, maintain a strong aversion to sin, and to foster strong character is also the reminder that we too were once a whole lot like those we are now not trying to be like at all.  Strong, moral people remember their sinful roots.  This brings a strong sense of compassion while also standing strong against cultural accommodation.

We ourselves, you see, used at one time to be foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved to various kinds of passions and leasers.  We spent our time in wickedness and jealousy.  We were despicable in ourselves, and we hated each other.  But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, he saved us, not by works that we did in righteousness, but in accordance with his own mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewal of the holy spirit, which was poured out richly upon us through Jesus, our king and savor, so that we might be justified by his grace and be made his heirs, in accordance with the hope of the life of the age to come. (3:3-7)

A desire for holiness without a humble remembrance of our sinful past only breeds haughtiness.  Grateful hearts changed by the gospel of grace reach out to a broken world with compassion and a hope for something better.

What did you learn about spiritual strength in today’s reading?   

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2 Corinthians 8: Keys to A Generous Spirit

We are now solidly in the section where Paul beseeches the Corinthians to imitate the generous giving of the Macedonians.  This is likely referring to the collection Paul was accumulating for the famine-striken Christians in Jerusalem.  Paul’s pitch rivals anything I have ever heard in any church capital campaign!

It is this line that catches my attention today:

The abundance of grace that was given to them (the Macedonians), and the depths of poverty they have endured, have overflowed in a wealth of sincere generosity on their part. (8:2)

I am wondering if these are the two most important elements to being a generous giver.

When we become truly aware of how much grace and how many gifts have been given to us by God, a grateful heart is produced. Maybe gratefulness far outweighs expendable income as a key motivator for lavish giving.  

It appears the Macedonians knew what poverty was like.  They must have had some lean years themselves.  They could relate to the plight of the Christians in Jerusalem.  Maybe empathy and compassion goes much further towards producing a generous heart than pity or an intellectual sense of responsibility.  

What do you think creates a generous spirit?

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Luke 16: Faithful in Little, Faithful in Much

“Rich Man and Lazarus, Part 1,” prettytexasgal (from Flickr)

Someone who is faithful in a small matter will also be faithful in a large one. Someone who is dishonest in a small matter will also be dishonest in a large one. If you haven’t been faithful with that wicked thing called money, who is going to entrust you with true wealth? (16:10-11)

What constitutes “faithfulness” in this passage?

I think I have always answered that question the way Dave Ramsey or Larry Burkett might want me to.  “Faithful” means managing your money in such a way that you do not lose it and maybe you even gain more.  Faithful is financial.

But then I see the word “dishonest”  in verse 10, so maybe faithful is ethical.  Being faithful with money means not cheating your employer or not selling junk bonds or something like that.

Then we keep reading on in the chapter and I am wondering if Luke doesn’t tell us himself what “faithful” means.  Luke gives us a story contrasting the life of a rich man who has “received good things” (16:25) but goes on to an eternal punishment and a poor man named Lazarus who would have settled for “scraps that fell from the rich man’s table” (16:21) but receives a blessed afterlife.  The implication is that the rich man is being punished for how he has treated or, maybe better said, neglected Lazarus.  If Luke intends for us to read these stories together, then “faithful” is social.  To be faithful means to be compassionate, to care for others, and to use the money with which God entrusts us to ensure the people in our life have what they need, not simply to serve our own interests.

Does that understanding make sense with your reading of this chapter?

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Matthew 14: The Love Revolution

His disciples came and took away the body [of John the Baptist] and buried it.  Then they went and told Jesus.

When Jesus heard it, he went away from there in a boat to a deserted spot by himself.  The crowds heard it, and followed him on foot from the towns.  When he came out and saw the large crowd, he was sorry for them.  He healed their sick. (14:12-14)

I have always been amazed by these few verses.  How did Jesus do it?

His cousin has just been murdered.  Were Jesus and John close?  Let’s imagine they were.  A murderous tyrant has just rounded up his beloved cousin simply because John was the fly in Herod’s ointment of immorality.  Surely Jesus was sad; his next action was to go off on his own to a deserted spot.  Was Jesus also wondering if he would be next?  If Herod can round up one revolutionary, couldn’t he round up another?

What is clear is that the last thing Jesus wants to do right now is minister to the masses.  He just wants to be on his own in prayer and mourning.

But the crowds won’t allow it.  They follow after him regardless, and bring their sick in need of healing.  Jesus just can’t get a break.

It is what Jesus did next that rocks my own selfish world: “He was sorry for them.  He healed their sick.”  Jesus responded with love.  Then his compassion even drove him to do one of his most famous miracles: the feeding of the 5000.  Five thousand men and their women and children too — likely a number well over 10,000 or 15,000 — went away that day filled, healthy, and amazed.

This causes a new side to this juxtaposition of stories to jump out at me.  A sad and possibly apprehensive Jesus has just found an immediate following of 5000 men.  That could make quite a riot.  Jesus could work this crowd against Herod.  If nothing else, Jesus could find protection in the midst of such a following, but maybe he could storm a palace too.  Did vengeance for John’s death ever enter Jesus’ mind?

Instead, Jesus “dismissed the crowd” (14:22) and left the area.  There will be no armed revolt today.

Let there be no mistake: Jesus was a revolutionary, but of a different kind entirely.  Jesus brought the original Love Revolution.  The way of power and blood would be overcome by the way of love.  The hunger that exists in any kingdom run by opportunistic leaders like Herod would be overcome for a day in a most abundant way.  The self-focus of the crowds would be met with love and compassion.  Love would lead to a revolution of hearts.

