Monthly Archives: August 2016

Compassion

Just like the armbands that are still fairly popular today, it is a valid question to ask ourselves WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) when faced with life issues. But another very valid question is to ask WDJD (What Did Jesus Do). We have a collection of four letters (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) called the gospels that give us a complete picture of what Jesus taught and what Jesus actually did when faced with the same situations, circumstances and life issues that we face.

Last week we looked at one of the first components that we must properly understand when defining what it means to be a true, heartfelt, committed follower of Jesus. It is the concept of being a servant. The Big Idea for last week was . . . If you really want to GO BIG, you really have to think small! If you are going to go big in God’s Kingdom you have to let go of pride, not focus on position, and give up any and all desire for prominence. We must “bend down” so we can “look up” and see Jesus.

The second component of being a true, heartfelt, committed follower of Jesus is compassion. Compassion is defined as, “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” It is critical to understand that Jesus has no body but yours, no hands to serve with but yours, and no feet to go with but yours. We are the very embodiment of Jesus to the world around us and when we are made aware of a need we are called and obligated to meet that need. We must say what Jesus would say, go where Jesus would go, and do what Jesus would do.

Once we are made aware of a need, we can’t ignore the need or our responsibility to meet the need. Tim Keller says, “To the degree you understand the Gospel of grace, you will live a radically generous life! If you truly have a spiritual inheritance, you are going to be promiscuously generous with your earthly inheritance.” God has a plan for how to meet the needs in the world . . . it’s spelled Y.O.U.!

If you have your Bible, turn with me to Luke 5. If you don’t have your Bible, it will be on the screen so you can follow along. As we work our way though our Luke 5 our Big Idea for today is . . . Changed people pursue change for other people! You cannot be changed and not pursue the same change for other people. “12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” (Luke 5:12-16).

Anytime we have a conversation in the church about compassion we have to be very careful that we don’t get so focused on meeting the needs that we miss the opportunity to share the Gospel. As Tim Keller has said, “ministries of mercy involve meeting felt needs through deeds.” (Ordinary-Tony Merida, p. 27). If we are not careful we can ere on either side and miss the total picture. Let me explain something before we go any further . . . I am going to use the word “Gospel” several times today. When I do what I am referring to is everything about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. It is a reference to the life-changing, transforming power of Jesus’ blood shed for all of us on the cross and His victory over the grave that give us forgiveness from all sin and makes us a new creation in Christ.

There are two wrong approaches we can have to extending compassion. On one hand we can seek to promote social action but not preach justification by faith alone. It is social ministry with no Gospel. People get their needs met but have no idea what is truly the reason their needs are being met. There is a sincere desire to see the needs met, but it is sincerely wrong when the Gospel is either overlooked or avoided. On the other hand we can seek to proclaim the Gospel and at the same time pull away from social action because we are afraid of compromising the truth.

Some people have tried to justify showing compassion without sharing the Gospel by quoting St. Francs of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel and if necessary use words.” This is problematic and even debatable that St. Francis even said this. The problem with this approach is the Gospel must include words because the Gospel is an announcement. Think about it . . . there will never be a news broadcaster that will come on the newscast and say, “I’m going to bring you the news, and if necessary, I’ll use words.” They have to speak words to give the news.

We must share the Gospel with words while we are showing compassion. People need to hear the Gospel and see the Gospel in action. We must do both . . . we must show compassion while sharing the Gospel. Because if we don’t it only causes confusion and we are just addressing the temporary suffering. We should want to alleviate more than just temporary suffering. The suffering in this life without Jesus extends to eternal suffering so focus on both the temporary and the eternal.

When we think about compassion and having sympathy for the sufferings and misfortunes of others we must still use discretion and discernment. In order to be compassionate for the right reasons in the right way we need to Observe Their Posture. “And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him,” (Luke 5:12). We must simultaneously look at two things . . . Immediate Situation and Long-Term Solution. Ask yourself, “Why are they in the situation they are in and what is the appropriate response?” A word of caution . . . Do not use discretion and discernment as a “cover-up” for a poor attitude and a total lack of compassion.

What I mean by observe their posture is as you look at their situation, there might be a teachable moment. And what might work for this person’s situation might not work for another person’s situation. When you observe their posture there are a couple of questions to ask yourself . . . Why are they in this position? . . . Are there bad habits or addictions that need to be addressed? . . . Are they in a position of humility or a posture of arrogance? . . . etc. Don’t look at them and say, “I really can’t help you (meaning I really don’t want to help you) but here is a gospel tract I want to leave with you.

