Compassionate Disciples Seize the Day!

compassion

Compassion always leads to action

I have to be honest, sometimes I don’t feel all that compassionate. I am on staff at Argyle UMC and part of my responsibilities under Congregational Care are to consider when it’s appropriate to help people with charity. When people come in to the church and need help (usually with financial assistance), I have to weigh the situation to see if it’s appropriate for the church to help. We have guidelines to help make the decision and sometimes I say yes and sometimes I say no. I pray every day for God to help me discern what He wants me to do and I take being prudent with church resources very seriously. I have to admit there are times when I can relate to what God said when speaking of the Israelites, he told to Jeremiah in chapter 15, “I am tired of showing compassion”. Sometimes I tire of the requests because there can be many and have to be very intentional to keep my mind focused on the task God has given me. It’s not always easy, but when I fix my eyes on God it gives me endurance to show compassion.

I have a tendency to think there are times when all of us struggle to show compassion. Jesus tells us there are signs of the end of the age and in Matthew 24:12, Jesus says, “Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold.” I wonder if it’s possible that in the midst of so much terror and tragedy in our world today that we could become cold or numb. Honestly, it seems that daily we are waking up to another shooting or terror attack. It would almost make sense to put up a wall to protect ourselves of the daily violence happening in our world.

I don’t believe that we want to grow cold, but I could see us becoming numb and cold to the world around us simply as a way of coping. How do we keep that from happening when so much is going on around us?

How do we deal when another terror attack has occurred by those who hate Christians?

How do we keep our compassion for others and how do we honor what Jesus said when tells us to love our neighbor as our self when it seems our neighbor hates us?

Why is it important to be compassionate toward others?

What happens if we are no longer compassionate?

Well the good news is this…

Our God is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth (Psalm 86:15) and because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail (Lamentations 3:22).

Could it be this is how we are set apart as believers in Jesus Christ? When we understand the compassion God had for us through sending his son Jesus, this motivates us to be compassionate toward others.

It’s no surprise that the Hebrew and Greek words translated “compassion” in the Bible mean “to have mercy, to feel sympathy and to have pity.” To be a compassionate disciple means you respond to the suffering and are motivated with a desire to help others.

Compassion always leads to action.

God took action showing compassion when He sent Jesus (John 3:16-17).

In the New Testament, we find Jesus exemplifying all of the Father’s attributes, including His compassion. Here are just a few examples:

  1. Jesus saw His friends weeping at the grave of Lazarus, He felt compassion for them and wept alongside them (John 11:33-35).
  2. Jesus was moved with compassion for the suffering of others and went to all the towns and villages, teaching, preaching, and healing every disease and sickness (Matthew 9:35-36)
  3. Matthew’s gospel tells us Jesus had gone to a remote place by boat and when he came ashore, the people were waiting (a huge crowd). He felt compassion for them and healed them before he divided up the five loaves and two fish to feed the 5,000(Matthew 14:14).
  4. Jesus had compassion on the crowds (Mark 6:34). When He saw the crowds as sheep without a shepherd. He had compassion for them, for they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he prayed for workers to send out into the harvest.

You see there are many people out there worn out and weary, they don’t know God and they are sheep without a shepherd. Maybe you are like the worker Jesus prayed for to send out into the harvest. People need to hear the good news that Jesus is the Great Shepherd who loves them.

When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus responded that it is to love God with all our heart, mind and strength, Then he added, love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40).

Love your God with all our heart, mind and strength means you have to spend time with God developing the same character of compassion as God. Seek God in asking what He wants you to do and realize that compassion has to be nurtured and practiced. Start by spending time in the scriptures and praying, being in church worship and community with other believers. If possible, seek one or two people to meet with on a regular basis and talk about the scriptures. You would decide before the meeting what book of the Bible to read before the meeting. Admit to each other where you have failed or sinned recently. Remind each other of God’s forgiveness and grace. Then ask each other some questions such as “where have you wasted time this week?” We are calling this DNA (Disciple, Nurture, Accountability) teams. John Wesley called them “Holy Clubs”.

What does the second commandment look like when it says to love your neighbor as yourself? Honestly, that is not all that hard unless you are not in a good place due to depression or anxiety. Most of us, love ourselves pretty well so when we think about loving someone else like our self, we should be able to imagine it.

In Luke chapter 10, an expert in the law asked, who is my neighbor. I think we ask this same question. Like God, who is my neighbor? Is it literally my neighbor, my coworker, my friend at school, the person I’m standing next to in line at Starbucks or the grocery store?

Jesus took that question “who is my neighbor” and told the parable of the Good Samaritan and how a man was on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho and how robbers stripped him and beat him up, left him half dead on the road. A priest and a Levite saw the man and passed by on the other side. Then a Good Samaritan came along and had compassion on the man and took care of him, he bandaged his wounds, put him on his own animal, took him to the hotel, then the next day, he gave money to the hotel clerk for the man to stay longer and said he would reimburse him for whatever the guy spent over what he gave. So who is our neighbor? Everyone?

