Christ’s compassion

He won’t break a bent stalk, and he won’t snuff out a smoldering wick, until he makes justice win. And the Gentiles will put their hope in his name. ~Matthew 12:20-21 (CEB)

Even though Jesus speaks out against all forms of hypocrisy and is not afraid to attack deception, vanity, manipulation and oppression, his heart is a gentle heart. He won’t break the crushed reed or snuff the faltering wick. He responds to people’s suffering, heals their wounds, and offers courage to the fainthearted. Jesus came to bring the good news to the poor, sight to the blind, and freedom to prisoners (Luke 4:18-19). Jesus considered others in all he says, and thus he reveals God’s immense compassion.

As a follower of Christ I am to have his compassion for the world. Jesus charged us to go out declaring the good news to everyone. (Mark 16:15) To a world that may know more about fear, harshness and misunderstandings by my gentleness I can bring hope. Jesus came into the world to give hope to the world and as his hands and feet we are charged with continuing his work to all corners of the earth. (Luke 24:47)

In my ordinary dealings this day may I remember to show Christ’s compassion to those around me. May I consider others in all I say and do remembering that I may be the only Christ others see. My actions can bring someone to Christ or it may turn them away forever. Today I want to have Christ’s gentleness.

Father in Heaven may I learn to have Your gentle heart showing your compassion to those I meet this day. Amen.

My cross to bear

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? ~Matthew 16:24-26 (CEB)

“Jesus says, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him . . . take us his cross and follow me’ (Matt 16:24). He does not say, ‘Make a cross’ or ‘Look for a cross.’ Each of us has a cross to carry. There is no need to make one or look for one. The cross we have is hard enough for us! But are we willing to take it up, to accept it as our cross?

Maybe we can’t study, maybe we are handicapped, maybe we suffer from depression, maybe we experience conflict in our families, maybe we are victims of violence or abuse. We didn’t choose any of it, but these things are our crosses. We can ignore them, reject them, refuse them or hate them. But we can also take up these crosses and follow Jesus with them.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen

There are many things that I have gone through that I would not have chosen if I had been given the choice. There are many things that I wish I had realized what the consequences would be by what I had chosen. But I have enough years behind me now to see how God can take all of my life and use it for His glory. Not even my tears are wasted. That is the choice I have now. The choice to embrace all if it. The good and the bad and follow Jesus with them.

Heavenly Father, give me the strength I need this day to take up my cross and follow Jesus where ever He leads me. Help me to accept the cross I bear as mine. Help me to embrace it all and be whole. Amen.

Ulitmate purpose

While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees confronted them. They were incensed that the apostles were teaching the people and announcing that the resurrection of the dead was happening because of Jesus. They seized Peter and John and put them in prison until the next day. (It was already evening.) Many who heard the word became believers, and their number grew to about five thousand.

The next day the leaders, elders, and legal experts gathered in Jerusalem, along with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and others from the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and asked, “By what power or in what name did you do this?”

Then Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, answered, “Leaders of the people and elders, are we being examined today because something good was done for a sick person, a good deed that healed him? If so, then you and all the people of Israel need to know that this man stands healthy before you because of the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is the stone you builders rejected; he has become the cornerstone! Salvation can be found in no one else. Throughout the whole world, no other name has been given among humans through which we must be saved.” ~Acts 4:1-12 (CEB)

“When we are hungry to experience God’s loving presence near us and believe we are searching for God, it is important to ask ourselves whether we are truly seeking God or pursuing spiritual experience. We do get lonesome for God and can feel isolated and confused. But sometimes our search is not as much for God as it is for Spiritual adventure. Perhaps we are bored. We might like to see ourselves as important spiritual persons and think a particular kind of spiritual experience is one of the criteria necessary for others to view us in this way. Perhaps we would like God to heal someone through our prayer or bring about instantaneous, major life changes in us or in someone else with whom we have been praying more as a kind of witness to our supposed godliness than as an overflowing of God’s compassion.” ~From Holy Invitations by Jeannette A. Bakke

Lord God, creator and redeemer, claim my life and my work for Your high and holy purpose. Help me to remain faithful and steadfast all day long, and when evening comes grant a peaceful rest in Your presence. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Extending God’s grace

For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; ~Romans 3:23 (CEB) Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brothers or sisters eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, Let me take the splinter out of your eye, when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brothers or sisters eye. ~Matthew 7:1-5 (CEB)

A church I drive by often posted on its sign for a few weeks, “Don’t judge others by how they sin differently”. This is a very thought provoking statement. As a human it is easy to categorize “sins” as some not so bad and others as horrible. It is human nature to say, “Well I have messed up, but at least I am not as bad as the person next to me.” Hm, makes me think of a certain Pharisee. But God’s view of things is different. In God’s eyes a sin is a sin. My little white lie is as bad as stealing. My sin of half-truths is as bad as murder. What about sins of omission? In God’s eyes I am not any better than anyone else who sins. This is very humbling.

