Posts Tagged “Living God’s Heart”

Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

Being conformed to the image of Christ means thinking as He thinks and acting as He acts. In the previous blog, we learned that it God “has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32, NIV) In the New Living Translation, it’s worded just a little differently:

“…it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”
Luke 12:32 (NLT)

It brings God joy to give. And I’m thinking the more He gives, the more joy it brings. After all, He’s not just giving us an enjoyable evening or basic provisions. He gives abundantly. He gives us the kingdom. He gives us salvation. He gives us “everything we need for living a Godly life.” (2 Peter 1:3, NLT) That’s over-the-top giving.

He’s given us the Holy Spirit. He’s given us gifts to use in fulfilling the calling that He’s given us – the purpose He’s given us for our lives.

All this and heaven, too.

He’s given us a family (Psalm 68:6). He’s given us freedom from condemnation (Romans 8:1). He gives us the power to be transformed (Romans 12:1). He’s given us His love. Whew! That’s the most precious gift. That the God who created the universe has given me His love, His heart.

All this and heaven, too.

Why? Because “it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

Does giving bring you joy? It will if you allow it, because you are made in the image of God. You carry His DNA, and His DNA derives joy from giving.

But sometimes it’s a joy that you have to learn because in our sinful nature, it is counter-intuitive to us. In our sinful nature, I think I will have more joy if I get more stuff. But God has never hoarded His stuff. He lavishes it upon us. In our sinful nature, I think I will have more joy if I am more powerful. But God has never hoarded His power – He gives us free will – the absolute antithesis of hoarding power. He also has given us power and authority beyond our ability to comprehend and often beyond our ability to use wisely. Still, He trusts us with it.

So we have to learn to give. We have to write that first check or give away that favorite possession. We learn to experience joy through the joy of the recipient. And when that isn’t expressed, we learn that God is smiling at our generosity. Scripture says that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) and “will bless you in everything you do” when you give generously to the poor (Deuteronomy 15:1).

God gives to us when we give to others. Let’s look at the 2 Corinthians passage:

7You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
2 Corinthians 9:7-8 (NLT)

God will generously provide all our needs – so much that we will have plenty left over to share with others. Which sounds to me like viciously wonderful cycle – we give generously which pleases God and he then generously provides for our needs so that we have plenty left over so we can give generously so He can bless generously so we can…

But check out the verse in the NIV:

7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:7-8 (NIV)

I LOVE verse 8. It’s actually our company’s verse. “And God is ABLE to make ALL GRACE abound to you, so that in ALL things, at ALL times, having ALL that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (Emphasis mine, of course.)

God gives all we need – not just physically, but also emotionally, relationally, and spiritually – He is able to make ALL GRACE ABOUND to you so that you have ALL that you need. And when will he do it? ALL the time. Why? So that we can be successful – abounding in every good work.

God’s heart is to give.

When we live from God’s heart, we also give. We give our time, our talent, our money and possessions and our heart.

Who are you giving to today? My new sister-in-law told me that she doesn’t ever go to bed without doing something nice for someone. If she hasn’t done something nice by bedtime, she goes to the local store to find someone in need. Perhaps it’s just helping someone reach something. Perhaps it’s helping someone pay their bill. Perhaps it’s providing an encouragement to someone who just needs to know that someone cares. There are lots of ways to give.

Do you think she always feels like it? I doubt that she does. But she’s learned the joy of giving. She’s learned that it changes who we are from the inside out. And it brings God joy.

Who are you giving to today? Challenge yourself to give above and beyond joyfully.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.
2 Corinthians 8:2 (NLT)

God’s very nature is one of generosity, the most significant act being the giving of His son:

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (NLT)

God gave. He didn’t stand back and offer advice. He didn’t point us to yet another verse of Scripture. He gave. By nature, He wants to share. He wants to share His Kingdom with us. He wants us to share in Christ’s glory. He wants us to live with Him in heaven.

When we reflect God’s heart, we become a person of generosity. Whether we have much or little.

