Compassion

What does compassion mean to you? People often believe that it is the ability to feel sorry for others and while some believe that it is showing care for others. I’ve talked about showing grace towards each other as means of sharing the teachings of Jesus, which has been called – being compassionate. I’d suggest that the answer to what is compassion is really all of the above and may include several other aspects that I haven’t touched on. Personally, I find that compassion is best served with part humility and a big component of being genuine about the subject. I’ve had a few people in my life that, after I speak with or see them, I’m left feeling great. They have such a demeanor that you can’t help but be warmed by your interaction with them. They are kind, giving and rarely have anything negative to say.

Compassionate people bring calm, understanding and positive emotions into our lives. They teach us how to look for the good in all things and how to accept the things that we cannot change. Most of us are compassionate about homelessness, poverty, children and the sick. There is a great line in the movie “Back to School” starring Rodney Dangerfield when he’s describing a teacher he has; “He seems to care, about what I don’t know”.

What do you care about and are there things that you should be more compassionate about? Our lives go so fast that we can miss opportunities to be more compassionate about more things. Commit to being more positive and strive to be the type of person that when you leave someone, they have a warm feeling inside because you were there.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:13

God cares for and has compassion on us in all of our weaknesses. How many of us would stick with friends or family that constantly failed to meet our needs or respect what we’ve asked of them? We are weak from the original sin in our lives, yet God is compassionate towards us. Are you that compassionate with people in your life?

As a parent, I am compassionate with mistakes that my kids make, or the challenges that they present or the needs that they have. I’ve often said that the best supervisory training is parenting. God, our Father, has compassion on us too. We see His compassion most brightly in the form of a Savior sent to redeem us for all eternity. I do not fear God as the Psalmist did because of God’s compassion towards me and the grace that He gives me through His son Jesus Christ. Jesus intervened on our behalf with God and now we all can live in peace through Him. Just thinking about it gives me that warm feeling inside.

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Anxiety

I can’t watch TV news any more, I can’t read news on-line anymore and I’m starting to turn off TV shows that have too much conflict between the characters in them. It seems like everywhere I turn, there is conflict –a non-stop loop from kindergarten of: “yes you did, no I didn’t”. It’s making my nuts (or nuttier). I think it is also influencing how we speak to each other. I’ve spent the last month working in a high-pressure environment with the U.S. Army (12hr days for 25 straight days) and things can get a little testy among the team. As we were wrapping up, one of the team asked me a simple question about going home and I gave him a very sharp answer. He observed, “it has been a tense few weeks”. I had no idea of the way that I spoke. We never really understand how our words and actions affect those around us. What if your kind words were the only kind words that people hear in their lives? Would you go out of your way to speak them then?

There is a story called the blue ribbon that tells of a father who was given a blue ribbon by someone at work because they identified him as being important to them. He was then challenged to give the ribbon to someone who was important to him. He struggled to find that one person and put the ribbon in his briefcase before heading home. Once he arrived home, he found his son sitting in his room as he walked by. He returned with the ribbon and gave it to his son, explaining what had happened that day. He explained that while their relationship hadn’t always been the greatest, he wanted him to know that he was special and important to him. The son started to break down uncontrollably. When he was able, he explained that he was sitting there contemplating suicide because he thought that no one cared. Go out of your way today to speak a kind word to someone, you never know what your impact will be.

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25

There is a lot to be anxious about these days. I seem to be writing a lot about worry and anxiety but they are everywhere and can take over a person’s life. However, those strong in faith know to send those worries and fears to God in prayer. What about the other people in our lives who do not have the confidence or assurance to do that, what can we do to help them? Well placed kind words can mean a great deal to everyone we encounter.

Last week we discussed compassion and leaving people feeling good after we see them. Consider this the warm up act for compassion. When we are simply nice, generous with ourselves and offer kind words we will make a difference in people’s lives. Jesus never spoke poorly about anyone, not even those trying to persecute and kill Him. He teaches us the real meaning of compassion. Jesus was always uplifting even in the face of terrible times. If we compare our lives to His, we have it pretty easy. Share your grace and peace with others as it has been shared with you. A kind word will cheer up an anxious heart.

Worry

I want to go back to the roots of this devotional and talk a little management philosophy. I’ve never been known as a positive person. My entire career was spent planning for the worst but hoping for the best. In management, you have to be on guard for the things that will hurt you or the organization. It’s important however, to celebrate when things go right. Many managers forget to do that. They become so focused on problem avoidance or fixing problems that they fail to recognize the great things happening around them. Managers worry about things that “could” happen and miss the good things that do happen. I won’t deny that there are a lot of things to be worried about these days. I would suggest that many of us worry about things that don’t exist or things that we anticipate will happen but never do.

