Missouri

Colossians 3: 12 – 14

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so must you do also. In addition to all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

We can keep this simple today. Earlier in the week we saw what Paul said we should not do as children of the King. We are being called to put off the old dead self and to take up the garment of a new life in Christ Jesus. That new life, well, it looks like this. We are going to loop back around to this idea next week, but I think it is obvious. Don’t tell me you are a Christian. Just pretend I am from Missouri, the “Show me” state. Show me.

These are the characteristics or behavior traits of a child of God. Do we show and act out of a heart of compassion? Are we kind? Where is humility in our words and actions? Am I gentle? Patient? Can I show tolerance to another and forgive anyone? It all boils down to love. If we are not those who act in accordance with and motivated by love, then we ought not be so bold in declaring ourselves Christians because this is how Christians behave. Unity isn’t just a cool idea. It is a mandate. We do not have a choice. But then, unity is simply a byproduct of love. If love is our motivator, then all of the traits in today’s verses are ours and increasing.

Require this of others. Require it of the church! Without love, we are not the beautiful church. Without laying down the old man and picking up the new life in Christ, we cannot follow in Christ’s footsteps. It is time we looked to ourselves and strengthened ourselves as a body in Christ. This is the path that Paul laid out for us. This is the way.

Our Time

Psalm 111: 4

The Lord is gracious and compassionate.

My favorite verse in this psalm is actually verse 10, “The fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” That is the verse I intended to use for today’s Word of the Day. I didn’t use it because when I read verse 4 this idea of God’s compassion overtook my mind and heart. I was immediately given to understand that being in the Lord is how we are able to express compassion and to be gracious. Those two traits might not be intrinsic to humans, but we have the ability to express them expansively because He is in us giving life to our mortal bodies. His life within us is filling us with His goodness so that we have His love to share with others. This, the love and compassion of our dear Father, is what the world needs now, most of all.

I had an interesting conversation, this week, with someone who shared with me the sense that Christians are not showing their love at this time. Where we ought to be the voice of love and grace, she hears judgment and hate. I am chagrined down to my bones. My spirit has not been so aggrieved in many years. How is it that in the midst of a worldwide calamity, Christian compassion is not the talk of the town. As I listened, I had to admit that I have turned off Facebook for the very same reason. I don’t hear love, compassion or Christ like zeal either. I hear judgement and division. I decided that my time was better spent in prayer and meditation.

This is a challenging time for us all and as a political science major and law graduate, I was initially drawn in by political analysis. This is a historical time and I wondered how history would record our reactions. I began watching how different political systems dealt with the crisis. It was fascinating and I wanted to be back with my political science buddies, hearing their thoughts. But then something happened. I was called upon to be the pastor that God has called me to be. It forced me into a paradigm shift where I had less luxury for contemplating political science kinds of questions. The world was hurting and that called upon the Spirit within me to respond with God’s comfort. I was blessed to see the immediate sense of community and camaraderie. That spirit of cooperation and teamwork waned though. I had a project in mind that would require the assistance of others. Before I could get it off the ground, compassion and caring were supplanted by politics, division and judgment. No longer was it all for one and one for all.

I am moved, however, in knowing that Christians are still praying. We are God’s hands and voice in the earth to bring comfort and peace. We have an important job to do and that is to spread the love, compassion and graciousness of our Father to all people without regard to race, country of origin, ethnicity, political party or jurisdictional borders. Only we have the power and authority of God for such an important mission and I don’t think we should be taking our role lightly. We shouldn’t forget that every single Christian is an important part in the body of Christ and, as such, is called upon in this time of need. Let others argue about face masks and politics. We have more important things to do. We have the real answers. Why should we burden ourselves with worldly thoughts and arguments? We must decide for whom we stand in this hour of great need. Is it a political party, candidate, position or our Father? Let’s not be argumentative, but rather understanding, compassionate and caring. Let’s reach out to each other and those who may not yet know the love of the Father and give them a taste of His unfailing love. Remember, if we do not show God’s acceptance and understanding, no one will.