I find that generosity springs out of a heart filled with joy. Yes, there are other characteristics that bring us to generosity. Compassion, for example, motivates us to action. Yet it is joy that motivates us to give generously and without anxiety or hesitancy. A heart overflowing with joy wants to share it.

Think back to a time when you were in the midst of great joy – perhaps when you were first in love or at the birth of your child. You wanted to share that joy with everyone. “Drinks are on me!” is the stereotypical worldly example. In response to some great thing in his life, the buyer wants to share his joy.

“Their abundant joy has overflowed in rich generosity” Paul wrote about the Macedonians. Their joyful heart – the joy they had found in knowing and serving God – was the impetus for great generosity…even in the midst of many troubles and poverty. It is not wealth that causes us to be generous. We can all probably think of someone who is wealthy but not at all generous. It is out of our joy that generosity springs forth without reservation.

Paul had more to say about the generosity of the Macedonians:

2They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. 3For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will. 4They begged us again and again for the privilege of sharing in the gift for the believers in Jerusalem. 5They even did more than we had hoped, for their first action was to give themselves to the Lord and to us, just as God wanted them to do.
2 Corinthians 8:2-5 (NLT)

  • The Macedonians gave more than they could afford to give. Far more.
  • The Macedonians begged for the privilege of sharing.
  • The Macedonians gave themselves first to the Lord, then to others.

It is giving themselves to the Lord first that gave them the joy from which to give generously.

A joyful heart will lead to a generous heart and spirit. If you are giving sparingly or begrudgingly, give yourself first to the Lord. When you are experiencing the joy of the Lord – joy, despite your circumstances – act upon that joy and share it with others.

God’s heart is a joyful and giving one. He longs to share His joy with you and give you the joy of sharing it with others. Don’t resist him! To whom will you give joyfully today?

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartEven in our most downhearted moment, we can reach down deep and rejoice at the freedom God has bought for us. There are so many Psalms in which David cries out from the difficult situation he’s in. Yet they always end with a praise to God – with a recognition of the goodness of God and the good things He has done. Psalms 31 and 35 provide two examples of this. Throughout the Psalms, David is not shy about expressing the severity of his situation, crying out to God in verses like this

“Free me from the trap that is set for me” (31:4)

“Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends– those who see me on the street flee from me.” (31:9-11)

“Malicious witnesses rise up; They ask me of things that I do not know. They repay me evil for good, To the bereavement of my soul.” (35:11-12)

David’s life wasn’t always pleasant (yes, that’s probably the understatement of the year). Yet in both of these Psalms, as well as most (all?) others, he returns to a rejoicing in his salvation and his God:

“I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.” (31:7)

“How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow in the sight of men on those who take refuge in you…Praise be to the LORD, for he showed his wonderful love to me” (31:19, 21a)

“And my soul shall rejoice in the LORD; It shall exult in His salvation.” (35:9)

“I will give You thanks in the great congregation; I will praise You among a mighty throng.” (35:18)

“And my tongue shall declare Your righteousness and Your praise all day long.” (35:28)

Joy comes in part from what we choose to focus on. David faced exceedingly difficult times and he poured his heart out to the Lord during those times. But he kept the difficulties from overwhelming him by consistently praising – even rejoicing – in the One who is greater than the difficulties. The One who is sovereign over all things. The One who is our salvation. The One who loves us beyond our ability to fully grasp.

When Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen.” (Luke 19:37) “Hosanna! Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord” they cried (Mark 11:9).

The Pharisees took offense at the outrageous, joyful praise being given the Lord – “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” they said. (Luke 19:39)

Jesus’ response is instructive: “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:40)

If we do not rejoice, the very rocks we kick down the road will praise Him in our place.

Ron Kenoly released a song in 1995 (yikes, that was a long time ago!) titled “Ain’t Gonna Let No Rock.” “Ain’t gonna let no rock out-praise me. Ain’t gonna let no rock take my place.” You can check it out here. My sentiments exactly. I will rejoice in Him. I will sometimes dig deep for the joy within me, but I will do it because my Savior has bought my freedom!

