J. I. Packer: Personal and Great

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J. I. Packer: Personal and Great

They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water. Isaiah 49:10

“Today, vast stress is laid on the thought that God is personal, but this truth is so stated as to leave the impression that God is a person of the same sort as we are—weak, inadequate, ineffective, a little pathetic. But this is not the God of the Bible! Our personal life is a finite thing: it is limited in every direction, in space, in time, in knowledge, in power. But God is not so limited. He is eternal, infinite, and almighty. He has us in His hands; we never have Him in ours. Like us, He is personal; but unlike us, He is great. In all its constant stress on the reality of God’s personal concern for His people, and on the gentleness, tenderness, sympathy, patience, and yearning compassion that He shows toward them, the Bible never lets us lose sight of His majesty and His unlimited dominion over all His creatures.”

J. I. Packer in Knowing God (Downers Grove: IVP, 1973) 83.

We serve a personal God who is great! Personally, I am thankful for His gentleness, tenderness, sympathy, patience, and yearning compassion toward our family, and recently to both our son and our daughter.

Sammy was married in October to Emily. She’s been praying for a job and I learned upon returning home from my travels that God has heard that prayer. She will work at the church where our son works.

What personal and great provision!

Also, I feel God’s personal and great hand on my family this weekend. Our daughter Sophie Victoria Hoag will marry Peter Joseph Gomez on Monday. Relatives and friends will celebrate with us.

Want to join us? Reply to this email for details.

And, with Peter I have been praying for a job for months. God has heard our prayers and his new job will start the day after their honeymoon. Some call it coincidence. I celebrate God’s personal concern for His people.

God, thanks for being both personal and great! Lead, guide, and provide for Sammy and Emily and Sophie and Peter all the days of their lives. Keep looking after Jenni and me too, I ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Jeanne Guyon: Consolation

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! Isaiah 49:15

“God Himself invites us to cast all our care upon Him, and He complains, in inconceivable goodness, that we employ our strength, our riches, and our treasure, in countless exterior things, although there is so little joy to be found in them all.

“Wherefore do you spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfies not? Hearken diligently unto me, and
eat you that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness”
(Isa. lv. 2).

Oh, if it were known what happiness there is in thus hearkening unto God, and how the soul is strengthened by it! All flesh must be silent before the Lord (see Zech. ii. 13). All self-effort must cease when He appears. In order still further to induce us to abandon ourselves to Him without reserve, God assures us that we need fear nothing from such abandonment, because He has a special individual care over each of us.

He says, “Can a woman forget her sucking-child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yet, she may forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Isa. xlix. 15). Ah, words full of consolation! Who on hearing them can fear to abandon himself utterly to the guidance of God?”

Jeanne Guyon in A Short Method of Prayer (London: Low and Searle, 1875) 37-38.

Where do you find consolation? Where is your trust?

Guyon beckons us to cease self-effort and buying things which the prophet Isaiah reminds us do not satisfy. Instead we are invited to abandon ourselves utterly to the guidance of God. Though human compassion may fail, God will not forget about is.

This should give us great consolation. We can trust in God!

So what does God see when He looks at your life? Does He see “reserve” in your hearts? Or does He see you resting with “abandonment” in His absolute care? Having returned safely home from India, I am thankful to serve a God of compassion who can be trusted to guide and provide.

Only those who cease self-effort grasp the generous consolation of His special individual care. Have you?

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Frederick Buechner: Somebody Else’s Skin

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 3:8

“Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you, too.”

Frederick Buechner as cited by Ben Witherington and Julie Noelle Hare in The Living Legacy 137.

When this posts I should nearly be back to the USA. On this trip to India I have been moved with compassion by learning what I means to minister in the complex context.

What a privilege to serve my brothers and sisters there. I look forward, if the Lord wills, to return in August 2020 to build on the progress made on this trip. Make it so Lord Jesus.

If they struggle or need assistance and I have the ability and capacity to help them, I will do all I can to assist. What a privilege! What might that look like for you to have compassion and aid others?