What troubles you? Is it something tangible or is it something that you are worrying about before it actually happens? Week after week we are inundated with terrible news stories that seem to repeat themselves – school shootings, terrorist events, climate changes, a rollercoaster economy or some horrific aspect of society. Are you getting ensnared by the negativity in the media and turning it into a personal struggle? So, what are you worried about? It’s impossible to avoid worrying so the key is learning to keep it in check. Others have suggested that worry and doubt is more of an emotional response and the best way to counteract it is through logic. Look closely at what you are worrying about and see if it is an actual or a perceived problem.

He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Luke 24:38

In this verse Jesus was speaking to His disciples when He first showed Himself to them. What if Jesus was asking you these questions? Why are you troubled and what doubts do you have? Jesus would tell you that you should be sending all of your worries to the Father. It can be argued that the emotion of worry (trouble) is a product of the devil. It is a great way to put separation between you and God because if you don’t think that God is with you in your life as a result of your feeling crushed by doubt, you will turn away from God.

Maybe you’ll rely more on yourself, maybe you’ll turn to “an escape” or maybe you’ll simply let the doubt take over and crush you. When these things happen, God is pushed away; just what the devil wants. Go back to Jesus asking you – “Why are you troubled?” He is speaking to you in this verse and wants you to stay close with God, especially in times of trouble. How will you answer Him? We’ve been taught in other verses to lift our concerns to God in prayer. Sounds like great advice.

Wisdom of Martin Luther

On one of my many flights, I was reading from a book titled “Concerning Christian Liberty” written by Martin Luther. Of course, it is a reprint but it has been an interesting read from someone who brought Christianity into everyone’s hands. His study and perspective are based on the writings of the bible; his insights are raw and his life was fascinating. Anyway, as I read this before Easter, I couldn’t help but think that his words provide another great summary of what Christianity is. Enjoy the exerpt:

“Christ was sent for no other office than that of the word… What is this word, and by what means is it to be used, since there are so many words of God? As the Apostle Paul explains: to preach Christ is to feed the soul, to justify it, to set it free, and to save it, if one believes the preaching. Martin Luther references this verse to justify his comments: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”(Romans 10:9) 

“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes”(Romans 10:4) and the just shall live by faith. For the word of God cannot be received and honored by any works, but by faith alone. Hence it is clear that as the soul needs the word alone for life and justification, so it is justified by faith alone, and not by any works. For if it could be justified by any other means, it would have no need of the word, nor consequently of faith. But this faith cannot consist at all with works; that is, if you imagine that you can be justified by those works, whatever they are, along with it.

 Therefore, when you begin to believe, you learn at the same time that all that is in you is utterly guilty, sinful, and damnable, according to that saying, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”(Romans 3:23) 10There is no one righteous, no, not one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”(Romans 3:10-12)

 When you have learned this, you will know Christ is necessary for you, since He has suffered and risen again for you, that, believing in Him, you might by this faith become another man, all your sins be remitted, and you being justified by the merits of another, namely of Christ alone. Therefore, the first care of every Christian ought to be to lay aside all reliance on works, and strengthen his faith alone – more and more, and by it grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who has suffered and risen again for him. Faith, which is the brief and complete fulfilling of the law, will fill those who believe with such righteousness that they will need nothing else for justification.”

May the Peace of Christ and the Grace of God be with you this week!

 

 

If you can?

I haven’t been home for longer than six straight days since January 10th. I’m currently “out of town” again but will be at my present location for longer than I’ve been in any one place all year. To say I’m exhausted is an understatement! I love the work that I do and the people that I work with; otherwise this would be a huge emotional anchor. It is an honor to serve my community and my nation. Everyone I know asks me how I handle doing both, living in hotels all of this time and flying so much. Honestly, I’m not sure but I know a few things helped tremendously. I have an awesome family that is understanding and patient. My wife in particular, suffers the most (usually when I’m home). I’m sure she misses me simply being present in the moment.

To add insult to injury, I’ve been sick with one infection after another (or the same one that never left) making me tired and boring to be around. I managed to get it all done because of the teams that exist in my life – spouse, work, council, friends and church. If everything is possible, what would you do? Is there something holding you back from going after a dream or the next step in your career or life? Having the confidence that I was protected by my faith is what I believe allows me to keep pushing. There are no boundaries in your life if you have the right people in corner; starting with a strong faith in God’s power.

