Tag: Compassion

The Imaginative Gospel

I sat across from two friends at coffee. We updated each other on our lives and current reading list. The conversation began to turn towards how people grow. He reached for his coffee cup and made a powerful observation about following Jesus.

photo-1453668069544-b8dbea7a0477

He said to both of us, “We tell people what not to do, rather than giving them the imagination of what life in Christ could look like.”

We can become fixated of what we need to stop or quit. Dallas Willard in the Divine Conspiracy called this the “Gospel of Sin-Management.” This gospel lives in the present without the future vision of how Christ’s grace transforms our lives. It becomes our constant anxiety of checking out lists and earning God’s grace.

The Gospel gives us the optimistic imagination for growth. God’s grace causes us to see His presence at work in us. He invites us to have a vision for our lives in His likeness and loving people as He has.

When Jesus encounters people in Scripture, He sees the reality of who they are and who they can become through believing in Him.
Peter, despite his faults and failure, receives a vision from Jesus to shepherd God’s people (John 21).
The woman at the well moves past her reputation in Samaria to communicating to people a vision of Christ’s grace (John 4).
The woman caught in adultery moves from experiencing shame to the radical acceptance of Jesus (John 8:1-11)

The Good News of Jesus Christ gives us the reality of our need for a Savior, but also provides us a vision of life-change through His grace…
Worry can transform into faith in Christ.
Judging others can turn towards compassion.
Shame gets exchanged for the radical acceptance of a Savior.
Materialism and greed can be swapped for contentment.

The list could go further. The question for you is where has Christ given you imagination for life-change? What one area might He call you to have a radical vision for His grace?

Ask God about these questions. Then share it a with a trusted friend. Grace grows our imagination with the assumption of God at work in our lives.

Imagination and faith are the same thing, giving substance to our hopes and reality to the unseen – Bishop John V. Taylor

Photo credit by Kamesh Vedula.

Surprise People

Prepare for the worst. You and I can think of scenarios where this applies. The moment you get the email saying, “Can I meet with you to discuss something?” It happens in the meeting where you have to pitch the idea. Some of us shiver with fear walking up to a podium for public speaking. You open the door of the house anticipating loads of laundry, dishes in the sink, and the rest of the house in shambles.

QrXgXMhCSouyhU7idq7g_IMG_8402

Think of the relief when the worst does not happen. Rather than telling you the bad news, someone wants to sit down and tell you the good news. You hear more encouragement than criticism in the pitch or presentation. Someone has anticipated your exhaustion and cleaned the house. People can surprise us.

Flip the scenario around. You notice another person preparing for the worst. They worry just like you about the reactions to the presentation and the pitch. They anticipate the mess as they open the door to the house.

We know what would like in those circumstances, but how often do we think about others? Better yet, do we respond others in helpful ways?

Experiencing Christ’s grace moves us to recognize the needs of others. The Gospel meets us in everyday life. It’s reflected in our acts of service. It comes through in the moments when people expect the worst.

James Bryan Smith in The Good and Beautiful Community makes this observation about Jesus’ example:

His (Jesus) example becomes our example. Not merely because we want to imitate him and perhaps earn his favor. Being a servant of others is the highest way to live. Wanting and needing to be served by others is not life-producing but soul-destroying, Jesus showed us by example. Jesus the Creator of the universe, the King of all things, comes to serve. He washes the feet of the disciples. He lives to serve.

He not only taught it, he lived it. He gave his life for the good of others, including you and me. We who follow him as teacher are called on to do the same, to shift our focus away from ourselves and onto others.

Serving in Jesus’ name has less do with action and more to do with an attitude. Grace causes us to see what He has done for us; thus, we extend that same grace to others. The Gospel causes us to see the needs of others and respond to them in ways that they can recognize Christ.

In a world full of busyness and self-focus, we surprise people when we offer them grace. They have thought the worst about a circumstance and we have offered them the contrary.

We surprise people when we take the focus off of ourselves and place it on them. It’s the kind word of encouragement when they expected the criticism. It’s doing the mundane chores without being asked. It’s the moment you listen to someone and comment later.

Serving others becomes a tangible expression of living the Gospel in everyday life.

What can you do to surprise someone today? How can you serve them so they can experience grace?

Photo credit by Kelley Bozrarth.

MLK Day 2016: A Prayer

dc-740957_1920

Today, we remember the life and influence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
His life embodied Your words on the Sermon on the Mount,
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
He had the audacity to believe that You bless those who repay evil with good, rather than evil.

Almost fifty years have passed since King’s death, and we still face similar issues.
At times, we have overlooked injustices.
We sometimes lack the compassion to walk in another’s pain.
Political affiliations separate us from each other.
It seems now more than ever; we need the peace that You offer.

Lord, forgive us.
Forgive us for not seeing each other as created in Your Image.
Forgive us for continuing the fight rather than seeking reconciliation.
Forgive us for not practicing presence by listening to others.
Forgive us for not moving towards each other in love.

The Gospel reminds us that You bring peace.
Though sin alienated us, You brought us near through Your grace.
Thus, You removed the wall that divides us from each other.
We stand at the same level at the foot of the cross.
We realize the message of the Gospel brings us closer to You and each other.
You are our peace.

Give us hearts motivated to bring peace.
Move us to have empathy for each other.
Teach how to extend the grace you have freely given to us to each other.
Let us love each other in words and deeds.

Prince of Peace rule in our hearts and lives.
Let us reflect on this day how to embody Your peace and reconciliation in remembering the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo credit by Michael Wilson.

Why the Genealogies in the Bible Matter?

