Tuesday, June 30, 2009

THE COMPASS OF COMPASSION

In November, 1975, 75 convicts started digging a secret tunnel designed to bring them up at the other side of the wall of Saltillo Prison in northern Mexico. On April 18, 1976, guided by pure genius, they tunneled up into the nearby courtroom in which many of them had been sentenced. The surprised judges returned all 75 to jail.[i]

These were men who knew where they wanted to go, but did not have the collective wisdom to get there.

Sometimes people journey alone believing that they can do it better themselves without the interference or chaos of involving others.

A man on a flight across America in 1976 rose from his seat, drew a gun and took the stewardess hostage. "Take me to Detroit," he said. "We're already going to Detroit," she replied. "Oh...good," he said and sat down again.

Think about your relationship with Christ and others. Are you following the crowd at church hoping that everyone will end up in the right place? Or do you journey alone with Christ hoping that your independence will keep you from getting lost?

We are called to follow Jesus and we are also sent out into the world by Him. How do we know if we are still traveling on the right road?

God gives us a compass to point us back to Jesus. The true north of God’s Love is a dependable marker for our journey.

Matt 9:35-38

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

NIV

Jesus was directed by compassion. It is a compass that we can use to find our way as well.

You know that feeling you get in your stomach when you are going down the first drop of a roller coaster? It’s the same feeling when you hear horrible news. Your stomach feels like it has just been kicked in. The New Testament has a Greek word for that feeling; it is “Splanchna.” It literally means bowels or guts, but it is translated “Compassion.”

The only person that this word is associated with in scripture is Jesus. It says that Jesus felt this way when He encountered the sick (Mt 14:14), the blind (Mt 20:34), the demon possessed (Mk 9:22), those who lost loved ones (Luke 7:13), the hungry (Mt 15:32) the lonely (Mk 1:41) and the bewildered (Mt 9:36).

God wants to develop Christ’s mind in us.
That means that we can think and feel in ways that are unique to God. Compassion is a ‘God’ feeling that the Holy Spirit can grow in us.





[i] Campus Life, September 1980

Saturday, June 27, 2009

ABRAHAM THE PROTOTYPE FATHER

Hearing Jesus’ story about the rich man and Lazarus gives us an obvious choice.


Live like the rich man and pay the extreme price. Turn your heart towards those who need you and love them. Feed them, clothe them, and include them. They are your equal and God has equipped you to answer some of their prayers.


We may be inclined to view ourselves as the beggar and point fingers at others who are filthy rich. We tend to be wired that way, much like the Pharisees.


There is another perspective for us to consider. The real human picture of what it means to be a father is found in Abraham. While he had some blatantly, obvious faults GOD chose this man to be the father of nations.

Genesis 12:

1 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.

2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.

3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."


What was it that made Abraham the prototype father?

1. OBEDIENCE

Even before raising a family, Abraham was open to GOD. When asked to begin a new life journey into the unknown, he accepted the challenge. He left the familiar behind. Out of the safe and comfortable world he grew up in to follow a voice into the wilderness.


Great men are marked by a sacrificial willingness to journey with GOD.


Even when GOD asked him to sacrifice the promised son Isaac, Abraham kept trusting and obeying. Obedience will take you to extreme testing at times.


Abraham was pre-determined to obey GOD at any cost.

2. FAITH

His faith in GOD was actually the impetus for obedience.


GOD told Abraham that he would be a father to nations. He would have more descendants than he could count. His influence would go on forever.


For decades, this promise kept Abraham moving forward without bearing one single child. When faced with this inadequacy, he turned to GOD.

Genesis 15:

2 But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3 And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir."

4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." 5 He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."

6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.


Abraham’s obedience and righteousness was not always consistent. But his faith mattered more to GOD. Because of his Abraham’s willingness to believe, GOD accepted him. Imperfect people are acceptable to GOD when real faith is present. This old man trusted GOD when faced with his own inadequacy to make something happen.


He believed in something not yet realized.