“’If you can?’” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23

I love imagining Jesus speaking to me directly when I read verses like this. We’re just sitting outside on the patio on a sunny afternoon with perfect temperatures. I, of course, say something that gets His attention and He replies, “If you can?” As if to say, “why wouldn’t you?” or “Why do you doubt yourself?” He will then begin to reassure me about all of things I’ve done so far and how God has been at work all of these years preparing me for this moment.

“If you can?” He says again. “Why can’t you? Give me one good reason why you can’t” He dares me. Of course, I have no good reason other than being afraid. He reminds me, “Everything is possible if you believe in the power, the grace and love of God.” God puts a team of people in your life to prepare you for just a time as this. I never imagined doing the things that I do at this point in my life but I’ve been preparing for it for years and I just didn’t know it. With God, everything is possible.

The Whole Point

Happy Easter Monday! For some reason this Easter really hit home for me from a “Christian Church” perspective. I’ve always known it, but I wanted to write about it this week because, Easter is really the point of our Christian faith. We say at Christmas that we should remember the reason for the reason, but Easter marks the reason for it all. As Christians, we have nothing without Easter Sunday. So, I’m going to write this week’s devotion a little, okay a lot, differently. I want to focus on the whole message of what the third day really represents. I want to share a prayer first:

Almighty God the Father, open our eyes to see hope eternal in the empty tomb and let us rejoice. Through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

St. Paul writes in a letter to the Corinthians about the resurrection of Christ Jesus. I have nothing to add this week but his words, which were divinely inspired by God. In this letter we see God’s grace; we see that no matter what we’ve done, we are forgiven and; we know that we have hope in our lives. 1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,5and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. 6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 9For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-11.

I pray that you are reminded that God is with you and that Jesus died for all of our sins. It is because of His death that we now can enjoy eternal life.

The world around you

Today marks the start of Holy Week with the solemnness of Jesus’ crucifixion and His glorious resurrection three days later. This week should be about Jesus. There are a number of verses in the Bible that discuss what Jesus was saying and doing in His last week on earth. It is amazing to read that His disciples did not know what He was saying until it was too late. It makes me think about how I read the bible and what I might be missing. As I considered what to write for this important week, I wondered about the people who know Jesus but like the disciples, do not understand what is happening around them.

I’ve heard people say, “Sure I believe in God and that Jesus was His Son but I don’t get into the rest of the bible”. Perhaps you’ve heard someone say, “I go to church and that’s enough for God to know that I believe in Him”. I’m not warmed by either of these phrases but it is not for me to judge; that’s God’s call not mine. Do you really know what Jesus did for us and continues to do on our behalf? St Paul in a letter to the Philippians said, 12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose”(Philippians 2:12-13). He suggests that we act the same no matter who is around. I can also hear Jesus saying this to me right now. Re-read it but think of Jesus saying it instead. This verse means much more now doesn’t it?

We owe our salvation to Jesus, who intervened on our behalf, but we owe our eternal lives to God who through His grace and mercy sent His Son to be punished for our sins. We can do nothing more at this point but believe in the word of God that we are saved through Jesus. Mark verse 9:24 says, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Jesus taught us how to live our lives, what is important in this world and what we can do to enjoy eternal life with Him. If you have ever doubted, simply read the verses about Holy Week and give thanks for ALL that God has done for you. You will overcome any “unbelief” in no time.

Value Others

It seems as though I’ve been surrounded by people or circumstances that have revealed people genuine selfishness. Today’s world is filled with “I’ve got mine, too bad for you!” thinking. I have stayed away from political statements and hope to do that today but the American debate about healthcare and wealth is right at the heart of this. “I’ve got mine, too bad you didn’t work hard enough for yours” or “why should I pay for that?” I’m not suggesting socialism but I’m wondering if there isn’t a better way than “so sad, too bad”? Several months ago, I wrote about One Human Family and this is right back to that concept.

We are nearing Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection from dead and the forgiveness of all of our sins through the sacrifice of God’s Son. He lived a perfect life but understood that his sacrifice was necessary to save us all from eternal damnation. Jesus certainly had His but He shared it so everyone could live an eternal life with God, our Father. I know that there are many who will say that it isn’t the same but is it really different? The beginning of the second chapter of Philippians is titled “Imitating Christ’s Humility”. St. Paul saw this in the people of the Church in Phillipe and it still stands today. Perhaps instead of labeling each other and picking sides we should be looking for solutions to the problems that exist today. Isn’t this what God wanted for us anyway?

3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4

Through Paul, God is telling us to care for each other. It seems pretty clear to me. How can we run around with an “I’ve got mine” mentality when so many people need help? Obviously, there are limits but what are they? I don’t have answers to any of these, just more questions. If we build systems and processes that help people help themselves then haven’t, we done what God was commanding?

Later on his letter, St. Paul writes: 12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose”(Philippians 2:12-13). I think God wants us to figure this out. I do know that name-calling, labeling and picking sides isn’t getting us any closer to a solution and neither is doing nothing. We will revisit this verse again next week as we get ready for Easter. I promise there will be no political commentary, but I do ask for us all to consider what these things all mean as celebrate our risen Savior, Jesus.

Have no Doubt

My wife has saying “You don’t get if you don’t ask”. We have several stories in our lives when she’s used this philosophy when we were faced with dilemmas. When our daughter was little, we took her to see a live character performance. She had gotten sick about half way through it so my wife called the theater to see if there was anything they could do. They had us come down the next weekend and report to a special area. We were then escorted into the venue and right into the front row. The whole thing was crazy but you can’t get something if you don’t ask for it. Many people don’t like asking for help or asking for things in general; oftentimes we feel like we’re taking advantage of people.

In the corporate world, they say that employees should be asking for raises and not waiting for them to be given out. What is it that you want that you are not asking for? Our families don’t know what we want if we don’t tell them. As children we were encouraged to write to Santa with our Christmas list and some of us were taken to the store or mall to see the big guy and tell him ourselves. As we got older, we stopped doing that. As employees, we have needs or desires for our careers or our professional development. If we don’t share them with our supervisors, we will never fulfill our dreams or reach what Maslow described as “self actualization”. Don’t let anything get in your way of at least asking for the things you want, you never know what might come of it.

“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1:6

Asking a venue manager for tickets to a show is not the same as asking God for help. Do not doubt God’s power and love for you! Believe in Him and that He will do what is best for you. It’s hard to understand that what God believes to best for you is not always what you believe is best for you. Ask God in confidence; He answers prayers. God also likes to hear praise and thanks for the things in your life. While He might know what you’re thinking, it doesn’t hurt to actually acknowledge God’s role in your life.

In this verse we are reminded that when we doubt God’s power, our lives will be churned like the sea. Again, I’ll say, God has a plan for each one of us and He puts people and circumstances in our lives to help facilitate that plan. He simply asks for our faith and trust in Him through Jesus. The bible is filled with verses that demonstrate God’s love, that tell us how to live our lives and that we should have faith in Him. If you doubt what God’s plan is, ask Him. Many times people turn to God when they are in trouble or in need. God also tells us to turn to Him always in prayer. The stronger that your faith in Him is, the easier it is for you to see Him at work in your life. You will never doubt again.

Extra Grace Required

Everyone needs a break once in a while. When we work with the same people all of the time, we can get on each other’s nerves. Often times we can simply brush off the issue and move on but every once in a while, we just can’t shake it. My mother used to jokingly say: “if everyone were perfect like us, we wouldn’t have these problems”. How true is that? In my case, I don’t think I could handle another person like me. What do we do with these people who annoy us or create problems? We can’t ignore them or stop being engaged at work or socially; so most of us just give them a little grace and move on. We will display our grace in justifying the behavior of the person by saying, “oh, that’s just Bill”. We are giving grace.

Rick Warren in his book Purpose Driven Life, describes difficult people as being EGR or extra grace required people. This really sticks with me every time I encounter someone challenging. As he points out, the key is not to be one of these people. To give someone a little extra grace is to not hold the annoyance against them, listen to the intended message instead of the actual message, and don’t take what they say personally. Southern ladies would say, “Bless her/his heart” when they give a little extra grace. No matter how you do it, the important part is to give the grace; not because they deserve it but because you can.

7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – “ Ephesians 2:7-8

God has shown us such grace in our lives. He gave His only Son for us so that we might have eternal life with Him. He has forgiven our sins, not because we deserved it but because He loves us. God’s grace is larger than we can imagine. We sin every day, yet He forgives us. We doubt His love and question His work in our lives and yet, He still loves us. We take Him for granted, live our lives to satisfy ourselves, worry only about what we need and yet, He still loves us.

For me, little else is needed to define what God’s grace really means. God send a Savior to bring us close to Him, so that we might have eternal life through Jesus. It is through God’s grace that we have been saved but not grace alone. We also need to have faith in Jesus as our Savior. Jesus is the one who took all of our sins to hell and when He rose on the third day, He took His seat at the right hand of God to intervene on our behalf. He turns to God and says, “They are worthy, just like me”. Rejoice in God’s grace knowing that He gives it to us as gift through our faith in Jesus Christ.