God, who do you want me to love?

Everyone?

Those with a different lifestyle?

Different color?

Different culture?

Different country?

Different political views?

I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other. John 13:34-35 NIV

So when we love everyone that means people who are different from us, different lifestyle, different color, different politics, different culture, different values.

Understanding how important it is to reach others and being intentional about showing God’s love should move us to be compassionate disciples.

And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ. Ephesians 4:32

If you have not accepted the forgiveness of sin through Christ, then you are not going to understand how important it is to forgive others. I invite you to accept the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ and start a new life with him.

Also, know that being compassionate may cost you something. It may cost you time which is a great commodity in the age in which we live. God may move you to a new place in serving or in mission. If you believe in what you are doing in following God’s call to compassion, you won’t mind giving up what’s necessary to follow Him.

Compassion always leads to action.

Imagine what our world would look like if we were all kind and compassionate toward others. We have to understand where people are that don’t know God, they are just doing the best they know how. I would like to challenge you to pray and ask God how you could show compassion to someone.

Robin Williams in the movie Dead Poets Society was trying to inspire and move his students when he told them, “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world!!”

We have a legacy left for us by Christians who have gone before us? Some of them, because of their words and ideas changed our world. What would the people who are in heaven say to us if they could communicate with us? What if we could see from their perspective on how to do life here?

I think they might say something like this to us…

Carpe diem brothers and sisters in Christ!

Seize the day and go live an extraordinary compassionate life in the Lord Jesus!!

 

Advertisements

Accessorize Your Life

people values

Did you make a New Year’s resolution this year? Have you already given up on it? I would like to propose a different type of resolution. One that can be found in the scriptures.

Colossians 3:1-3, 10, 12-14 The Message

1-2 So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life—even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life.

10Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.

12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Did you receive new clothes for Christmas? Did you open a gift or two with new clothes? What about a new accessory? Did you receive a jacket, shoes, boots, hats, belts, gloves, jewelry, or scarf? If you received a new jacket, would you put your new jacket on top of or over your old jacket? What if you opened a gift and it was a belt. Would you put on your new belt on top of your old belt? No, that would be crazy. I love how these scriptures use clothing as a metaphor for how we are to live in Christ.

When it comes to a new life in Christ, let’s go back and see what Paul says we are to take off.

Colossians 3:5-11

5-8 And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That’s a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God. It’s because of this kind of thing that God is about to explode in anger. It wasn’t long ago that you were doing all that stuff and not knowing any better. But you know better now, so make sure it’s all gone for good: bad temper, irritability, meanness, profanity, dirty talk. 9-11 Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.

Hebrews 12:1 tells us to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. We have to intentionally rid ourselves of the old ways that causes us to sin.

Asbury Bible Commentary asked the following question, “Does this transformation occur in a moment or is it progressive?” The answer is, Yes! John Wesley said that “put to death” means to “slay with a continued stroke”.  In other words, while God’s transforming work is decisive, it is also perpetual. We are being renewed day by day, transformed from one degree of God’s glory to another. So we must die to self daily, and constantly put away evil. This is both our privilege and responsibility as those who bear the image of Christ.

Luke 9:23, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

I don’t recall anyone having to teach me to sin. I’m pretty sure I could disobey when I was a toddler and Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it.

Paul goes on to tell us that we need to remove those old ways that are connected with the old life meaning sin. Verse 9, You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes. What do ill-fitting clothes look like? They don’t fit, they are either too big or too small. You have a new custom-made wardrobe by God with his label on it. Those old cloths are out of style…obsolete. You can try to put on those old cloths but they won’t fit and you won’t be happy because you have the Holy Spirit living inside you prompting you, speaking to you and nudging you toward Christ.

  • As a Christ follower, we are someone new and made to dress in the likeness of Jesus Christ. We are to clothe ourselves in Christ’s image.

12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you (clothe yourselves): compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength (meekness), discipline (patience). Be even-tempered (bear with one another, make allowance for each others faults, accept one another), content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment (it binds everything together in perfect harmony, perfect bond of unity). Never be without it.

  • We are chosen for this new life of love so dress like it. Dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.

When we lay down those things our human nature wants to do, we are renewing our minds on what is above and not what is on the earth.

13Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.

What does it mean to be quick to forgive? What does it mean to forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you? Well let me ask you how much forgiveness have you needed from God? I don’t know about you but I’ve needed a lot of forgiveness from God and others. I mess up all the time and if it weren’t for grace, I don’t know what I would do. As I meditated on this, I was asking God if I am quick to forgive an offense? Do I offer forgiveness to others like I want in return from God? This is thought provoking and reminds me of a story.