It’s the difference in a person looking for a “hand out” or a “hand up”. The posture between the two are totally different (Illustrate the difference between “hand out” and “hand up”). Because of his skin disease the leper was an exile. He was excluded from society because his skin did not look right. But somehow, this leper who was an outcast entered society just long enough to encounter and talk to Jesus. He prostrated himself as somebody traditionally would before kings or slave owners or God. He recognizes the higher position of authority Jesus had over him and made no demands. He just begged for mercy.

The way he addressed Jesus matched his prostrate position. “Lord” (Luke 5:12) is a term of respect that recognizes the higher status of the person you are talking to. It was also the Jewish way of referring to God without using the sacred divine name. Then he extends a plea of faith and leaves the initiative and choice to God. “If you want to, Lord Jesus,” the leper pleaded, “you can heal me and let me back into society with my friends and family. I know you can. Will you, please, Lord?” He was totally coming to Jesus with a “hands up” posture and not a “hands out” posture. When he said, “if you will, you can make me clean.” (Luke 5:12) that was not statement of the lack of faith but totally the opposite. That was a plea to Jesus’ compassion and ability saying, “I know you can so will you please help me?”
In order to be compassionate for the right reasons in the right way we need to Get Personally Involved. “13 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him.” (Luke 5:13). Here is what I have learned over the years . . . It is easy to get excited about a cause, but never actually doing anything for a real person. Why is that? Because just to get excited about a cause doesn’t take a lot of personal effort or involvement. I can sit in my recliner and talk about a cause . . . I can stay in the comfort of my own home and write a check . . . or I can “pray” for the cause. Jesus was not just concerned about the issue of leprosy; He was concerned personally for this man who had leprosy. Unless you give of yourself and get personally involved . . . it’s just all talk!

I have to believe that when you and I take that approach to just talk and give money, God looks at us when we pray and says, “What? I really can’t respond to that because your actions are not matching what you are praying to me about.” It’s like Matthew West’s song called Do Something. He said he looked at all the trouble, poverty, slavery in the world and he thought, “God, why don’t You do something?” Later in his disgust he says, “So, I shook my fist at Heaven and said ‘God, why don’t You do something?” And God said, “I did, I created you.” If you embrace compassion while keeping your focused on the cross, the only possible response is to get personally involved.

In order to be compassionate for the right reasons in the right way we need to Don’t Be Afraid To Push For Accountability. “14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” (Luke 5:14). Sometimes in our efforts to help all we do is hinder. Sometimes when we try to equip all we do is enable. It is never wrong when you show compassion to push for accountability and responsibility. As soon as this man is healed, Jesus immediately tells him to go make things right and get back to being a functioning and contributing part of society.

In order to be compassionate for the right reasons in the right way we need to always Take Time To Refocus And Pray. “15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.” (Luke 5:15-16). All of us need to take time on a regular basis to pray and as we pray for God to refocus our hearts and minds on what is really important.

I’ve got to be honest with you about something. If I am not intentional about praying and refocusing my mind and my heart, I am so quick to judge and have a cynical attitude about everybody and every situation. If I am not “prayed up” I will confront any and every situation that God puts in my path with anger, resentment, and a cynical attitude.

You must realize that there are so many needs for compassion around you and you simply can’t meet all of them. That is the reason for the Church (the Body of Christ). That is why it is so important for everybody to do their part. But the question for all of us is . . . “Who has God made you aware of that needs compassion?” And when you have been made aware of the need, you are commanded and obligated to meet that need.

In order to be compassionate for the right reasons in the right way we need to Be Motivated By The Gospel Of Grace And Not Guilt. If you have been radically changed by the Gospel and by the grace of God extended to you, you will be motivated to do something about injustice and need around you. If you have been changed by the Gospel and grace you will seek change for others. You will do whatever it takes so people will see, hear and understand the Gospel for themselves.

Guilt will only take you so far. Guilt is a great initiator but also a poor sustainer. Pictures and stories will only do so much and last so long. The only thing that will truly sustain us extending compassion to others is the Gospel of grace. The Gospel melts our hearts. The Gospel is the only thing that will genuinely initiate and sustain you in a life of compassion. Tony Merida says, “Grace-saturated people should be mercy-showing and justice-seeking people.”

If you have ever truly encountered people in need of compassion and real poverty, you will never be the same. As I have always said about ministry . . . When you have been there and invested your life in it, pictures and words cannot tell the whole story. During our trip to Guatemala on Thursday, August 11th, I was able to go see for the first time where Darlin lives. We have been sponsoring her for three years and I saw her home for the very first time.