You have been called to this day and don’t believe you haven’t, but not to political debate. No, we are called in this time to prayer and the expression of His love. This is the time when you must stand up for love and show your true colors. Turn off the TV and spend some extra time in meditation and conversation with your Father. Open your heart honestly and let Him give you direction and ideas. You are a powerful force for good and this could be the greatest evangelical time of our lives. Let’s not waste it being judgmental and divisive. You are the blessing God has put in the earth and though you may feel like you are not important, I can assure you that you are. Don’t waste your power and authority in Christ Jesus. Be the blessing and voice you were born to be. Be the voice of compassion and grace. Don’t miss your time. Don’t underestimate your value.

Motto

Colossians 3: 12 – 14

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

As you may have noticed, I am reading Colossians, the third chapter, and if you look at the digital Bible I am reading from, you will see that almost every verse is highlighted and the only reason it isn’t all highlighted is because I restrained myself. This chapter is a primer for the what the Christian life is to be. Today’s passage really spoke to me and I want to suggest that it is the seminal passage for this time in our history. However, we are so far from this paradigm right now, that I hesitate to speak what alit on my heart as I read it. Then again, many writers of truth have been shouted down throughout history and berated for speaking the truth. Just look at Paul, John and Peter for starters.

In trying times, and these certainly are, the kindness of God and His love are needed above all things. The language of love is what will resonate and it will resound above all else. Love is a hard thing, though, because it does not, under any circumstances, lie. Sometimes the truth is the hardest thing you will ever have to tell someone.

In trying to navigate the stress and to come to grips with a changing world, this advice from Paul resonates loudly. We must approach the changing dynamics from God’s perspective of compassion and love. Life is a challenged right now, I know, and that is why I want to offer this passage. I know some people feel trapped by the rhetoric. The political left has its message but on a different subject we are assailed by the right. Most people in the country can identify with some “ism”. Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, and every other identifiable race, excluding whites, has felt the sting of racism. Women have been abused, neglected, marginalized and discriminated against the world over. Even white males get old and are no longer viewed as valuable. It seems most are either the wrong race, gender or age. Then there is the gay and transgendered community. Many people would not think twice about making derogatory comments about this group. Not long ago people were saying that God created AIDS to eliminate them. Wow!

The only real answer for any of this is the love and compassion of God. If we don’t take our stressors to God in prayer and wield the love and patience of God, I fear we will never make any meaningful change. God changes hearts. I want to bring this discussion to a broad market. In response to the corona virus challenge, we all need to apply the love, patience, compassion and gentleness of God. I am not advocating passivity or a lack in your conviction. In fact, I advocate just the opposite. I want people of passion. I just wonder if we are taking our troubles to the Lord or just ranting on Facebook. We are the answer to the problem. If the Christians will adopt today’s passage and marry it with a strong dose, and a continuing practice of prayer, we can effect real change. God can soften hearts and change the course of human history. Whether right or left, the answer is the same – God! Faith only works by love which is why today’s passage is so important.

Paul had to deal with a changing environment too. He lived in very tumultuous times. For goodness sake, the Messiah had just been crucified. Followers of Jesus were facing the same fate. Those are dire circumstances. Yet, he understood that the real power in the community was love, compassion and prayer. Love moves mountains.

There are lots of stressors in our lives right now. Some of you are on furlough and worried about feeding your families. The number of cases of Covid 19 is still rising in some areas. The economy is fragile. People want the economy open; others see that as a risk. We have racial tension, police brutality and in some cases, lawlessness. It is a fine balancing act at this time. And in the wings is a Presidential election with all the turmoil that interjects. We need help.

Please hear me clearly, I am not criticizing anyone’s reactions to the situations or stress in their lives. I am recognizing that people are under enormous stress. The purpose of this writing is to suggest that God is the way and that we need Him like never before. Regardless of our beliefs, there is one constant and one ultimate truth: our God. This, then, is an appeal to adopt this language from Paul as our refrain and further, to passionately and resolutely take our problems to God. As we meditate upon these ideals, what will God speak to our hearts?

There is no one on the planet who has not been affected by the circumstances of 2020. God cares what is going on in your heart. He cares about your pains and worries. He cares that you feel stressed to the point of breaking or that you have been isolated from friends and family for months. He knows of your anxiety and is compassionate. He wants to aid you.

Let’s just look at this one more time – “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Though I have not written, specifically, on them, let us not overlook the words kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and unity.

