Archive for January, 2015

Compassionate Advice

Posted in Love, Scripture on January 6, 2015 by nmpreach

The last few months, I’ve been convicted to have more compassion for others.  My wife and I were having the discussion again regarding compassion and she asked, “So what makes you think you’re not compassionate?”  My answer: “I just want to see people the way Jesus saw them.  Were there people who pushed His “buttons”?  Most likely.  Yet He never sinned.  He was never cynical regarding their circumstances.  He wasn’t short with them.  In fact, He often took a longer time with those who were struggling with something.”  Sadly, that’s not the case for me.  I desire deeply to love the way Jesus loved.

I had another thought regarding compassion.  Too often, many of us view compassion, love, etc. as speaking into another’s life.  For those of us who have a gift of encouragement or discernment, we’re quick to offer what we would do in the given situation.  At first glance, that seems commendable.  In other words, when we counsel we rationalize it as ministry.  But is that the case?

The writer of Ecclesiastes seems to be clear.  “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…” (3:1, 7 ESV).  It seems to me we act upon the latter while disregarding the former.  We speak quickly but are rarely silent.

An example might be helpful.  A man named Job is described as wealthy before losing virtually everything.  He was considered “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8).  Yet Job experiences loss and extreme suffering.  Job’s friends eventually arrive and perhaps we expect them to solve the issue or at least minimize the pain.  But that’s not the case.

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, …They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him…And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great (Job 2:11, 13 ESV, emphasis mine).

No one spoke a word to him – for at least seven days.  That’s sympathy?  It appears so.  Sympathy.  Compassion.  Love.

Once Job speaks and describes his pain, his friends begin to offer advice.  But if you know the narrative, you know their theology and the advice they give is flawed.  Job remains on the defensive and eventually has his own dialogue with God.  It’s as if his friends would have been more helpful if they would not have spoken.  Sit with me.  Be here.  Show your concern.  But maybe it’s better you don’t speak.

Here’s the point:  We’re quick to speak because we equate busyness with good things.  What if we were just there?  What if we showed our concern and support by sitting and saying nothing?  What if we thought it was okay to say, “I don’t know why, but I know God is faithful.”?  What if we really believed God is good all of the time?  Sure, there are times we should speak.  But there are times when speaking is not compassion, nor sympathy or love.

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My Bucket (2015)

Posted in Grace on January 2, 2015 by nmpreach

bucketDepending on who you read or the numbers you believe, 75-80% of those who make resolutions will fail – many in two weeks or less.  Those are horrible odds.  And because of past failures, many people look for the proverbial white towel and give up and/or become cynical to goals or any attempt at change.  At times, people say things like, “I used to make resolutions.  But because I failed so often, I just don’t make them anymore.”

The famous quote “I yam what I am” from Popeye comes to mind.  For what it’s worth, that phrase has been used to rationalize immorality, settle for mediocrity, and to simply coast through life.  How many people do you know live six or seven decades only to look back on their life and say, “I should have… I wish I would have… If only I could have…”?  I know several.  The good news is it’s never too late.

A new year brings new opportunities – opportunities to invest in what matters.  In recent years the phrase “bucket list” has become popular.  In a 2007 movie, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman encouraged us to live life to the fullest.  “Do something you’ve always dreamed of.”  Etc.  As I see it, the trouble with a “bucket list” is the bucket is often limited to this world.  In other words, the parameters of the bucket force one to focus on worldly things.  The list may include jump from a skyscraper, travel to exotic lands, build the perfect house, drive the greatest car, paint the white picket fence, etc.  But as those things are added to the “bucket,” one finds the bucket to have several small holes in the bottom that allows the contents to drain.  The fulfillment found in worldly goals or possessions is fleeting.

Jesus once said, Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matt 6:19-21 ESV)

Did you catch it?  Jesus attempts to define the “bucket” for us.  Why focus on things that will one day be gone?  Why not invest in things that will last forever?  For some reason, I think the bucket God offers is without holes.  Remember John 15?  IF you remain in me… but if you don’t…

Of course Christians are far from immune to the ways of the world.  A popular preacher has asked believers to consider, “What would you do if you only had thirty days to live?”  The book and preaching series was popular for a time.  People began to do things they had been called to do years before.  Relationships were restored.  Faith grew.  But too often even those things that were once “hot” became “lukewarm.”  The passion was there for a time and then simply gone.  Why should it take someone describing our life ending in thirty days to cause change?

It seems to me that we need goals – whether we call them resolutions or not.  We must be reminded to “look towards the finish line.”  It’s much too easy to see all of the things around us and lose focus.  For that among other reasons, God offers us new seasons, new days, and even new hours.

In this new season, year, month, day, I resolve to:

1) Let God define the “bucket;”

2) Invest in things that will last rather than those things that are limited;

and

3) When I fail, lose focus, and fall, I resolve to receive God’s grace and get up.  Cf 1 John 1:5-10

I’m grateful for new seasons and another chance!