Posts Tagged “Matthew”

I was watching a video clip of the Christian comedian Jeanne Robertson [http://www.jeannerobertson.com/] the other day and she said something that has stuck with me. What she said was “You find what you’re looking for.”

You find what you’re looking for.

If you’re looking for a fight…you’ll find one, right? You know why? Because your attitude will bring on confrontation.

If you’re looking for someone to make a mistake, they will. You know why? Because that person is human! And because you’re watching for the mistakes, you won’t see the hundred things they do right…but you will see the one thing they do wrong.

What a sad state! It’s made even sadder by the consequences it brings. In your life it leads to becoming disappointed in those around us and leads to a life of discouragement, bitterness and depression. All because you were looking for someone to make a mistake. In the lives of others, it also brings discouragement and frustration. Even if they are emotionally strong enough to realize they aren’t inferior because someone keeps finding fault with them, their life is less enjoyable because they still have to be around those who criticize. If they are not so emotionally strong, you may just convince them that they are a failure. I’ll repeat myself…what a sad state.

I don’t want to live that way, although I confess to sometimes being that person.

I agree with Jeanne Robertson – we find what we’re looking for. So why not look for the good? Why not look for the good in our circumstances and in people? Zig Ziglar called this being a “good finder” – find the good in people and circumstances and respond to that. Scripture puts it a different way –

Brothers and sisters, think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.
Philippians 4:8 (NCV)

If we think about these things, we won’t be looking for a fight. We won’t be looking for someone to make a mistake. We’ll be looking for things to praise. We’ll be looking for things that are good and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respectable. We’ll see the good in people and circumstances.

Scripture says that all of us are created in the image of God. So if I say “well, that person is no good” what am I saying? I’m calling God a liar. Because the truth is that God has put goodness in each of us.

Now He’s also given each of us a free will – that is, a choice – of whether to pursue that goodness or to pursue things of the world. But as believers – those who have chosen to pursue God with our whole hearts – our job is to encourage others to make the same choice – to choose to pursue God.

What commission has Jesus given us? To go and tell everyone about Him – to encourage others to follow Him. To help them find the goodness He has for them. (Scripture tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from Him.)

We can’t others find the goodness of God unless we’ve found it – the goodness He has given us and the goodness He has placed all around us. And we don’t find that when we’re looking for a fight or looking for mistakes.

In 2 Corinthians 5, we read that the devil has blinded the minds of those who do not believe. They cannot see the light of the Good News – the Good News about the glory of Christ.

They can’t find God because of the darkness that surrounds them. But God has made His light shine in the hearts of those who follow Him – that light is the knowledge of the glory of God. It is knowing Jesus and the joy and protection and love and help and comfort that He gives. Knowing Jesus changes us…but only if we allow it. He puts that light in our heart – but if we want, we can still choose to look for the darkness – look for a fight or for someone to make a mistake. But God says “Let the light shine out of the darkness.”

Jesus described us as “the light of the world.”

14“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”   
Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

We’re not being that light when we’re telling others what they’ve done wrong. We’re being the light when we’re showing them the joy that is in us.

Now if you’re like me, there are days when you wake up and it’s hard to find that joy and it’s hard not to be critical of everyone around us. It’s at those times that we need to take a deep breath and ask God to work through us – because we just can’t do it ourselves. We can’t be the person who shows Jesus to the world because all we want to do is complain. I’ve been there. Sometimes it seems like I’m there every morning.

The Apostle Paul understood that. Continuing in 2 Corinthians 5, he wrote this:

“We have this treasure from God – that is, knowing Him, knowing His goodness, having seen His glory – we have this treasure, but we are like clay jars that hold the treasure.” In other words, we’re not up to the task of holding this valuable treasure.

It’s like putting a precious diamond on string around your neck. There’s something wrong with that picture! A precious diamond belongs in a beautiful gold setting. Or it’s like serving the most expensive and tasty meal on paper plates! No, they deserve to be served on fine china!