You want to begin to read the Christmas story. Turning to Matthew’s Gospel, you start with the first chapter. The first seventeen verses give a genealogy of Jesus’ family. A litany continues “So and so fathered so and so…” Though we can recognize some of the names such as Abraham, Jacob, and David, why would this ancient list of names matter to us?

picjumbo.com_HNCK9851

The scriptures do not hide from brokenness. Psalms record the candid prayers of people, often sharing frustrations with God. Historical books like Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings, share do not shy away from human sinfulness. If anything, the scriptures paint us a reality of life marred by sin.

Jesus’ family tree includes the following…
Abraham lied about his wife Sarah to protect himself.
Jacob tricked his own blind and aging father.
Judah fathered a child in this lineage with the wife of one of his sons.
David killed a man to marry his wife.
Then you can follow the unkempt stories of Rehoboam and Manasseh.

Safe to safe, we will never compare Jesus’ relatives with the gravitas of British monarchy.

Matthew, the writer of the Gospel, has his past to reconcile. This genealogy reflects his life. He sold his Jewish soul to become a wealthy tax collector in the Roman government, enemies of his people. Later on in his Gospel, he will tell of Jesus calling him (Matt. 9-13). The people we would never think to belong to the line of a Savior become the people which God works through.

Michael J. Wilkins in his commentary on Matthew, says this about Jesus’ genealogy:

Thus, at the very start of his Gospel, Matthew points his readers beyond the personal qualifications of individuals who belong to the line of the Messiah. He focuses instead on the faithfulness of God to bring about his plan of salvation. As will be made clear throughout Matthew’s story of Jesus’ life and ministry, it was God’s overwhelming love for his people that energized his faithfulness… (pg. 66-67)

As we look at our lives, we do not have to hide from reality. We carry the guilt and shame of our past. Some of our families emulate far more dysfunction than consistency. Many of us still have scars from the pain and hurt in our lives.

The Good News of the Gospel shatters the lie having the right pedigree or credentials to follow Jesus. If we learn anything from Jesus, His greatest miracles happen through fractured individuals because they realize their need for His grace. Rather than human effort or accomplishment, Christ reveals his faithfulness to us despite our brokenness.

Do not skip over the genealogies of the Bible. It’s a part of our story. Let this passage of scripture remind you of God’s faithfulness in the midst of regular people. He has called us based on His overwhelming love. Thus, we can experience the peace of reconciliation with Him and invite others to do the same.

Photo credit by Viktor Hanacek.

Into the Wilderness

When have you gone into the wilderness? I moved to Missouri in the middle of winter. The Midwestern brown fields had turned into a few feet of snow. Not the ideal first couple weeks. More than the weather, it took longer than I expected to adjust to a new community. I began to wrestle with God’s presence in my life; did I miss Him on this decision or did He, in fact, put me in this awkward place. Describing Missouri as a wilderness, fit in more ways than one for me.

photo-1430505783706-d589753ea6cd

Finding yourself in the wilderness causes you to have more questions than answers. Doubt swirls like a Midwestern tornado. Has God hidden from me? Will anyone who understands come along side of me? How do I leave this place?

Monotony tires our spiritual lives. Attending church requires effort. Engaging Scripture lacks illumination from the Holy Spirit. Prayer seems transactional rather than relationally connecting with God. We even fear to share about the wilderness to those closest to us in community.

The wilderness brought space in my life for new experiences. I began to reconnect with family and made new friends. The search for God caused me to find Him differently. Eugene Peterson in Leap Over the Wall talks about the wilderness:

I readily acknowledge that this circumstantial wilderness is a terrible, frightening, and dangerous place; but I also believe that’s a place of beauty. There are things to be seen, heard, and experienced in this wilderness that can be seen, heard, and experienced nowhere else. When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we do well to be frightened we also do well to be alert, opened-eyed. In the wilderness we’re plunged into an awareness of danger and death; at the very same moment we’re plunged, if we let ourselves be, into an awareness of the great mystery of God and the extraordinary preciousness of life (pg. 74)

I’ll never forget one of the extraordinary moments in the wilderness. Bill, a boss from college, came to Missouri for a conference. He called me and asked to meet for lunch. In theses seasons, you’re a little more attuned to God bringing the right people into your life. We talked about the difficulty and beauty of my time in Missouri. He began to share his story about the ups and downs. He related t me in such a way not just to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but see God’s presence in the moment.

The wilderness invites us to listen more intently especially to those who have gone through a similar season. This place causes questions for us because we need a new perspective on ourselves, others, and God. Our hearts grow in grace, humility, compassion, and joy. We lean less on having perfect circumstances or control to rediscover the promises of God.

You might find yourself in the wilderness. Embrace the questions. Listen well. Perhaps, this season might invite to experience God in different ways.

How has your life changed by going into the wilderness? Share in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Ahmed Radwan.

A Prayer for a Transformed Heart

life-line

Search my heart – Lord, you see every motivation and attitude in my heart.
The pride that causes me to rely on myself rather than asking for help.
The arrogance that places myself ahead of others.
The bitterness and resentment I hold against those who hurt me.
The anxiety that keeps from me from experiencing the life as You intended.

If I’m truly honest, I don’t always see my own heart as I ought.
I confess to You my blindness and unresponsiveness to my hardened heart.
Forgive me for focusing on everyone else’s issues and neglecting to see my own.

Your grace transforms our hearts.
A heart of stone becomes a heart of flesh in Your presence.
It’s not just a surface touch up or behavior modification, You invite us to experience change from the inside out.
Because our hearts are the wellspring of our lives and out of the abundance of our hearts our mouths speak.

Lord, I ask You to search my heart.
Exchange the pride for humility so that I may rightly see You, others, and myself.
Move me from arrogance to compassion towards others.
Heal the bitterness and resentment in me, so that I can forgive those who have hurt me.
Replace my anxiety with trust in the One, who feeds the sparrows.

Photo by Dave Meier from Picography.

© 2018

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: