When Compassion Becomes A Verb

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Judges 2:18For the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Webster says that compassion is a noun and defines it as the sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk, however, asserts that “compassion is a verb.”  As such, it is not merely a desire to alleviate another’s distress (“those who are oppressed and afflicted“), but actually taking action to do what we can to alleviate it.

But God demonstrates his own love [compassion] for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8, NIV 1984)  This was the ultimate expression of compassion.

My Advice – Let’s do what we can to “pay it forward.”  While it is a rare event when someone is called upon to give their life for another, each one of us encounter numerous opportunities everyday to lighten the burden of someone else.  When we ignore these opportunities, compassion remains a mere noun.  We need to make it a verb by taking action. “As long as you are standing, give a hand [verb] to those who have fallen.” ― Persian Proverb

 

 

Shadows of Fear

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Joshua 1:9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified: do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (NIV 1978)

My Musings – We are afraid of many things, most of which are misplaced.  We are told elsewhere (Luke 12:4-5) to not fear those who can only kill the body and do no more.  Rather we are to fear Him (the Righteous Judge), who after our deaths, can condemn us to hell.  Perhaps this is another reason that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom?

But if we have a right relationship with the Father (through the Son), we need not be terrified of or discouraged by anything.  For when we are in a relationship with Him, nothing (neither life nor death) can ever separate us  from Him.  And to be absent from the body (physical death) is to be present (spiritual life) with the Lord.

My Advice – Don’t be a pussy cat.  Be a Lion.  Be strong and courageous.  After all, aren’t we related to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah?

It’s For Your Own Good

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Deuteronomy 10:12, 13And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? (NIV 1978)

My Musings – “This is for your own good.”  Ever have someone say that to you?  Maybe your parent when you were growing up?  Ever wonder why?  Did you believe them at the time?

  • Ever Wonder Why? – Perhaps it was because we were too young and immature to know what was best for ourselves.  But if you were like me, you probably felt that you did know what was best, when in reality it was what we wanted, which wasn’t always what was best.
  • Did You Believe Them? – Probably not.  Because we have a tendency to think that we know what is best.  But we should have believed them, because if your parents were like mine, they always did want what was best for me.  And they were wise enough to know that often what I wanted was not what was best.  In the end, it was for my own good.

Back to the verse.  It might seem strange to be told to both fear God and love Him in the same sentence.  Yet, getting back to when we were young, those were two of the basic emotions we had for our parents.  We loved them, yet we feared them.  But this was a healthy fear, for we knew we had nothing to fear from them if we did right.

And how do we do right? Not simply by observing what we are told (doing what is right).  We’ve all done that too haven’t we?  “I’ll do it, but I won’t like it.”  What kind of obedience is that?  True obedience is going “all in.”

  • Walking – Not just walking in His ways, but “in all His ways.” We don’t pick and choose the ways that are convenient or that require little effort or sacrifice.
  • Serving – Not just serving God, but “with all your heart and with all your soul.”  For even if we were to walk “in all His ways” it means little if our heart and soul are not in it, or if they are only in it half-heartedly.

Now these admonitions were given specifically to Israel (His chosen people).  How do they apply to us today (His Church)?  Certainly not as a means of achieving salvation.  For we know that we could never live up to it.  But as a means of growing in Christ once having achieved salvation (“by grace through faith).”

As children, we did not grow up over night.  It took time.  And as we grew, something strange happened.  We found ourselves no longer having to do what our parents said, because we were all grown up.  But still doing the things that once upon a time they told us we should do (or not do).  Because we had grown, and now knew that is was for our own good after all.  And we did it.  Not out of fear, because our fear had grown into respect.

My Advice – Fear (respect), walk (all in), love (because He first loved us), serve (heart and soul, not reluctantly or under compulsion), and observe (because it is the right thing to do and it demonstrates all the other things).  Because it is, after all, “for your own good.

Turn His Face

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Numbers 6:24-26 – “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.”  (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Think about this for a moment.  God.  The Creator. Eternally existent. All powerful. Glory so magnificent and awesome that no one in the flesh can gaze upon Him and live. He needs nothing that we could possibly give Him, yet He longs for us.  A longing so deep that He sent His only Son to dies for us.  He turns His face towards us and shines upon us.  He graciously redeems us, who otherwise are unredeemable. He blesses us, who otherwise deserve a curse.  He will never grow tired of us, but will keep us close to Himself for all eternity to come.

My Advice – Be a peace in these thoughts.

 

Walk This Way

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Leviticus 26:12 – “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people.” (Leviticus 26:12)

My Musings – This verse must be read in context.  There is a condition that precedes it:  “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands.”  There follows an impressive list of blessings capped off by this awesome promise in verse 12 above.  Of course, conditions always beg the question, what if the conditions are violated?  Following the blessings are a long list of consequences, which are often overlooked, because the conditions are often overlooked.  The word “if” should always give us pause.  This is the immediate context.

But the overriding context is that this is a promise to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament.  They were under the Law.  Thankfully, we are under grace and don’t have to worry about obedience (ugh, legalism!).  Or do we?  While it is abundantly clear that “it is by grace that [we] have been saved, through faith . . . not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9),” and many can readily quote this, we tend to overlook (and are unable to quote) verse 10:  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Consider also want James says in the second chapter of his Epistle:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

This is not a salvation of faith plus works theology, but rather a recognition that true saving faith results in a life that is transformed, and the transformation is evidenced by good works (and avoiding a sinful lifestyle).  A lack of good works (and a habitually sinful lifestyle) is likely evidence of a life that has not been transformed and calls into question whether there really was saving faith in the first place.  Of course, we must be careful here.  While salvation (justification) is a one time event initiated by grace through faith, transformation (sanctification) is a lifelong process.  People mature in the faith at varying paces, with many ups and downs.

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We are all used to people making claims. Politicians make claims about what they will do if they are elected. Advertisers make claims about the benefits of the product they are pitching. Suiters make claims about how much they love the person they are wooing. None of these claims are worth anything unless they are backed up by action. A politician risks not being reelected if they do not follow through with their campaign promises. Inventory will cease to move off store shelves if the product does not live up to the advertiser’s claims. Lovers grow apart when promised affections are not delivered.

So it is with our faith. A faith that transforms is a faith that performs. Faith inaction becomes a faith in action. Doing the least for the Kingdom becomes doing for even the least in the Kingdom. So how are things with you? Is your faith alive or dead? Is your “work produced by faith?” Is your “labor prompted by love?” Is your “endurance inspired by hope?” Are you seeking to do the “good works, which God prepared in advance for [you] to do?”

My Advice – So back to the verse in Leviticus.  If we expect God to “walk” with us, we need to be walking in the same direction.

 

 

When Awesome Is An Understatement

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Exodus 15:11Who is like you – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? (NIV 1978)

My Musings – Often, we skim through a passage without taking the time to “focus on the Logos.”

  • Who is like you? – This is a rhetorical question: a literary device used when the answer is self-evident, no answer is expected, or to emphasize a point.
  • Majestic – Royal bearing or aspect, grandeur, greatness or splendor of quality or character.
  • Holiness – Morally and spiritually excellent.
  • Awesome – Amazing, astonishing, astounding, eye-opening, fabulous, marvelous, miraculous, staggering, stunning, stupendous, surprising, wonderful, wondrous.
  • Glory – Something (someone) that secures praise, renown, splendor, magnificence, and grandeur.
  • Working – To perform or carry out a task requiring sustained effort or continuous repeated operations, according to a plan or design, in  order to produce a desired effect or result.
  • Wonders – A cause of astonishment or admiration far beyond anything previously known or anticipated.

Impressed yet (another rhetorical question)?  If not consider this:

  • Job 25:14And these are but the outer fringe of His works; how faint the whisper we hear of Him! (NIV 1978)

No wonder no one in their flesh, can look upon His face and live.

My Advice – Whenever we find ourselves taking God for granted, doubting Him, being critical of Him, dismissing Him, or anything short of total unreserved worhship of Him, we should fall facedown and ask forgiveness.

And yet, at the same time, because of the sacrifice of His Son, we can nevertheless boldly approach the Throne of Grace.  How “awesome” is that (final rhetorical question)?

 

What Might Have Been Is Possible Again

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Genesis 1:1, 31In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. (NIV 1978)

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.” – John Greenleaf Whittier

“Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” –  Robert Kennedy

“But what would have been the good?” Aslan said nothing. “You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right – somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?” “To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.” “Oh dear,” said Lucy. “But anyone can find out what will happen,” said Aslan. “If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me – what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.” ― C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

My Musings – “And it was very good.”  That is what God saw then.  What does He see now?  Certainly not the goodness of His original design.  We can look at the ways things are now, and wonder what might have been had Adam and Eve not fallen.  This is not a dream of things that never were, but what could have been.  Why not?  Because of man’s sin.  “Of all the sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, “It still would be good if man had not sinned?”

We are not told what would have happened.  But as Aslan is quoted, “anyone can find out what will happen.”  It is written in the rest of the Book.  There is only one way of finding out  – by following Jesus.  He is the only way.

My Advice – Do not question what might have been. Do not despair about how things have become.  Set your hope on what can yet be, by putting your faith is Jesus.