No matter where we stand politically or on any given issue, we are all those “who have been chosen of God.” We are the people God has in the earth. We have an awesome ability to take everything to Him in compassioned prayer. Let us not miss our calling oh chosen ones of God. Let us recommit ourselves to prayer and remember, that person across the aisle may not think like you, but they are, none the less, a child of God and valued in His sight.

Practical Compassion

Roman 12: 15        NIV

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

It would be interesting to hear from you as to what this sentiment says to you. It probably says more than seen at first glance. It is also probably appropriate for these times, specifically, because of the wide-spread and varied emotions people are experiencing around the globe.  People are facing a wide range of circumstances.  The situations and accompanying emotions can even vary by geographic region. What is our response to these changing situations and the real-life consequences? This is the application of compassion but what is that practical aspect?

When people mourn many times our response is to try to cheer them. This verse suggests that trying to cheer people up isn’t the only, or perhaps, even the best approach. Maybe compassion means meeting people where they are and being with them in their state. It is uncomfortable, for sure. We like to be around people who are happy and smile a lot. This verse suggests a level of empathy that many of us may potentially find discomforting. It is quite easy to rejoice when others rejoice but mourning with those who mourn is challenging.

Empathy means that we can share the feelings of others. We don’t have to coach them, teach them or try to change their emotions. We only need to be in their space with them. It validates their emotions. We are quick to try to change people but Jesus is asking us to just be with them where they are and show them his compassion. We just let our hearts be tender and give comfort.

Send me your thoughts. What does this look like in real world practice?

Enthroned

Psalm 102: 12 – 22

But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come. For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity. The nations will fear the name of the Lord, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea. Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.” So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.

This is a large selection of text today, but hopefully it reveals a central truth and comfort. You might be interested to know that the title of today’s psalm is, “A prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the Lord.” What a title! However, this segment of the psalm does not sound like it is written by a person in despair and that is the key lesson. From despair, we lift our heads and see God’s glory.

The author may have wondered, like many other saints, “Where is God?” In times of trouble, it may seem God has abandoned us. However, as the psalmist indicates, our God is still on the throne and He reigns. He will save Zion, and your town, and rain down upon it His compassion and favor. Though the author was afflicted and had grown weak, yet he says of God, “He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.” Then he tells us that this is recorded for a future generation, i.e. for us, that we might have courage and confidence in our time of need.

We are not abandoned, and God is not ignoring our plight. He attends to the prayer of the destitute, the needy. We will not ignore our cry for help. God will save us. He is with us and we will yet praise His name as we assemble to worship His name. His love surrounds and keeps us. He is Lord Protector and Father. Let us leave a testimony for a future generation too, that our Father lifted us and showed us His favor in our time of need.

Glory to God! Let the earth sing. Praises be to Yahweh; Father, Lord and Savior. Come Lord Jesus, show us your grace; shower us in your mercy and favor. Lift our heads that we might praise you with a joyful voice. Let the world see the beauty of your countenance as you touch and bless through your presence, your glorious, shining presence with your people. Amen.

Lovingkindness

Exodus 34: 6 – 7

Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin.”

I wrote yesterday of my changing attitudes and if I failed to communicate this, I want to make clear that the only reason there is even a drop of compassion in my body is because our Father is full of loving compassion. He has given me the ability to feel His love and compassion for His children.

Do you love this passage? I hope it is rich and meaningful to you. Pick a word, any word and just let it speak to you and show you Father’s nature. I am a little stuck on the word “lovingkindness.” Other translations just say “love” and that is all that is necessary but it is almost like the translators of the NASB and earlier versions just couldn’t wrap enough sentiment around the word love so they had to reach into the richer meaning of the original language. It is not enough to be loving because it has to express the manifestation of love. God’s love does something. It is not a feeling; it is an action. It shows itself in His kindness, His graciousness, and His patience. He is abounding with love and compassion such that it is overflowing from Him. It is Him. He is love and compassion. He is not a wrathful God but instead a Father of infinite patience who is slow to anger. He is kind and forgiving at all times and each day He has a new supply of tender mercy for each of us.

We may overlook the word gracious but perhaps it is the word which will most bless your heart today. God’s grace means that He is thoughtful, affectionate, kind, caring and courteous. He purposes not to hurt or even embarrass you. He is gentle. A gracious person attempts not to hurt your feelings. They are tender and that is God.