My wife has a mantra that I believe she learned from her mother.  When you are sad and down, get busy helping others and you will see your own sorrows lessen.

Jesus had every reason to be alone and mourn.  Still, he was willing to be inconvenienced for love.

What did you notice in this chapter?

Categories: Matthew | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Acts 3: Giving to the Needy

He [a lame man] asked them to give him some money. . . . The man stared at them, expecting to get something from them.  “I haven’t got any silver or gold,” Peter said, “but I’ll give you what I have got.  In the name of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, get up and walk!”  (3:3-6)

We have all heard it a thousand times: “Hey man, can you spare a little change?”  More often these days I get an elaborate story involving a broken down truck several miles away and how there is a need for money to “fix my truck.”

Much ink has been spilled on the topic of helping the needy.  There are many different perspectives on whether to help or how best to help.  There is no need to rehearse the arguments here.

This is what struck me in this chapter instead:

You are the children of the prophets, the children of the covenant with God established with your ancestors when he said to Abraham, “In your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (3:25)

We are the “children of the prophets” who spoke about caring for the needy almost as much as they did singular devotion to God.  We have received a legacy from Abraham that includes a calling to give to or “bless” the nations.  Well, I know, actually this was talking about the Jews.  But we have been grafted into the olive tree of Israel, haven’t we (Romans 11:16-21)?  Spiritually, we are talking about our family history too, right?  So, giving is a part of our spiritual heritage.

And give to this lame man is exactly what Peter did.  However, Peter did not give the man what he was asking for.  Instead of getting what he requested, this man receives what he needs.  Money is a small blessing compared to healing and wholeness.  Maybe he was so demoralized by his ailments that he had given up hope for anything more than pity.  Maybe it was just easier to beg for denarii.  Regardless, in line with his heritage, Peter gave.

Peter also gave in such a way that God received the credit.  Peter and John were evidently receiving honor for the miracle (3:12).  But they deflected the attention from themselves back to the “God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob — the God of our ancestors” (3:13).  They gave to the needy and God received the glory.

Lord, give us compassionate, giving hearts — to your glory!

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Mark 6: A “Deeply Sorry” Giver

“All right,” Jesus said, “it’s time for a break.  Come away, just you, and we’ll go somewhere lonely and private.” . . . When Jesus got out of the boat he saw the high crowd, and was deeply sorry for them, because they were like a flock without a shepherd.” (6:31, 34)

Well, I am afraid I wouldn’t have been feeling “deeply sorry” for those crowds if it had been me.  Maybe, resentful.  Fed up.  Used.  I think I could have mustered up one good martyr syndrome at that point.  I think I would have gotten back in the boat and rowed faster, somewhere else.

I don’t like this sort of all-consuming busyness Jesus seemed to be in the middle of.  (Okay, maybe my ego does a bit, but that is a different post).  Crowds pressing in.  More and more demands on my time.  Everybody wanting something more from me.  I plain hate it.  It turns me into a grump.  It makes me less human and humane.

And I guess the more I think about it, it makes other people less human to me too.  They become a deadline or a need to fulfill or a to-do list item.  They become work.  I don’t like to admit that, but I don’t think I am alone in this pathology.

Jesus just wants a little recuperative time with friends.  This is absolutely essential for a healthy spiritual life.  And Jesus regularly took such time.  Maybe the constant crowds are what drove Jesus to seek solitude early in the morning and late at night.

Still, he saw their needs and was filled with compassion.

In one way, Jesus’ death didn’t first happen on a cross.  It happened as he stood at the edge of Heaven just before his birth when he “emptied himself” of his glory and took “the very nature of a servant” (Phil. 2:6-7).  Death occurred in the desert with Satan as he took the hard, sacrificial, life-giving way to recognition, power, and popularity.  Death happened once more this day on the seat of a small fishing boat as they pulled into a small port hoping to find solitude only to be greeted by the hungry masses looking for a meal.  Maybe compassion will not come until we begin to die to our own wills.

Easier said than done, I know.

What situation in your life today needs a “deeply sorry” response, not exasperation?  

Categories: Mark | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Mark 3: Surely He’s Possessed

People were watching to see if Jesus would heal him [a man with a withered hand] on the sabbath, so they could frame a charge against him.  [Standing before them with the man] he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath, or to do evil?  To save life or to kill?”  They stayed quiet.  He was deeply upset at their hard-heartedness, and looked around at them angrily.  [When Jesus healed the man] the Pharisees went out right away and began to plot with the Herodians against Jesus, trying to find a way to destroy him. (3:2-6, editing mine)

Wow!  We are only three chapters into this story and the antagonists are already going for blood!  Mess with power and you will feel the pain!

“They stayed quiet.”  Of course they did.  Side with the law and condone the neglect of the maimed?  Or side with Jesus and de-value the law they held so dearly, too dearly, undermining their own power?  Catch-22.

We use silence to hide.  Inaction is an attempt to skirt the issue.  Just don’t get involved and pass by on the other side of the road.  The Pharisees knew this approach well (remember that Samaritan parable or “picture,” as Wright calls them, 3:23?).

I am convicted today by how Jesus sees a lack of compassion as “hard-heartedness.”  Even when we feel like we have some good reason for it.

What did you find yourself “chewing on” today from Mark 3?

Categories: Mark | Tags: , , , , | 13 Comments

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