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Henry Ward Beecher: Compassion Cures

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

“Take a sharp-cut young saint, just crystallized, as many-pointed and as clear as a diamond, and how good he is! How decided for the right, and how abhorrent of wrong! He abhors evil rather than loves good. He has not yet attained to the meekness and gentleness of Christ. But years will teach him that love is more just than justice; that compassion will cure more sins than condemnation; and that summer will do more, with silent warmth, to redeem the earth from barrenness, than winter can with all the majesty of storms and the irresistible power of her icy hand.”

Henry Ward Beecher in Life Thoughts, First Series (London: Blackwood) 158.

Why does it take some of us years to figure this one out? We abhor evil rather than loving good. We lack meekness and gentleness. We aim for justice instead of love and condemnation rather than compassion. Not this year. Let’s add love and compassion to our generosity.

My trip to India is drawing to a close. I depart from Mumbai tonight. While this country may have its share of challenges, compassion is curing many ills. As nothing can touch love and compassion, it’s been a privilege to dispense such kindness on my visit and see it make a difference.

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Bernard Of Clairvaux: Contemplate on Compassion

“Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.” John 1:16

“What could result from the contemplation of compassion so marvelous and so undeserved, favor so free and so well attested, kindness so unexpected, clemency so unconquerable, grace so amazing except that the soul should withdraw from all sinful affections, reject all that is inconsistent with God’s love, and yield herself wholly to heavenly things?”

Bernard of Clairvaux in On Loving God, excerpt from chapter 4.

Those who contemplate on compassion withdraw, reject, and yield. They withdraw from all sinful affections, they reject all that is inconsistent with God’s love, and they yield to heavenly things.

From what sinful affections do you need to withdraw? How is your life inconsistent with God’s love? What would it look like for you to yield to heavenly things? These are good questions for everyone to ask.

The India trip has gone so well. Thanks for your prayers. I head home in one more day. As I depart Bernard reminds me to think and contemplate on compassion. Do it with me and see how the Holy Spirit speaks to your.

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Dallas Willard: Live Compassion

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

“The first major step in becoming one of those who love their neighbors as themselves is to decide to live compassion. Now let us be clear: This is a decision to receive the abundance of the Kingdom of the Heavens as the basis for your life. Matthew 6:33 is what we do. We must understand it practically in order to turn loose of the self concern, the self-kingdom. This explains why neighbor-love is not the first, but the second, commandment. They are not two separate commandments, but one with two aspects.”

Dallas Willard in Renovaré article “How to Love Your Neighbor as Yourself”.

Do you live compassion? Have you turned loose of self concern, the self-kingdom?

Many struggle with living compassion and loving those around them with selflessness because they think they will run out of resources to care for themselves. They do not get how God’s economy works. Until each of us lets go and taps into the “abundance of the Kingdom of the Heavens as the basis” for life, we cannot live compassion.

God help us seek You first and live compassion today and every day to show the world that abundant life is found in You. Amen.

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Augustine of Hippo: Compassionate is a Verb

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither–whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:3

“The souls that thirst after Thee, and that appear before Thee, Thou waterest by a sweet spring, that the earth may bring forth her fruit, and Thou, Lord God, so commanding, our soul may bud forth works of mercy according to their kind, loving our neighbor in the relief of his bodily necessities, having seed in itself according to its likeness, when from feeling of our infirmity, we compassionate so as to relieve the needy; helping them, as we would be helped; if we were in like need; not only in things easy, as in herb yielding seed, but also in the protection of our assistance, with our best strength, like the tree yielding fruit: that is, well-doing in rescuing him that suffers wrong, from the hand of the powerful, and giving him the shelter of protection, by the mighty strength of just judgment.”

Augustine of Hippo in The Confessions of St. Augustine, 8.17.

Yesterday I failed to mention that Linda Maris is collaborating with Jenni and me on the 30 day devotional, Flourish, which will be produced by NCF Wisconsin. The book is slated to release in June 2020. Again, I exploring compassion with an eye for texts that reflect flourishing.

Compassionate is a verb. “We compassionate so as to relieve the needy…”

Ed Spencer, a Daily Meditations reader, added this comment yesterday. He said rightly, “Sympathy is to feel; empathy is to attach personal meaning to the feeling; compassion is to become engaged personally in doing something with the feeling.”