We in America don’t understand the joy of freedom because we have experienced it all our lives. Here’s a video I found inspiring and instructive. The researchers spend an hour cutting away the netting that threatened to defeat a humpback whale. The whale was close to death when they found him tangled tightly in the nylon. After cutting and cutting and cutting until they were able to fully untangle him, the whale rejoiced over his new-found freedom. He spent the next hour making spectacular jumps out of the water, slapping it with is fins, twirling and totally blessing the people who had freed him. Did you catch that? He spent the next hour rejoicing over his freedom. We were once lost and now we are found. When was the last time you spent an hour simply rejoicing over your new life? Rejoicing is fun! Watch the whale! (The whole video is good, but the whale’s show begins at about the 6:20 into it.) You know he’s having fun! And listen to the joy in the rescuers voices as they enjoy the exuberant display. It blesses God’s heart when we rejoice over all He has done for us. Rejoice friends!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartThe world thinks it has the market cornered on celebration. They’ve got it wrong!

They think that Christians are sour and serious all they time. When we’re living as God wants us to live, they’ve got it wrong!

Ahh, there’s the rub – the “living as God wants us to live” part. It’s easy to get caught up in the seriousness of following God. When that fails, the seriousness of life is a huge draw. There’s so much to do and so little time. There’s so many challenges and so much frustration out there. Yes. There is. But God calls us to pull away from all that and enjoy life!

God instructed the Israelites to observe seven feasts each year. Two of them week-long celebrations of God’s goodness. The Feast of Weeks, also known as Pentecost, is a “festival of joy.” It celebrates the giving of the Law to Moses. Isn’t that interesting – it CELEBRATES the GIVING of the Law. The world thinks the Law – any law or restriction – anything that hampers one from doing their own thing (or what seems right in their own eyes as Judges 17:6 and 21:25 put it) – is a bad thing. Yet James says that the “perfect law” “sets you free” (James 1:25). The Psalms say that it revives the soul (Psalm 19:7). So God instructed the Israelites to have a week-long celebration commemorating the giving of the Law.

The second week-long celebration is the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths, rejoicing over the harvest, which represents God’s goodness and blessings. God instructed the Israelites to set aside a week each year to celebrate His goodness to them!

Other feasts included elements of celebration in their observance, but these two call for all-out, prolonged celebration. Stop your work. Interrupt your routine. And celebrate God!

God wants us to be joyful! Rejoice! He says.

And I’m guessing you’re like me and don’t do it enough.

The One who created us knows what we need. He knows we need to rejoice. He knows we need to celebrate.

A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.
Proverbs 17:22 (NASB)

Developing a joyful heart by celebrating God’s goodness is “good medicine.” The phrase translated “is good medicine” literally means “causes good health.” Being joyful contributes to being in good health.

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve had a very tough week. Not just a normal tough week, a very tough week. Rejoicing hasn’t been easy. But life is easier when I push myself to rejoice. Before beginning to write tonight, I listened to some reggae Christian music (Christafari). Its fun, reggae beat, weird (to me) words and phraseology, yet honest message gave me reason to rejoice. That’s what it took for me to rejoice today. I started by reading Scripture and it laid the groundwork, but I was a hard case tonight. Scripture alone didn’t do it. But before turning off the music to write, I was singing at the top of my lungs with joy in my heart.

A joyful heart is good medicine. Push yourself to enjoy God this week. I know that sounds wrong. But it’s right! Because God wants us to celebrate! Enjoy God! Enjoy life!

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartChoosing to take offense brings a seed into our lives that is the antithesis of the joy God wants us to have. It becomes a matter that occupies our thoughts, pulling us down from the heights of enjoying God’s glory to the depths of allowing satan to rent space in our head and heart. Offenses can easily take root that creates a stronghold of bitterness. Bitterness can result from two sources: disappointments of life and painful relationships. Let’s look at both.

Disappointments of Life
We will all experience disappointments in life. When those disappointments cause bitterness within us, it is because we have taken offense at the way God has dealt with us. We have ceased to practice thanksgiving. We have ceased to remember His goodness to us. Instead, the disappointment takes root and we believe the lies the enemy shouts in our ears.
You deserve better! God doesn’t care about you! God has rejected you and always will reject you! You’re not good enough for Him.
Lies, friends! They’re all lies! They lead to bitterness in our heart and soul. They rob us of all joy. Combat the lies of the enemy with the Truth of God’s Word.

It is out of God’s great love for you that He sent Christ to die for you. He has saved you and gifted you and has a purpose for you. He has gone to prepare a home for you so that one day you will be with Him. No, you’re not good enough for Him on your own – but He has credited the righteousness of Christ to you.

Make a concerted effort to practice thanksgiving – first thing every morning and last thing every evening. Praise Him before each meal. Look for His blessings instead of at what you haven’t received.

Painful Relationships
Just as we will all experienced disappointments in life, we will all experience being betrayed or hurt or disappointed by someone we love. If we take offense when that occurs, the bitterness root extends its tentacles. Those betrayals, hurts and disappointments must be released to God and healed by God. Forgiveness is not an option in the Kingdom of God.

14“If you forgive those who sin against you, [Jesus said,] your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Matthew 6:9-15 (NLT)

We forgive out of obedience, but the wonderful thing about God’s economy is that obedience always carries a blessing. When we forgive, bitterness has no place in our heart or soul.

And that leaves lots of room for joy. Taking offense is the root of the two causes of bitterness. When we develop the unoffendable heart, there is bad soil in our heart in which bitterness can take root. But there is plenty of good soil in which joy can grow…and grow and grow.
A joyful heart is a blessing that transcends our circumstances. It pins its hope on the deep, abiding knowledge that God is good, that He has saved us and transformed us, and He will accept us with loving arms in heaven. In fact, Jesus is eagerly waiting for us there. He longs for us to be with Him. We are His bride.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartDeveloping an unoffendable heart isn’t easy! It means regularly dying to ourselves and living as Christ. Paul wrote to the Ephesian-s that they were to “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2, NIV) That means overlooking offenses – treating those who offend you as if they had not. It’s what God does for us, forgiving our sins to accept us into His Kingdom.

Such actions don’t come naturally, easily or cheaply. They must be intentionally developed. Here are some tips – practical actions you can take – to help develop your unoffendable heart:

Tips for Developing an Unoffendable Heart…

  • Meditate frequently on how very much God loves you. Pray Paul’s pray for the Ephesians for yourself:

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

  • Make the decision that you want to have an unoffendable heart. Ask God to bring it to your attention the moment you are tempted to take offense.
  • Pray – sincerely pray – for anyone who does anything you’re tempted to take offense at. Don’t pray that they would go away, pray that they would prosper, that they would know Christ in a deeper way, that their relationships would be blessed, that their marriage would flourish and they would be in good health. Bless them. It’s what Jesus commanded in the sermon on the mount:

But to you who are listening I say: …bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Luke 6:27, 28

  • Purposefully humble yourself when being criticized. Ask God to reveal any truth in the criticism. If there is no truth in the criticism, ask God to reveal any behaviors you may have that lead others to believe the falsehood.
  • Do something positive – show some love – for the person offending you. Again, it’s what Jesus commanded:

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Matthew 5:44

  • Ask God “what am I to be learning through this? What is Your purpose for it?”
  • Pray for a humble spirit. Being proud invites opposition from God as well as those around you. Scripture tells us that God opposes the proud and so do many people. Those around you may respond negatively toward you (giving you an opportunity to take offense) because of your prideful and arrogant behavior. Keep God on your side and be inviting instead of confrontational toward others by remaining humble.
  • Become a world-class encourager. Becoming an encourager means looking for the best in people and nurturing those qualities. Developing that “good finder” muscle engages muscles that are needed to overlook an offense.
  • Replace your frustration or anger with the one who is bring the offense with kindness. Be kind to others

31Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT)

Practice these things and you will develop an unoffendable heart. Not overnight, but will happen. When I was a child, I took accordion lessons. I practiced half an hour every day for years and years and years. And years. At one time, I was pretty good. I wouldn’t have been good without the practice. The same is true for developing an unoffendable heart. Practice, practice, practice.

I’m not nearly as good at playing the accordion now as I was many years ago. Why? Because I no longer practice. Again, the same is true for our unoffendable heart. Even when it becomes strong, it will require regular workouts to keep it’s strength. Practice, practice, practice.

Will it be hard work? Absolutely. Will it be worth it? Absolutely. First because it is what God wants you to do. It is a matter of obedience. The wonderful thing about God, though, is that when we are obedient – living as He wants us to live, our life will be filled with more peace, more joy and more love. I want to live in more peace, joy and love, how about you?

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NIV)

Being in Christ – saying “yes” to God’s Lordship – gives us new roles and responsibilities. One of those roles is that of reconciler. God reconciled us to Himself and has now given us the ministry reconciliation. Our message is to be the same as Paul’s – a heartfelt “Be reconciled to God.”

The word “reconcile” means “to restore to friendship or harmony; to settle or resolve” (www.merriam-webster.com). That is our job – to be one who brings reconciliation.

And it’s pretty hard to do that job wholeheartedly when I am harboring an offense against someone. No matter how hard I try to suppress or hide it, I’m not successful. I’m just not that good an actor. And hopefully you aren’t either! Because being a good actor in this case, simply means being good at deception. We don’t want to be deceivers, we want to be people of love. People who have worked through anything we might be tempted to have against a person.

One of the marks of Christian maturity is not being easily offended. Francis Frangipane refers to this as having an unoffendable heart. Of all the heart conditions we’ve studied so far this year, I think this one takes the most work. This one requires that I choose to turn my back on intentional and unintentional attempts to offend me. It means that I choose not to take offense. It means that I choose to forgive even before there is a need to forgive. It’s so much easier (in the natural) to take offense and hold onto a grudge!

I can’t choose to have an unoffendable heart without the love of Christ in me and without making a decision to let His love rule my heart. His love overlooks offenses. It is patient, kind, not prideful or rude or self-seeking. It keeps no record of wrongs. (1 Corinthians 13:4-5) The person who is easily offended isn’t characterized by those things. They are not patient with others. They do not respond kindly when they are offended, and their pride makes them easily offended. In not letting go of an offense, they are keeping a record of wrongs against them. Which, of course, makes them more easily offended with each interaction.

The disciples asked Jesus “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3, NIV) His answer included the following:

10And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another… 12And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
Matthew 24:10, 12 (KJV)

As the world turns away from Christ, people take offense more easily. That leads to betrayal and hatred. Satan is on the prowl, seeking whom he may devour – one of his tools is to bring you to the point of taking offense. Yes, you!

It can happen so easily – unmet expectations, frustrated progress, or a bad night’s sleep can all lead to slipping in our practice of love.

We can’t develop an unoffendable heart on our own, but Christ has made us a new creature. God has kept His promise from Ezekiel:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Ezekiel 36:26 (NIV)

Need help with this one? (I do.) Ask for it.

Lord, help me to develop an unoffendable heart. Remove from me my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh. Put the love of Christ within me – filling my heart so there is no room to hold an offense.

 

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartThis week Phil and I are celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary.

It coincides with the 25th anniversary of our business.

We have a lot to celebrate!

Yet it would be very easy to let the occasions go by with barely a nod to their significance. It seems that there’s always more “important” things to do or to spend money on. I’m reminded of a Proverb:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 (NIV)

It may seem right to spend our time and money on things that are more important (and I’m not advocating squandering either), but that would lead to death. Celebration is important. Celebration remembers and Scripture is full of injunctions to remember. Here’s just one of them – God is giving instructions to celebrate the day He brought them out of Egypt:

14“This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the LORD. This is a law for all time…17“Celebrate this Festival of Unleavened Bread, for it will remind you that I brought your forces out of the land of Egypt on this very day. This festival will be a permanent law for you; celebrate this day from generation to generation.
Exodus 12:14-17 (NLT)

Remember the day, celebrate it with a festival. They are instructions that interrupt our “life as usual” living – instructions that cause us to pause and change our focus for a short time.

So this week we are remembering and celebrating – focusing on the goodness of God, remembering both the good and the bad because through it all, God has proven Himself to be good to us. When remembering the bad, we don’t focus on how horrible it was at the time, but on how God faithfully pulled us through it. We focus on how blessed we are to receive whatever it was that came from those horrible experiences. And when remembering the good – well, I confess to being as tearful in the good memories as in the bad – because I didn’t do anything to deserve all this good that has come my way.

It’s not that my life has been so much better than yours. We’ve experienced (and in some cases are currently experiencing) lack of finances, failure, depression, loss of parents, caring for elderly and disabled parents, loss of job, major health crises, betrayal, and disappointment. There are probably other things I could throw into that list, but I’m happy to stop there. 🙂 You get the idea. Despite it all – or more appropriately said “through it all” – I choose to see God’s goodness, even when I’m seeing it only through a cloud darkly.

After all, that’s how God sees me – my “goodness,” that is, not through a cloud darkly. He has no trouble with His vision – he sees me more clearly than I see myself. He knows there is sin in my heart. He knows my faults and weaknesses. He sees that there is no true, unselfish goodness in me. Yet He loves me and He sees me through the blood of Christ – “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:11a, NIV).

And He celebrates me! “He delights in me” Psalm 18:19 says. He takes pleasure in me.

Friends, take time out of your busy lives to remember those special days – birthdays and anniversaries. Don’t let your celebrations become such a hassle that you lose the time to remember and celebrate. Remember God’s goodness, His faithfulness, and the pleasure He takes in you. And enjoy life. We’re not able to live a life of celebration, why would others be attracted to our God?

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartOur society doesn’t breed compassion. Compassion requires connecting with the pain of others and sacrificing to help alleviate that pain. It requires that we be outwardly-focused – seeing the needs of others more than we see our own needs. Compassion requires margin in our lives – that is, “white space” in which to see, feel and do for others. When we have no margin – when our schedules are overflowing and our stress levels are spiking, the white space in our lives is crowded out and we become focused on only our own needs. When that continues too long, life becomes all about us instead of all about others.

Read these verses about the compassion of Jesus:

When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36 (NIV)

Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Matthew 14:14 (NLT)

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
Matthew 15:32 (NIV)

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
Matthew 20:34 (NIV)

Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”
Mark 1:41 (NIV)

When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.”
Luke 7:13 (NASB)

Do you feel the compassionate, loving heart of Jesus in these verses? As I read them, all together, not separated by circumstances and other stories, I see Jesus’ loving and compassionate heart more clearly. I see Him with His hand reached out to touch, heal, wipe a tear and comfort. I see His extreme care for those who are harassed and helpless, for those who are sick or hungry, and for those who need to be made clean or be comforted. I see His extreme care for people like me.

Jesus’ heart of compassion stepped into the hurting experience of others and did something practical to alleviate their suffering. Joni Eareckson-Tada talked about compassion and suffering in an address at Westmont College. I was moved by these words:

Helping somebody like me [that is, someone suffering with a severe disability] – God asks us to hook our veins up to that person who is hemorrhaging human strength – because we show Christian love when we pour our heart out into another’s life as though giving a spiritual transfusion. Warm and personal, reviving and life giving. That’s what Christian compassion means.

When we reach out in compassion to somebody, we’re reaching out into their suffering.

The world has so much suffering in it today – it is bleeding out of control.

When people are hurting, His church – and who else is there, it’s just you and me – His church is the agent of comfort and mercy and grace and encouragement, showing, not just telling, but showing His love. Not just proclaiming it, but portraying it. Helping them to experience it.

Jesus had crowds and crowds of people pressing in for attention from Him. He knew the pressures of too much to do and too little time. Yet He kept His outward focus. He saw the suffering of others, was moved with compassion and took action. He wasn’t too busy or too poor or too tired, although surely he had too much to do, too little money and too little sleep. He found His margin – that is the white space within the noise – by spending time with His Father.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.
Mark 1:35 (NIV)

It’s in the Father’s presence where we find our margin for the day. It might seem like adding an appointment with God to our already full schedule would take away even more of our white space, but it doesn’t. Somehow it expands the white space, giving us margin and purpose at the same time. It allows us to hear God’s heart – that heart of love and compassion toward us and others – and enables us to show that heart to others.

The passage in Mark goes on to say that when His disciples found Jesus they said something like “Come on! Everyone’s waiting for you!” Jesus didn’t let them steal the peace and purpose He’d just received from being with the Lord. “Jesus replied, ‘Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.’” (Mark 1:38, NIV)

Jesus had a full schedule. He had little money. He had others pressing in on Him. But He allowed the Lord to work through Him, showing compassion to people who are harassed and helpless, sick or hungry. He showed His compassion to us so that we might show His heart of compassion to others.

Last summer I met a woman who was widowed at a young age. Undoubtedly she and her young children suffered a great loss. One of the things she told me is that she doesn’t let a day go by without doing something good for someone in need. It might be as small as helping an elderly woman reach an item on an upper shelf at the grocery store or buy a burger for a man living on the street. The key is that she does something. Every day. Developing a habit like my new friend changes the way we think. Little by little, act by act, it builds God’s heart of compassion into us.

What about you? Are you showing God’s heart of compassion to those around you? Do you see the pain, suffering, loneliness and hunger in the eyes, the walk and the behavior of others? If not, perhaps it’s because there is no margin in your life. Perhaps your own needs are crowding out the needs of others. Follow Jesus’ example so you can follow His behavior. Get alone with God so He can pour His heart into you and then you can pour it into others. Pray for a compassionate heart like His – then live it!

You can watch Joni’s entire message at Westmont College here:

 

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartWhen our hearts are full of faith, one of the things that is at the forefront of our minds is how very much God has done for us. We know the price Jesus paid to bring us near to God. We know how much God loves us to have sent His Son to die in our place. A faith-filled heart stays near the foot of the cross where we find mercy and grace. It’s also where we find – experience is perhaps a better word – the tremendous, unimaginable, indescribable love of God. I love what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

OK, Paul is the master of the run-on sentence. I’ve been so blessed by a study we’re doing on the book of Ephesians that I’m preparing a series of blogs that will publish in July. For now I only want to deal with one point from this powerful prayer. Paul is praying that being strengthened in their faith, and rooted and established in love, the Ephesians would have the power to understand – to grasp, to apprehend – how wide, long, high and deep the love of Christ is. A faith-filled heart becomes a heart that is overwhelmed with an understanding God’s love.

The love of God is not dependent on my performance. The love of God is compassionate. The love of God is uplifting. The love of God forgives. The love of God chooses not to remember my sins once they are under the blood of Christ.

Faith-filled heart stays near the foot of the cross where God’s love was and is poured out. That love isn’t poured upon and into our hearts only so that we can feel good about ourselves. It is so that our hearts can be filled with the same love to show to others. A faith-filled heart becomes a loving heart.

A loving heart looks outward. A loving heart demonstrates God’s love to others. It reflects God’s nature to others. That means we learn to love others with a love that is not dependent on their performance. That means we are compassionate, uplifting, forgiving, choosing not to remember the sins of others. You know the passage I have to go to here:

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

That’s a picture of a loving heart. We can only do that through the power of the Spirit at work in us. We can only do that when we’ve experienced how wide and long, deep and high God’s love is. Knowing that comes from knowing Him. And we find Him at the foot of the cross.

How’s your loving heart doing? Does it need a refill of God’s love? Join me at the foot of the cross. Where Christ died so that we might receive mercy and find grace.

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