He is the loving embrace you need today. He is accepting and understanding. You don’t have to pretend with Him because He accepts you just as you are. He loves you and wants to wrap His arms around you today and keep you safe. He cares infinitely about what you are thinking and feeling. His love for you knows no bounds which is what abounding communicates. Every morning His love for you is renewed so that there is a never-ending supply. He is a deep well of understanding.

Your God is love and loves you. He is pouring out His heart to you today so that you can rest in His compassionate embrace. You don’t need to bring anything to the meeting. Just let Him soothe you. He is non-judgmental so you can take whatever you think and whatever you feel and cast it at His feet. Every day, He only wants to protect and love you. Whatever you need today is in Him. Praise the Lord for His love is all encompassing and poured out onto the children of earth.

Communism and Compassion

Matthew 12: 7

But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.

Many of you know my background but for those who do not, I was a Political Science major in college. After college I went to law school and got my Juris Doctor degree. I was known in college for my conservative views and argued for small government which should be administered as closely to the people as possible, civil liberties, and privacy. I lean towards the writings of John Locke and away from Thomas Hobbes. I tell you this so that you will appreciate that communism is not a governmental model that I believe best meets the needs of its people nor does it guard individual liberty and privacy. This is where I come from, a conservative libertarian. The best government is one which least affects my life.

I have also believed that God chooses republican forms of government for us where individuals selected by the people administrate government on our behalf. For a long time now, my philosophical, religious and political views have lived in harmony. Imagine my surprise when I recently understood Father to teach me that He is not wedded to a form of government. He loves people, all people.

As this current crisis wears on, I watch as forms of government affect health care responses. I watch as people around the world struggle to balance freedom and their social conscious. Governments don’t necessarily represent the thoughts and concerns of individuals. Nor do the messages of those governments necessarily reflect the thoughts of the public. As I pondered all the questions of my mind in regard to governmental forms and power responding to a health care crisis, Jesus spoke to me. Please understand, it has taken me a while to grasp where he is leading me, and I am not sure I have it all yet.

Compassion – that is the theme of Jesus’ message to me. I have heard that word and wrestled with it for weeks. I find that Jesus’ compassion knows no political borders. Wherever people are suffering he is there. I found myself less concerned about communism than about the people dying in communist countries. Further, I am supposed to care about and pray for people regardless of their political affiliation or their country of residence. I cannot pray against China nor judge and criticize them. Now how do I reconcile my beliefs? Still, I am happy to find a change has occurred in me. I am so happy for nations who have fared well, but literally mourn over losses even in communist China. I absolutely feel compassion for China. No matter what the rhetoric, no matter what the failings, I keep coming back to Chinese people are dying too and I think, it doesn’t matter if you are communist or live in a democratic republic if it is your parent dying. Political choices make no difference to a person who cannot go see their loved one who is dying in a quarantined space. Compassion – that is the message.

We will have an opportunity to ask ourselves what changed in our lives during this historic time. I will say, “Never have I been more compassionate in my life. Never has the tenderness of God’s love so affected me such that I would eschew my political beliefs in favor of humanitarian sympathy.” I cannot tell you how surprised I am about this when the word “humanitarian” used to make me think, “Here comes some bleeding heart, liberal tripe.” In fact, I am embarrassed to know I thought that way. I hope, when this is all done and dusted, I will find I have grown personally and professionally. I hope my liberal friends will be able to tolerate me more and that my conservative friends will love the strength I have found in caring about others.

I believe we don’t win unless every country on the planet wins. I think if I cannot pray for China, Russia, and North Korea, I haven’t learned the lesson Jesus has brought me to. And I pray, that at the end of all this, he will be able to say to me, “Well done good and faithful servant.” This has been challenging for every one of us and don’t doubt it, but we can come through it personally stronger and improved.

I pray for you, my beloved. Though I don’t know each of your personal stories, I do know you are not getting to do some of the things you are accustomed to, you are not getting to travel, even see your family perhaps. Some of you have been sick, scared, angry, politicized, apathetic, and so on. Collectively we have run the gamut of human emotion and I know it has been hard on everyone. I am praying, compassionately, over you today, not in judgment or condemnation, but rather that you would find everything you need and that our Father will not only meet those needs but embrace you in His uncompromising love. Be blessed!