The promise of GOD is still being fulfilled for Abraham. There are many being gathered to his side. The father of faith lives to see the promise fulfilled through his descendant Jesus.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

TWO KINDS OF MEN

Jesus' story about the deaths of the rich man and Lazarus is best understood as an 'example story'. Here are examples of how God shows justice and mercy.

Rich Man

The rich man was preoccupied with his own comfort and respectability. He demonstrated by his diet, his real estate, his image and his religion that he was a consumer at heart. He lived the good life without a heart for others.


He knew the beggar by name and passed him each day at the gate. But he offered nothing father-like to the child of Israel named Lazarus. No inclusion, no food, no healthcare and certainly no love. Even in hell he saw the little man as being useful to serve his thirst or go as a messenger to the brothers.


There was nothing in the rich man that saw the beggar as his equal. Neither in life nor in the after-life.


GOD saw to it that his death led to an awakening in Hades. The lifetime achievement was a state of torment for not having embraced the heart of GOD. He wasted his earth life on himself with no thought for the eternal purposes of GOD.


As fathers (earthly or spiritual), this condition of heart is cursed. God wants to change this heart in a man to make him focused on serving and loving the children.


A heart of justice and mercy compels a man to consider how he may lighten the burdens of others.

Lazarus The Beggar

There are many men who feel inadequate and incapable. Personal pain and difficulties have a crippling effect especially when comparing to the ‘rich men’ who have it all.


The beggar was lonely. His best friends were sore-licking dogs and intense hunger.


And yet, something of his faith mattered to GOD. His unjust treatment in life was met in the after-life with comfort and nobility.


When we suffer in this life, let’s remember that GOD’s love will carry us and we will not be forgotten by Him. In fact, the angels of GOD came and carried Lazarus to Paradise.


Every man that feels damaged and inadequate can experience the love and promise of Father GOD. It won’t always be this way. Every suffering can come to an end. Turn your heart towards GOD even when earthly fathers pay no attention to you.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

SECOND LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND POOR


There is a parent/child interface for God's blessing.


In the Jewish psyche godly ancestors were a reference point. Blessing originated from their obedience and faith. It was an honour to be identified as a descendant of godly fathers.


One day Jesus was engaged in teaching some Pharisees and his own disciples. He was giving a hot speech about the love of money and its juxtaposition to the value of GOD’s Kingdom. The Pharisees loved money and sneered at his views, so he told them a story about three men—Father Abraham, an unnamed rich man and a beggar named Lazarus.

Luke 16:

19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

25 "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

27 "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

29 "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'

30 " 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'

31 "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "

Jesus appealed to the Pharisees view of being the true sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The rich man possessed their attributes. He was wealthy, well-dressed and referenced Abraham as ‘father’.


On the other hand, Lazarus had none of the privileges or assumptions of the rich man. He lived an extremely difficult life of poverty and suffering.


In a religious culture that concerned itself with being identified as God’s right hand men, the thought of an unclean beggar being important did not make any sense.

"Abraham's bosom" was an expression in the oral traditions of the Jewish Rabbi's for the state of bliss after death. The phrase "to be in one's bosom" applies to the person who so reclines at the table that his head is brought almost into the bosom of the one sitting next above him. To be in Abraham's bosom signified to occupy the seat next to Abraham. [i]

In the story of these three men, there are some teaching points on fatherhood. We don’t read that the rich man or the beggar had children, but they represent a certain kind of man. We will look at that next.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

FATHERS - THE INTERFACE OF BLESSING

“The test results reveal that you are going to be a father.”


Are there any other words that can grip a man’s heart like these? From the dawn of man, the news has been repeated billions of times. You are going to be a father.


For those who have included it as part of their life dream, there is a mix of joy, anticipation and a sense of arriving at destiny. When the children enter our lives we are struck with the complexity and challenge of what it means to be a father.


Our GOD defines Himself as ‘Father’. The essence of fatherhood is found in the father of fathers.


Abba. Dear Daddy.


On earth there are spiritual fathers as well.


Donald Robert Rogers is my dad. I received biological life and a cultural context from him. I was born into his family. My earthly life was shaped by his hands.


But wait... there’s much, much more.


His walk with God became a path for young feet to follow. His values and his love established in me a desire to walk with His GOD. I would dare say that my earliest impressions of GOD were reflected in who my earthly father was.


That is a frightening prospect – fathers are signposts to the nature of GOD.


Human fathers make many mistakes. Some pass the biological test by impregnating a woman but run away from donning the mantle of goodness they are intended to wear. A man’s worst critic may be his children. His best critic may be himself.


When people walk with GOD it affects their future. This is conversely true when people walk away from GOD. Everyone’s great-grandfather has affected them, even if they never knew the man.


The prophet Malachi spoke to GOD’s people about their future.

Malachi 4:

5 "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse."

The future hangs on what happens in your heart. Fathers are intended to focus on their children. The children are to be blessed by the fathers. A child who walks with GOD will grow to love their earthly dad.


There is a parent/child interface for God's blessing.


The child of a tyrant may have to search hard for grounds on which to honor dad, but GOD’s parentage supersedes. He is father to the fatherless. He sends mentors to be spiritual dads when the father’s love is missing in your life.


Sometimes honoring your father is simply to be grateful that they gave you life. Tragic upbringing can be appreciated when you find something (anything) noteworthy to attribute to your father. The child of GOD mines the rock bed deeply looking for something of worth and value.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

SPIRITUAL 911

James 5:

13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Asking For Help

In the same way that Peter and company asked Jesus to help with his mother-in-law, we should ask Jesus to help in our household.


James said that the one suffering should call the elders of the church. God uses those placed in charge to accomplish His purposes. God can and does heal people who do not have a church to go to, but here we see James acknowledging the place of mature leadership.


Some call this spiritual covering, meaning that those who lead provide an environment of care in which people can thrive. When we recognize those in authority placed over us, we recognize God’s goodness expressed through human agency. We validate the high value God places on humanity when we submit to good leadership.


Calling the elders of the church for help implies that you are trusting God to use these people as agents of goodness in your life. It implies that you will respect their wisdom and thoughts to aid you in your spiritual formation and well-being.

Anointing With Oil

The elders used anointing oil when they prayed for the sick. Throughout sacred history, oil was always used symbolically to mark a person or item for God’s purposes. A new king or leader in Israel would be anointed with oil.


Sacred spaces and items would be anointed with oil.


To anoint a sick person with oil is to symbolically acknowledge them as being sacred to God.


Perhaps it also marks their suffering as a vehicle for God’s purposes to be formed. The Puritans were a religious movement who spoke of ‘sanctified suffering’. They saw sickness and hardship as one of the means by which God could transform their hearts.

Prayer And Wellness

When a sick person and/or the people praying express deep trust in God, there is always a wellness that comes. The desirable healing is asked for, but with enough trust that God will provide help and grace in all circumstances.


When a healing does not happen, the prayer still has effect. The impartation of love when people of good character pray is never a waste of time. Hearts are bound together when an open environment of acceptance and vulnerability is formed.


It is part of the gospel imperative for us to carry one another’s burdens. Asking for prayer is a good action.


The sick get well because the Lord raises them up and not because of human well-wishing or mind over matter. Good prayer opens doors for God to come and heal.

Sin & Sickness

There are some cases when a person’s illness will be related to sin in their life. The sick person is most likely to know if this is the case. They have the initiative to confess their faults to the elders.


We should not assume the presence of sickness to indicate a lack of faith or deliberate sin in a person’s life. But if they are conscious of faults, confessing will purify their prayers and establish accountability with the elders. Confession can result in physical healing.


While original sin brought sickness and death to the world, the Kingdom of God is advancing to declare victory over that which is set against us. Every time Jesus heals, we are given a fresh glimpse into the world without end. We are reminded of God’s loving nature and His restorative values.


No-one should ever decline from prayer thinking that someone else needs it more. Humility includes the acceptance that I need help as much as the next guy.



Blog Archive