Category Archives: compassion

Steadfast

You had to bang on the pipes if you wanted hot water at certain times of the day in our first apartment​  Outrageous, since we paid all of $40 a month for this 5 flight walk-up. But it was frustrating because it seemed the flow of water was always interrupted at the most inconvenient times.

Psalm 103 says that God’s love and mercy are steadfast.  Think about that word. When you desperately need to experience love, it can come from no greater source than Almighty God.  And steadfast means, no matter what is going on in your life, you don’t need to bang on the pipes.

Here is a sample:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.  As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.  (Psalm 103:11-13)

Condemned to Hell?

“Yes, I do!”

That is what Russell Vought should have answered.  But, he can be excused for trying to deflect the question, because it was outrageous and unconstitutional.  Bernie Sanders, asked the nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget if he believed non-Christians are condemned to Hell. When Vought replied that, as a Christian, he believed Jesus was central to salvation, Bernie said he therefore was unfit for the office, that he was “not someone this country was supposed to be about.”

Leaving aside the issue that the Constitution forbids such a religious test as a qualification for office, and the question of whether he would have asked a similar question of a Muslim, it is troubling that Sanders implied Christians would discriminate against those who are so condemned.  We are called, instead, to love, serve, sacrifice and possibly die for them.  Perhaps Bernie has seen the John 3:16 signs behind the goal posts, but he obviously has no understanding of the heart of Jesus, revealed in what He said.

Here are Jesus’ own words:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.   (John 3:16-18)

Jesus stood before a government official who grilled Him about His fitness – not to serve in government but to live.  In that setting, Jesus said this:

For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the worldto bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”  (John 18:37)

Do you believe Jesus spoke the truth?  Bernie won’t be the last person to misunderstand or accuse.  How would you answer?

Better Words

Ready, Fire, Aim!  Way too often, that’s how my mouth works.  Before I know it, I’ve blurted out something stupid.  Or hurtful.  Just this morning a good friend told me about how I had thoughtlessly hurt his feelings.  I had thought what I’d said was funny.  He felt wounded.  How I wish I had paid more attention to the wisdom of this proverb:

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.  (Proverbs 12:18)

The dictionary says “rash” means acting without forethought or due caution.  That nails it – right between my eyes.  Imagine how differently I’d be feeling if my friend had said, “Your words seemed to heal my heart.”  Instead of trying to find funny words, I’m going to work on finding words that heal, build up or strengthen others.

It’s not that I want to lay my struggles on you.  But, maybe you know someone like me, who could use to pay closer attention to that proverb or to this similar thought from the New Testament:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  (Note: – The original word for “unwholesome” doesn’t mean cussing.  It means something that causes rotting to occur!)  (Ephesians 4:29 – my added note)

So here’s my goal: Ready, Aim, Speak!

Weaker Equals

Women are weaker than men.  I know, you’re not supposed to say that out loud and I realize there are some women stronger than some men.  But in general, women are weaker.  If you don’t realize women have certain differences in how they have been designed, you have not been paying sufficient attention.   BUT…  weaker does not mean lesser.  That’s why Peter writes:

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.  (1 Peter 3:7)

Instead of belittling a wife who is weaker, a husband is to treat her with understanding and honor.  Understanding because she may not be able to lift that end of the sofa.  Honor, because she is not lesser in her weaker make up.  I own a guitar and a case for it.  The case is stronger than the guitar and is used to protect it.  When I play music, I have discovered that the case doesn’t sound as good as the guitar.  The guitar makes beautiful music precisely because it was designed to be weaker.  Weaker is not lesser.

Moreover, Peter reminds husbands that their wives are equals.  They are heirs of God’s grace, just as their husbands are.  Weaker is not lesser, it’s just different.  Different but equal.

But, what’s all this about mistreating a wife hindering prayers?  When we pray to God, we ask Him to treat us in ways we do not deserve.  We cannot ask God for grace while at the same time failing to treat our wives with the honor and respect they do deserve.  They may be weaker, but they are equal.

PS – Having witnessed the delivery of my children, I have seen that women are stronger than men in some amazing and necessary ways!

Just sayin’….

The Tough Part

As the flood waters continue to rise, he clings desperately to a rock, panic-stricken at the surging torrent.  It’s not a familiar feeling, as he’d always been an “I can do this myself” kind of guy.  Just before he’s about to be swept away, a rescue helicopter appears.  A cable and harness is dropped.  This scene and many like it play out across the country in countless different ways.  What they all have in common is what has to happen next:  the guy has to stop trying to help himself and submit to the instructions of the rescue team.  Like this:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  (1 Peter 5:6)

Rescue workers can tell you that getting people to stop freaking out and start obeying their instructions is frequently the toughest part of the procedure.  When we are panicked, it becomes very frightening to relinquish control, very hard to trust someone else.  Knowing that, Peter continued with this next verse, currently my favorite:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Four simple words.  Astonishing message.  The Creator of the universe, the Ancient of Days, not only knows you but cares.  He cares for you.  Peter learned this after having abandoned and disowned Jesus.  He was humbled and crushed to discover later, “He (still) cares for me.”  It matters to God what happens to you.  His rescue has already been mounted.  The cable has been dropped.  Jesus is ready to give you the harness, so the Father can lift you up.  Listen to Him.  He cares for you.

For Men Only

File this under “Things I Wish I Had Known.”  I wish I had understood what this meant when I was first married:

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  (Ephesians 5:25-28)

I’ve heard sermons on how Jesus “gave Himself up for” the church and how husbands should adopt that attitude, but never one that continues on to explain how the “to make her holy, cleansing her…” and “…to present her to Himself …  holy and blameless” pertains to marriage.  What’s that all about?  I wish I had someone sit me down as a young man and explain all that in an understandable way.

Let’s start with this:  When you hire a babysitter, your deepest hope is that he or she will take care of your child with all the love and care you would.  You entrust your child into the sitter’s care.  When you enter into marriage, God entrusts you with the love and care of His precious daughter.  And she has been brought up in a world that is awash in distorted ideas about what it means to be a woman.  Even if she is not one of the one-in-seven girls who is sexually abused as a child, she has been bombarded with destructive lies about what makes a woman attractive and valuable.   Part of a husband’s role and responsibility is to treat his wife with honor and respect, protecting her and gently cleansing away those twisted attitudes.  To do so involves some “giving himself up.”  But the end result is marriage with a real woman, who knows her full value, instead of one who desperately tries to measure up to unrealistic “performance” standards.

As we eventually discovered, the payoff is worth it.

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  (Ephesians 5:28)

 

Not so Fast

The folks were fasting but God was not impressed.  Why not?  They really were making themselves hungry, really were going without for a time.  But God belittled their efforts.  In effect, He said, “You call that a fast?  Are you kidding?  That’s not fasting, not even close.”   Check it out for yourself: it’s in the 58th chapter of Isaiah.  But here is the nub of it:

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  (Isaiah 58:5-7)