But God has entrusted the Good News – which really should be called the Best News – the news that Jesus is alive and that He loves us and offers His forgiveness in exchange for our love – He is serving that rich, delicious nugget on a paper plate – and we’re the plates!

He has chosen the simple to confound the wise. We’re the simple. He has chosen the poor to teach the rich. We’re the poor. He has chosen us – with all our faults and weaknesses. He has placed the treasure of knowing Him in clay jars.

Why would He do that? Paul gives us the reason – to show “that the great power is from God, not from us.”

On our own, we can’t be the person who always thinks on good things, things that are worthy of praise, things that are true and honorable and pure and beautiful. Because in our own strength, sometimes we’re the people who just want to complain.

But the beauty of knowing God is that we don’t live life on our own. At those times, we turn to God, who has put His Holy Spirit in us, and we say “Lord, live your life through me. Lord, help me show your light to others. Lord, Your word says that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Give me strength now, Lord.”

It’s only with the help of the Holy Spirit that Paul was able to write the verses that follow:

8We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living. 9We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. 10We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies. 11We are alive, but for Jesus we are always in danger of death so that the life of Jesus can be seen in our bodies that die.
>2 Corinthians 5:8-11

In this life we will have troubles. With the Holy Spirit in us, we are not defeated. In this life there are times when we don’t know what to do – there are times when everything seems hopeless – but in God, we don’t give up because we have Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Paul continued in verse 16:

16So we do not give up. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day. 17We have small troubles for a while now, but they are helping us gain an eternal glory that is much greater than the troubles.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Our spirit inside us is made new every day. No matter what’s happening with our bodies on the outside, our spirits are renewed every day. God’s mercies are new every morning. So every morning, we return to Him and say “God, help me today. Help me to find Your goodness and help me shine the love of Jesus to those around me.”

I started this article with the quote from Jeanne Robertson – we find what we look for. Jeremiah 29, verses 13 and 14 say that “‘When you look for me, you will find me when you look for me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.”

God promises that you will find what you’re looking for when you’re looking for Him. What a great and compassionate and merciful God we serve. He promises that we will find Him when we look for Him with our whole heart.

The Apostle Paul ends our passage in 2 Corinthians 5 with this encouragement:

We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever.

What we see, friends, is all the hardship around us. What we see are troubles. What we see are people making mistakes that affect us. God tells us to lift our eyes – look for the good – look for Him – every moment of every day. When you do, your world will change. Yes, all the difficulties will still be there, but what fills your mind will be those things that are good and beautiful and worthy of praise. Your heart will be filled with joy because your mind is set on what we cannot see just yet – our eternity with a compassionate and merciful God. Friends, think on these things – that which is true and honorable and right and pure. Set your mind on Jesus.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods HeartDeveloping a generous heart brings you face to face with a needy world. At some point, you will see and feel the immensity and desperateness of the need and your heart will be broken. You will see people who have no hope and long to be able to give more than you have to give.

A broken heart is painful. A broken heart is a good thing.

Christ died of a broken heart. Hear his grieving over his unrequited love for His people:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”
Matthew 23:37 (NIV)

It wasn’t just a New Testament/Israelites thing. Paul wrote to Timothy:

1I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – 2for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time.
1 Timothy 2:1-6 (NIV)

Just as Jesus longed to gather the Israelites under His wings, the One who gave His life as a ransom for all men desires that all men be saved.

He died so that men and women could live forever, yet His heart breaks because they reject Him.

Even those of us who know Him contribute to His broken heart. He longs to bless us yet we live lives of compromise that hinder Him from doing what brings Him joy.

When you love as much as Christ loves, your heart will be broken. When you give as much as Christ gave, your heart will be broken.

Yes, when we live from God’s heart, we live in His joy. Yet in the paradox that is living in Christ, we also live broken hearted. Grieved for those who don’t know Him. Painfully aware of the needs of those around us. Sorry for our own sin.

We don’t live in condemnation, but we live in humility.

A broken heart is a good thing. It is a very tangible way that we know we are becoming more like Christ. It also carries the promise that God will be near us:

The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Psalm 34:18 (NKJV)

Don’t despise your broken heart. Don’t run away from it because it’s not happy or fun. Embrace it, knowing that it is a foreshadowing of joy. It will prompt you to give, which brings joy. It will prompt you to repent or change, which brings blessing. It makes you more like Christ.

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1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
John 14:1-3 (NIV)

During the Passover meal, Jesus said some very disturbing things. He was going to be betrayed. He was going away and the disciples could not go with him. His disciples would deny him. I can’t imagine what was going through the disciples minds. In his next words, Jesus reassures them.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Jesus says. “Trust in God; trust also in me.” There is so much in those words. First, Jesus is reassuring them. He is calming what must undoubtedly be their increasing anxiety. He reminds them that they do trust in God and they can also trust in Jesus. But I like the first sentence because it is a definitive statement – “DO NOT LET your hearts be troubled” (emphasis mine).

Don’t go there. Instead, choose faith. If Jesus has given this command, it means we have a choice. I can choose worry or I can choose faith.

I read a bumper sticker once that said “worry is a terrible waste of an imagination.” How true! When we are worrying, it’s because we’re choosing to imagine all the bad things that can happen. And when we allow ourselves to go down those roads of imagination, we are making a choice not to trust God. We are making a choice to believe that satan will win.

Is God trustworthy? Of course He is. How do we know that?

We know because He’s proven it. God loves us so much, he sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins so that we could spend eternity with Him (John 3:16).

Scripture says that God has give us everything we need for life and Godliness (2 Peter 1:3). It doesn’t say some things, it says EVERYTHING.

So, DO NOT LET your hearts be troubled, friends. Trust in God; trust also in Jesus.

You know, trust comes from the heart – it doesn’t come from the head. It comes from the heart. Get to know God’s heart, don’t just learn things about Him.

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

This translation says “many rooms.” The King James translation says “many mansions.” Jesus isn’t preparing a shack in the slums for us. It’s not a motel room somewhere. It’s a mansion. But the kind of house isn’t the important part. What’s important is the second part of the verse and the verse that follows.

I am going there to prepare a place for you Jesus said. Jesus Himself is building the house. And it is a house made just for you. It is being custom built for you by the One who knows you better than you know yourself.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

I love this verse. If He goes to prepare a place for us – well, He just said that He was going to do just that, so we can trust that He is – so if (when) He does, He will come back and take me to be with Him. Hallelujah! He has promised to return for me – and not just to return, but to return to take me to be with Him. And my very favorite part of the verse is the last phrase – so that we might also be where He is.

The New Living Translation translates the last half of the verse like this: “so that you will always be with me where I am.” Do you hear Jesus’ longing for us to be with Him? He is our bridegroom and He longs for His bride to be with Him. God the Father will fulfill the longing of His Son. A day will come when Jesus returns specifically to take His bride to their wedding.

I can’t wait. But while I do, I do so knowing that He longs for that day as much or more than I do. And He’s the One who is Faithful and True. And He’s the One who both commands and reassures us to not let our hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in Jesus.

I choose to trust. And when worries come, I will say in the words of Jesus, “Get behind me, satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23, NIV) And I’ll follow it up with “My Jesus loves me beyond measure and He is building a mansion for me. When the time is right, He’s returning to take me to be with him. Forever. So be gone satan. I want no part of you.”

I choose to trust. How about you?

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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 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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Phil and I have been taking ballroom dancing lessons for about four months. Tonight is our first recital! Yes, I thought only children had dance recitals. Guess I was wrong about that. We’ll be dancing the rhumba and the waltz. Earlier this week I wrote about lessons from the battlefield and how they can be applied to our spiritual life. In honor of our dance recital tonight, I thought I’d share some lessons from the ballroom.

There are a few lessons our instructor, Michael, has been working on with us every single week. We’ve taken about twelve lessons and I don’t think a week’s gone by that he hasn’t mentioned all three of these things. And like our battlefield lessons, I find them applicable to my spiritual life. In fact, since I have someone harping on me about these lessons each week and we practice a couple of other times a week, these lessons are in the front of my mind and are serving as reminders of how I ought to live.

Lesson 1: Stand Tall

When you stand tall you command authority. You think and act differently.

Do you know who you are in Christ? We are many things, but I like the description in 1 Peter:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)

We are chosen by God, he has made us a part of His royal priesthood, and he’s given us a calling. What a privileged position we hold! Cherished by the creator of the universe! Knowing that ought to make us stand tall. There’s no slouching from insecurity in the King’s Kingdom. Yet when we are tempted to be downhearted, we can remember King David’s words:

But you, O LORD, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
Psalm 3:3 (NLT)

We may be as Paul described – hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and struck down, but we are not crushed, in despair, abandoned or destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9, NIV). Why? Because God is the lifter of our head. He is the one who holds our head high. I ought to be living as that royal priesthood, as a person for God’s own possession.

A person who lives like that doesn’t slouch. That person has a regalness about them. Not an arrogance, but a regalness.

And it’s not all about how we walk, there is a spiritual application of this that goes deeper. Spiritually, we ought to be standing up. When we face the enemy, we’re not to be worn down, defeated, expecting to lose, afraid of being seen.

No, we should be standing tall in confidence and command because we are God’s holy nation, we are His ambassador. We’ve been called out of darkness, given the assignment of proclaiming His excellencies, His supremacy, and His great love.

We ought to stand tall. Because God is the lifter of our heads.

Lesson 2: Follow the Leader

Oh, I’m not always good at this one. Phil lifts his arm indicating that I’m supposed to go under it for an underarm turn and I just keep dancing my little box step. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t recognize his lead. I just didn’t feel like doing it. I needed a break from the last step we did.

Except for the fact that sometimes Phil’s leads are a bit indefinite and Gods leads are always perfect, the rest is about the same. Sometimes I miss the lead. I wasn’t ready. I wanted to stay in my routine. I wasn’t paying attention to Him and missed the lead. Or I wanted to take a break from the last battle he put me in.

I did a search in the Bible on the phrase “Follow me.” One of the things that jumped out at me was Jesus’ calling his Disciples. He met Peter and said “Follow me.” He met Matthew and said “Follow me.”

He said this as he called another disciple:

21  Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”    
22  But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Matthew 8:21-22 (NIV)

And His message was the same to the rich young ruler:

21  Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
Matthew 19:21 (NKJV)

Follow me. That’s what God says.

If we move this command into the battlefield, there’s a good reason to follow Him. There’s a good reason not to take the lead away from Him – because it is His battle to win, not ours.

David knew this when he fought Goliath. He met Goliath with these words

“Today, all those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
1 Samuel 17:47 (NIV)

When we stop following, we put the battle into our own hands. When we stop following, we take the plan for the day and put it into our own hands. It doesn’t belong in our hands. It belongs in the Lord’s hands and He will give the victory

Lesson 3: It’s Not All About the Footwork

You know, I want it to be all about the footwork. Because I can get the footwork down. Slow, quick, quick. Slow, quick, quick. The footwork is the easy part. Michael is always telling us that the reason we take lessons isn’t to learn the footwork, we could get that from a video. The reason we take lessons is to learn style – to put the polish on the footwork.

What he’s talking about is adding passion to dance. Putting our feet in the right place at the right time is just a small part of dancing. An important one, but still a small one.

When we translate that into our walk with the Lord, we say that it’s not all about the fundamentals. The fundamentals are important – reading our Bibles daily, praying, serving, being thankful, worshipping, tithing, and many other things – they’re the fundamentals – they’re getting our feet in the right place at the right time. They’re very important, but it’s not all about the footwork – it’s not all about the fundamentals. It’s about the passion of the dance – it’s loving the Lord with our whole heart. It’s serving Him whole heartedly.

King David gave this advice to his son Solomon as he was handing over the plans for building the Lord’s temple:

“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him.
1 Chronicles 28:9a (NLT)

That’s more than footwork. Learn to know your God intimately.