So what am I to do with this knowledge? Am I to feel worse about myself? No I think I need to take this knowledge and look at others differently. When I look at others I need to remember that we have ALL sinned. This is one of those truths from the Bible that I really struggle with. But Romans 22 tells me, “Gods righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who have faith in him. There’s no distinction.” We are all on equal ground with God. I am no worse or better than anyone else. Romans 3:24 tells, “all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus.”

It is not by my own strength that I gain my righteousness. I am thankful for the grace that God gives me everyday. I need to follow Jesus’ lead and extend grace to others. I don’t know what struggles each individual has gone through to put them where they are in life. Only God has this knowledge and the Bible tells me that God alone should judge.

Heavenly Father, give me Your heart as I walk this road with other people. My I extend the same grace that You have given me. Amen.

A vessel

We always thank God for all of you when we mention you constantly in our prayers. This is because we remember your work that comes from faith, your effort that comes from love, and your perseverance that comes from hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father. Brothers and sisters, you are loved by God, and we know that he has chosen you. We know this because our good news didn’t come to you just in speech but also with power and the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know as well as we do what kind of people we were when we were with you, which was for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord when you accepted the message that came from the Holy Spirit with joy in spite of great suffering.  As a result you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The message about the Lord rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia but in every place. The news about your faithfulness to God has spread so that we don’t even need to mention it. People tell us about what sort of welcome we had from you and how you turned to God from idols. As a result, you are serving the living and true God, and you are waiting for his Son from heaven. His Son is Jesus, who is the one he raised from the dead and who is the one who will rescue us from the coming wrath. ~Thess. 1:2-10 (CEB)

How often have I “seen” but not acted. How often have I “heard” but not responded. These are sins of omission. If I truly want to walk in the steps of Jesus I need to first realize that Jesus didn’t just feel bad for people who were suffering.

Brennan Manning in his book, Reflections for Ragamuffins says, “Every time the Gospels mention that Jesus was moved with the deepest emotions or felt sorry for people, it led to his doing something- physical or inner healing, deliverance or exorcism, feeding the hungry crowds or praying for others. The Good Samaritan was commended precisely because he acted. The priest and Levite, paragons of Jewish virtue, flunked the test because they didn’t do anything. ‘Which of these three in your opinion was neighbor to the man who fell in with the robbers?’ The answer came, ‘The one who treated him with compassion.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Then go and do the same.’”

Help me today O Lord to not only hear with Your ears or see with Your eyes, but to be the action for Your love. May I be a vessel for Your love in a hurting world. Amen.

Walking in Jesus’ steps

So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, 2 and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne. ~Heb. 12:2-2 (CEB)

“When we stand ready to suffer for our faith, we are standing where Jesus stood- and where he stands even now. He stands with one foot in heaven and the other upon earth, his hands and side scarred by nails and spear. He stands at the very heart of human history, human suffering, human death, anguish, and tragedy.

But he stands there like a rock! He stands there having endured everything- every human suffering in thought and body. And he says to us, ‘This is where you must stand, not in a dreamland of faith that deceives you into thinking you can float into heaven on a billowy cloud. No, if ever you are to enter heaven, you will do so at the cost of serving God at the vortex of human suffering and tragedy, and your only earthly reward will be that people curse you for it.’

In offering this to you, Jesus is merely suggesting what he already has endured. Saint Paul points to this truth when he suggests that we ‘run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Heb. 12:1-2)

So it is! If we follow Jesus closely enough we may experience all that he endured. Do you remember the poignant question that he put to his disciples, ‘Are you prepared to drink of the cup from which I shall drink?’ ‘Yes,’ the giddy disciples responded. And so they did.

This must be our answer also. Then when suffering and sacrifice are required of us, we must respond like Isaiah. ‘Whom shall I send?’ inquired the Lord, ‘Here!’ called Isaiah, ‘Here I am, send me.’ Like a sheep among wolves. Like the Son of God among broken humanity, send me, O Lord, send me! ~Norman Shawchuck

Help me this day O Lord to discern what race is marked out before me. Give me the strength to fulfill my promise to go out into this world for You. Surround me with Your peace and power all day long and help me to find rest at the end of this day. Amen.