That night I wrote something in my journal that keeps coming back to me. (Show the picture of Darlin’s house). “We took Darlin, Allison and Angel home to visit with them. I will have to admit that what I saw was totally shocking to me. They have dirt floors and the walls and roof are tin with holes all around. They have two rooms for all seven of them. The wall facing the entryway and the wall between them and their Grandma are tarps because the tin is completely gone. This is the one thing I will have to say I never get used to. I pray on this day like I always do, “God, please break my heart for what breaks yours.”

When you have been changed by the Gospel, everything changes! Your life is changed . . . Your desires are changed . . . Your perspective is changed . . . Your attitude is changed . . . Your goals are changed . . . Your selfishness is replaced by selflessness . . . etc. When you have been radically changed you realize God has made you to bring about change! Your entire life is about God using you where you live, work and play to see change in others so that God is glorified. Changed people pursue change for other people!


Servant

When I was growing up we used to play a simple game called, Follow The Leader. The game was not complicated at all as a matter of fact it was really simple. You would select a person to be the leader and everyone else who chose to play would “follow” or “do as the leader did” until there was just one person left. Then the person who followed the leader the longest would then become the leader for the next round. So really, as long as you were able to trust and follow the leader, you could play this game.

Back in Jesus’ day there were people all over the place who would develop a following of people. There were people who were rabbis and they would create a following around a certain teaching or philosophy. And if you liked that teaching or philosophy and you wanted to champion the cause, you would become part of their “school” to follow that rabbi and learn as much as you could from that rabbi. If you followed your rabbi so close that at the end of the day you were covered with the “dust from your rabbi’s feet” that was considered an honor.

The Hebrew word for disciple is “talmid.” This word stresses the relationship between the rabbi who was the teacher or master and the disciple who was the student. A “talmid” of Jesus’ day would give up his entire life in order to be with his teacher. The disciple didn’t only seek to know what the teacher knew, as is usually the case today. It was not enough just to know what the rabbi said, but the ultimate goal of any “talmid” was to become like the rabbi and do what the rabbi did. How close are you following Jesus? Are you like Jesus? Not only are you doing like Jesus would do but are you doing as Jesus did?

Our new series called #Follow is all about looking through the Bible and building a working definition of what it means to be a true, heartfelt, and committed follower of Jesus. Not only is it important for us to ask ourselves WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) but also WDJD (What Did Jesus Do). We have a record called the gospels that give us a complete picture of what Jesus taught and what Jesus actually did when faced with situations and circumstances.

One of the first steps for any of us when it comes to being a truly heartfelt and committed follower or Christ is to fully understand the concept of being a servant. In Mark’s letter we see a pattern surfacing in Mark 9-10. Jesus explains His death and resurrection and the disciples don’t get it but beyond just not getting it they are focused on personal success, personal achievement and personal recognition. Jesus uses an illustration in Mark 9 to try and show them what is really important.

Just prior to our passage in Mark 9:33-37, Jesus had sent the disciples out to the surrounding areas for ministry. They were sent out in Mark 6:6-13. In that particular instance and in Mark 6:13 it says, “They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” But in this episode the disciples were found lacking and were not able to “fulfill their mission.” After their other successes, they were baffled. They wanted to know why or how their new toy, authority over demons, had broken. Why did everything go so well previously and now they failed? Evidently, the disciples had lost their focus. They had forgotten what they were to be about.

Their failure was because they went from spreading God’s kingdom to obsessing about their own importance in that kingdom. We can sometimes wonder why we are not happy? We just can’t seem to figure out why we are not experiencing power in our Christian life? It might be because we are not pursuing what Jesus would have us pursue. We might be focusing on our kingdom and not His Kingdom. The goals we set might be our goals instead of Jesus’ goals. Our lives might be about promoting us instead of promoting Jesus.

If you have your Bible turn with me to Mark 9. If you don’t have your Bible it will be on the screen so you can follow along with me. As we read this and work our way through this passage I want you to think with me about our Big Idea for today . . . If you really want to GO BIG, you really have to think small! “33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. 35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mark 9:33-37).

In our passage for today, Jesus notices that they had been talking as they were walking along and when he asks them what they were talking about they immediately go silent. If you look earlier when Jesus has been talking about His death it says, “32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.” (Mark 9:32). I think it is interesting that they did not understand about His death and the price He would pay for all our sin on the cross but they fully understood what He was asking them about their recent conversation. They were silent because they knew that what they were discussing was not what they should be focusing on.