Recently I had a bad day. My husband had been sick with a cold and was coughing…A LOT. After two sleepless nights, I moved to the guest bed. A storm moved through during the night and woke me up. It was too early to get up so I went back to bed after the storm passed. Well I overslept and this threw me into overdrive to get ready and get out the door to a meeting that I was leading. As it turns out, I was ten minutes late. It wouldn’t have been so bad except we had a guest coming to our meeting and I forgot to let her know that we had changed meeting time to 15 minutes later that morning. So she arrives 25 minutes before I do. You can imagine how bad I felt and apologized profusely as she and some of the other persons were leaving the meeting room as I arrived.

She was so gracious and forgiving to me which is something I didn’t deserve but really appreciated. She had a choice and she chose grace. Oh I forgot to mention that this is not my first offense with her. I’ve needed her grace before. There’s an incident in our past where she exhibited forgiveness and grace to me. She didn’t have to forgive me and offer grace to me either time but she did. I see someone who displays love, forgiveness, and grace over and over. I see God in her because isn’t He the one who offers love, forgiveness, and grace over and over? Isn’t He the one who equips us to offer love, forgiveness, and grace over and over?

One other thing I need to share about this story of forgiveness is that I thought because of our past that our relationship was fragile but actually it’s quite the opposite. Our relationship is very strong. Two people who offer grace and forgiveness over and over are stronger because the more we forgive, the more we love.

Have you ever prayed the Lord’s Prayer? Have you ever considered the part, Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We are asking for as much forgiveness from God as we have given to others. It’s something to think about.

  • So accessorize your life with grace and forgiveness. That’s exactly what the Father does for us all the time.

14And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

The Japanese ceremonial dress consists of layers of expensively decorated cloths which are draped over a person, each beautiful in its own right. But the costume is incomplete until the belt is placed around the waist, holding the costume together. In a similar way, love functions as the primary virtue with which a Christian is to be clothed.

  • No matter how much you are offended or how much you disagree, wear love. It’s your all purpose garment never be without it. Love binds us together.

So let me ask you. What’s in your closet? What’s in your heart? Have you given up your old self and old ways? Have you come to a place where it’s just not working any more. Could it be you need to tell God you are sorry for the ways you have failed him, for your sin? Do you need to clean out the old and ask God for the new way of life in Christ? Why not start off the year with a new wardrobe? It’s not too late.

Maybe you have a relationship with Jesus and need to put on some new accessories. Put away those old accessories and start wearing the new accessories God had custom-made just for you. Just ask God, He is waiting.

Don’t wear those old clothes any longer or don’t wear those old accessories. God has brand new custom wardrobe just waiting for you.

Go now and resolve to wear love, it’s your all purpose garment never be without it.

Happy New You!

Three

kim

This year we celebrate the year “three”—
The start of Light Women’s Ministry.

Now bear with me and in the bible you will see
There are many references to the number three.

John gives a summary of the following three days:
On the first day, people asked, “John, are you the way?”

“Of course not,” is his reply, as he makes the path straight.
Day two, he points to Jesus, “the Lamb of God!” John proclaims.

Day three, there was a wedding where a first miracle took place
When Christ turned water into wine, can you imagine each face?

Now let’s look at the gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke—
Where Christ predicts his death three times and then it comes true.

And what about Peter denying Christ those three times?
Suppose he didn’t realize just how well known he was to Christ.

Then there’s Pilate, who asked three times, “what has this man done?”
He didn’t want to sentence him, but it was the crowd that won.

So there he hung, between two criminals, for a total of three to die.
His love, compassion, and mercy reached across the sky.

And Jesus was crucified on that dark black day.
Then came back as our Savior on that much predicted third day.

Yes, there is something special with the number three—
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the Trinity.

These three work together, both individually and apart,
In the lives of the Christ believers who set Him in their heart.

Kim Thomas
December, 2014

2 Corinthians 13:14, May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

A Righteous Man

20131223-071733.jpg

Matthew 1:18-21, The birth of Jesus came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. But after he had considered these things, an angel of The Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

This morning I noticed something special about Joseph. We often talk about Mary this time of year and rightly so. However, I noticed something about Joseph’s character that really struck me. He was a righteous man! He didn’t want to publicly humiliate Mary. Most likely his peers would have exposed her obvious sin and why not, this was a heinous sin in that culture. But before the angel could appear to Joseph, he already decided to show compassion and mercy. He intentionally decided to show grace even though he was deeply hurt.

What a powerful lesson for us today. When we are hurt by someone, we naturally want to retaliate or defend our position because we have every right. Especially if we are right! But what I see in Joseph is righteousness that only comes from a right relationship with God. We can have that too if we want it. I’m thinking about the next time I’m offended, what if I immediately responded with compassion, mercy and grace. Would the end result be different? I would imagine so.

This Christmas season is a joyous one but also can be difficult for some. Maybe family or friends have hurt you and you have every right to be upset. However, what if you responded like Joseph and extended grace? A right relationship with God through Jesus Christ makes this possible. This is the very essence of righteousness.

Next time, how will you respond? How will I?