Lesson 4: It Takes Practice to Get it Right

We’re taking lessons because we want to know how to dance well. I’m shocked that we’ve spent the bulk of our lessons learning one dance. I would have guessed we could learn the rhumba in about three weeks. Yet here we are at week ten and we’re still learning the rhumba. The more we practice, the better we get.

The same is true in our spiritual life. Somehow we have the expectation that we ought to be good at it immediately. After all, we love the Lord – shouldn’t the rest come naturally. Uh – no. It didn’t for the Apostle Paul:

15I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

18And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

21I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22I love God’s law with all my heart. 23But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.
Romans 7:15-23 (NLT)

Yes, I don’t really understand it – I want my feet and my body to go one direction, but they repeatedly go the other way. Well, on the dance floor, it’s not that big a deal. But in life, much more so. Yet living the life God wants us to live doesn’t come naturally. Sinning comes naturally. Living in holiness takes practice and requires listening to the Holy Spirit. Don’t be disheartened when you don’t get it right the first time. Keep practicing!

4 Lessons from the Ballroom:

Lesson 1: Stand Tall
Lesson 2: Follow the Leader
Lesson 3: It’s Not All About the Footwork
Lesson 4: It Takes Practice to Get it Right

Let me encourage you, friends, to live out my ballroom lessons in your spiritual life. God is worth it.

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Living God's HeartLiving Gods Heart

FUD. I thought it was a word that Phil and I had made up, but I did my due diligence by looking it up on Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary…and found it’s both a word and an acronym – which is exactly how we’ve used it.

  • A fud is a fuddy-duddy – a person who is stuck on old ideas and old ways.
  • FUD is also an acronym describing Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt – three qualities that the world breeds. Three qualities that lead us to becoming stuck on old ideas and old ways.

Fear, uncertainty and doubt paralyze us. They make us anxious. I’m developing a new marketing project at work. This blog is one I need to hear because I’ve been paralyzed by indecision on this project. As I write this, I recognize that the indecision is based on the FUD factors.

  • Fear that I’ll fail – How foolish is that? So what if I fail? I’ll learn from it and just try again. This is not a life or death project. So what if others see me obtain poor results.
  • Uncertain that I’ll make wrong decisions – Again, so what? These are short-term decisions. It’s just that they’re in a new area and I want to get it right the first time. I think I need to get over myself. Yes, I’ll get it wrong sometimes. (Note to Self: Quit relying on self and rely on God!)
  • Doubt in myself and my ability to be successful – Have I learned nothing from my long walk with the Lord? Without Him, I am nothing. My trust must be in His abilities, not my own. Pleasing Him is my success, not making right decisions about marketing issues.

If I let myself, I can go down a long, dark road associated with making the wrong decisions on this project – but it’s all associated with FUD factors. It all boils down to being afraid I’ll make wrong choices and I’ll lose all my clients.

Yes, this world breeds FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt! But Jesus said “Be counterculture! Trust in God, and trust also in me.” (John 14:1)

You see, fear, uncertainty and doubt are satan’s substitutes for faith. If he can get us focused on those qualities instead of faith, he can paralyze us – keep us from making the decisions needed to move forward.

Christ said “Go!” (Matthew 28:19) Satan says “well, if you go, you might get hurt, you might go the wrong direction, you might fall in a pit.” Christ said “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Oh, and He began that command and assurance by reminding the disciples who was in charge: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 18:18)

  • There is no need to fear – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus.
  • There is no need for uncertainty – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus.
  • There is no need to doubt – All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)  is a familiar verse to many:

6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

Which takes us back to our “Living God’s Heart” topic from last month – giving thanks. It builds our faith. It brings us peace. It removes our anxiety. It wipes away the FUD factors.

When the FUD factors have been demolished, when God’s peace fills our heart, faith and confidence grows.

Is indecision paralyzing you? It’s probably because you’ve lost a bit of confidence in God. Thank Him, ask Him for wisdom, remind yourself that He is with you and that He has all authority. Let faith grow in your heart. He’ll fill your heart with faith. I need some of that to make the decisions I need to make this week. I think I’ll go take my own advice! How about you? Do you need to spend a little time with God? Enjoy it!

Lord, forgive me when my focus gets out of whack and the enemy creeps in with FUD. Thank You for allowing me to “go” in Your name – to be Your representative here on earth! What an awesome privilege and responsibility. Help me represent you well. Lead me in the decisions I have to make along the journey. Satan – get your lies and temptations away from me. I choose to trust God. Because all authority has been given to Him. He has won. And I serve the winner.

Lord, lead me. I’ll follow.

Ya’ll can’t see it, but I’m smiling. Praying does that for a person.

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Last Sunday our pastor preached about the importance of obedience. Obedience – immediate obedience – opens the door for the opportunity to worship. Disobedience, on the other hand, brings about destruction – ours and those around us. I’ll be picking up on that point as I preach a resurrection message this Sunday. The first thing that happened when the women found the empty tomb on that first Resurrection Sunday morning is that they were given an assignment. “Go quickly and tell the disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead’” (Matthew 28:7b, NIV) the angel said.

Scripture records their obedience:

8The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. 9And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him.
Matthew 28:8-9 (NLT)

The women were very frightened – not just a little afraid, they were very frightened – a synonym for the word translated “very afraid” would be “in terror.” Yet they were immediately obedient. They rushed to respond. And as they went, they met Jesus. And they worshipped. If they had not been obedient, would they have met Jesus? Would they have had the opportunity to worship at His feet? Honestly, we have no way of knowing what God would have chosen to do but what we can say definitively is that they were obedient and in their obedience, they met Jesus.

That’s a preview of my Sunday sermon.

Today, I’m reading Acts chapter 10. (I’m a couple of days behind in my Resting at the River’s Edge reading.) God sent an angel to give Cornelius an assignment – send some men to find Peter and bring him to your home. Verses 7 and 8 reveal Cornelius’ immediate obedience.

7As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of his personal attendants. 8He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.
Acts 10:7-8 (NLT)

That’s immediate obedience. And it opened the door for tremendous blessing.

So Cornelius’ men set off for Joppa and arrived there about noon the next day, just as Peter was going to the rooftop to pray. As Peter prayed, God gave him a vision and a command that went against everything he had been taught as an Israelite. Then the Holy Spirit then told him to go with the men who were arriving at his door. This also would have gone against all he had been taught. You see the men coming to Peter’s door were Gentiles and they were servants of a Gentile.

Peter describes the situation and his response upon meeting Cornelius and the people he had gathered in his home:

[Peter] said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. 29So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection.” Acts 10:28-29a (NIV)

Peter was immediately obedient when He heard God’s voice – even when it contradicted the earthly teaching he had received. And it opened the door for tremendous blessing.

The blessing that Cornelius and Peter received as a result of their obedience is described in the last verses of Acts 10:

44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, 47”Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
Acts 10:44-48 (NIV)

The obedience of Cornelius and Peter opened the door for faith to arise in the hearts of those in Cornelius’ household. They believed Peter’s message:

36“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all…39We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen…42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Acts 10:36, 39-40, 42-43 (NIV)

Cornelius’ obedience, Peter’s obedience, even the obedience of others in Cornelius household who came to hear the man of God preach – their obedience led to the sending of the Holy Spirit and the rising of faith in their hearts.

Going to the home of a Gentile, eating with him and definitely sharing the Gospel with him got Peter in a lot of trouble with other believers. Read about it (and the resolution of their conflict) in Acts 11.

Obeying God may get us in some hot water, but it is always the right thing to do and it always has blessings attached to it. May it include suffering along the way? Yes. But there are blessings attached to obedience. Blessings for those who obey and for others in their sphere of influence.

Embrace obedience. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it means hardship. Embrace obedience out of love for God. But know that because of His love for us, there are always blessings that will come from that obedience.

Do you have a story of blessings following obedience? Share them with us here or on our facebook page.

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