They were trapped in what I would call “The Lobster Syndrome.” If you have ever seen lobsters in a fine restaurant you will find that they are kept in a shallow cage without a lid on the cage. But yet you don’t see the lobsters getting out of the cage and running lose in the restaurant. So, why is that?  The reason you don’t see them running loose is that when one lobster tries to crawl out of the tank, the other lobsters will grab that lobster and pull it right back into the tank with them.  They can’t escape because they consistently pull each other down. They don’t want the others to get ahead of them so they keep pulling them down.

If you really want to go big You Must Let Go Of Pride. Despite hearing Jesus teach about self-denial, dying to self and losing their lives for Christ and the gospel, they still don’t understand that they must be servants. They remained deaf about what Jesus has said about the road to true greatness. David Brainerd once said, “It is sweet to be nothing and less than nothing that Christ may be all in all.”

They were focusing on all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons. Instead of being focused on Jesus and trying to understand what He was going to be going through, they were focused on what they could get out of this situation. Rather than focusing on what they should be giving, they were focused on what they could get. Matters of rank and recognition were important to the Jews in that day and nothing has changed today. It is still the same for us today.

When you look at society, culture and the business world it is consumed with an “I, Me, Mine” philosophy. It is all about how you can get ahead, how you can get the glory and the praise, how you can rise to the top, etc. Trust me when I say, there is nothing wrong with motivation and a desire to be successful. But when it comes to the Christian life, I have to admit it is not about me. It is all about Jesus and His Kingdom. It is all about how can I get Jesus the glory and praise, how can I get Him to the top, how can I promote Jesus, etc. It’s not about what I have done but what He has done. It’s not about what I can do but about what He can do through me.

Larry Phillips has said on this topic of humility and greatness, “Why does the modern church often seem so powerless in the face of need? Because we also worry too much bout who will get credit, who has the style God likes most, how we can get noticed or promoted, who gets to lead worship at the big Sunday service instead of hanging out with the preschoolers in the back and so on.

If you really want to go big You Must Not Focus On Position. “35 And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35). Right here Jesus doesn’t deny that the desire for greatness should exist. He simply redefines what greatness should be. In one brief statement Jesus turns everything that has to do with how we typically define success upside down. He encourages us to be great in the things that matter to God and not to concern ourselves with the things that matter to man. He says if you want to be first, you have to be last. If you want to become great in His Kingdom you have to become a servant to all people. You have to be willing to “bend down” to meet the need so you can “look up” and see Jesus.

In getting ready for our experience in Guatemala we read the book Kisses from Katie. It is about the journey of young Katie Davis following her calling to an orphanage in Uganda and what God has taught her along this journey. “We bend. I bend to sweep crumbs and I bend to wipe vomit and I bend to pick up little ones and wipe away tears… And at the end of these days I bend next to the bed and I ask only that I could bend more, bend lower.

Because I serve a Savior who came to be a servant. He lived bent low. And bent down here is where I see His face. He lived, only to die. Will I spend myself on behalf of those in front of me? And people say, “Don’t you get tired?” and yes, I do. But I’m face to face with Jesus in the dirt, and the more I bend the harder and better and fuller this life gets. And sure, we are tired, but oh we are happy. Because bent down low is where we find fullness of joy.”

If you really want to go big You Must Overcome The Desire For Prominence. “36 And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” (Mark 9:36-37). Jesus then illustrates what it means to be a “servant of all.” He does something that many of us today would get the point of but in Jesus’ day what He did was really radical.

He takes a child and has that child stand among them and He then picks up the child in His arms. Back in Jesus’ day the infant mortality rates were really high so they did not typically look at the merits of children like many modern cultures do. (Show picture of Samantha). So when Jesus puts a child it is the perfect example of the last or the least. Jesus using a child as an example made a much more powerful statement than it even does today.

So often what we get focused on is personal award, personal reward, personal recognition, position of prestige and position of power. We come to Jesus like James and John did later when they asked Him, “35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” (Mark 10:35-37). Then Jesus very emphatically says, “43 But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45).

Sometimes we can totally forget that we are called to be a servant just like Jesus was a servant. He is our model of how we are to live our lives and truly make our lives count. Katie Davis says in Kisses from Katie, “People who really want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another. And I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes.

She gone on to say, “Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world. People who want to make a difference get frustrated along the way. But if they have a particularly stressful day, they don’t quit. They keep going. Given their accomplishments, most of them are shockingly normal and the way they spend each day can be quite mundane.”

On the days where helping just one more person seems like too much, help me to choose you. On the days when Satan whispers ‘You can’t save everyone, why are you trying?’ let me choose you.”

It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your backyard, but I believe that we were each created to change the world for someone. To serve someone. To love someone the way Christ first loved us, to spread His light. This is the dream, and it is possible.