What if we revived the idea that compassionate is a verb? What if each of us became engaged personally in doing something for the needy?

Notice, like David the psalmist, Augustine likens the giving of our “best strength” to showing compassion as a tree yielding fruit. It’s what Jesus re-made us to do.

Father, show us what it means to compassionate our neighbor. Jesus, give us eyes to see the needy. Holy Spirit, empower us to serve them.

Speaking of service, the CEO retreat in Goa is going great. I am one of four facilitators for the group of young CEO’s of ministries in India. Also, enjoy the new header photo too, a shot of the Arabian Sea from Goa, on the west coast of India. I shot it between sessions yesterday.

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John Chrysostom: Chief Work

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.” John 6:29

“You shall find many which have not the true faith, and be not of the flock of Christ, and yet (as it appeareth) they flourish in good works of mercy. You shall find them full of pity, compassion, and given to justice; and yet for all that they have no fruit of their works, because the chief work lacketh.

For when the Jews asked of Christ what they should do to work good works, he answered: “This is the work of God, to believe in Him Whom He sent.” So that He called faith the work of God. And as soon as a man hath faith, anon he shall flourish in good works; for faith of itself is full of good works and nothing is good without faith.”

John Chrysostom as cited by Thomas Cranmer in “An Homily or Sermon of Good Works Annexed Unto Faith” (Cambridge: University Press, 1846) 143.

As I continue to explore compassion in relationship to generosity in 2020, I realize that ultimately it flows out of a chief work, that is, faith in Christ. So people can show compassion and do good works, but they will only flourish in them if they have faith.

My wife, Jenni, and I have started working on a 30-day devotional entitled, Flourish. I say this because if you notice the theme of ‘compassion’ intersecting with what it means to ‘flourish’ in my posts it’s because I am exploring those ideas together.

Let this be the lesson for today. If we want to grow in compassion or flourish in any wide array of good works, let us nurture our faith in Jesus Christ (or encourage people to embrace such faith), for out of that spring will flow an abundance of good works.

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J. H. Gurney: Make the Sick and Suffering Your Friends

I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Luke 16:9

“So far our Lord’s meaning is quite plain; and truly it seemeth strange, in a world where men value friends of a certain kind at so high a rate, that to bind the needy to us by the tie of gratitude is a service so much neglected. Truly, when we want so many blessings, and God has made such large promises to the bountiful, the man acts an unwise part for his own good in both worlds, who does not greatly value the prayers of his humbler, weaker brethren. O bear this in mind, and make your charities, if you can, more personal and special than is the fashion in these modern days. Let your gifts, some of them, at least, be not only a tax paid somewhere, because men must not live in a Christian state without acknowledgment of their dependence upon God, but an offering, for Christ’s sake, to some selected brother. I see not how you can make the sick and suffering your friends on other terms; and be assured they are friends worth having; for God, who seeth their need, and hath compassion on their sorrows, and heareth all their cries, may send us showers of blessings in answer to their prayers.”

J. H. Gurney in “The Mammon of Unrighteousness: It’s Slaves and Masters” in Christian Almsdeeds and Faithful Stewardship (London: Rivingtons, 1862) 44.

Read the last part again.

“I see not how you can make the sick and suffering your friends on other terms; and be assured they are friends worth having; for God, who seeth their need, and hath compassion on their sorrows, and heareth all their cries, may send us showers of blessings in answer to their prayers.”

This inspires me as I minister in India this week (pain-free today thank God, and almost assuredly thanks to the prayers of many). I have seen sick and suffering people all over. They line the streets. The challenges of this context are so great it would be easy for God’s servants to be overwhelmed and give up.

Serving God’s servants in Chennai, Delhi, Bengaluru, and now Goa, has been more than giving trainings and talks. I’ve been making friends who are suffering. They say the assistance is an answer to their prayers, which may explain why I feel so blessed in the process.

Do you know anyone who is sick or suffering? Don’t give them a handout. Think what giving a hand-up might look like in the name of Jesus. Do this not from the angle of making a friend. The heavenly blessing that returns to you just might surprise you.

That’s my hope and prayer for each of us as we explore compassion linked to generosity together.

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Teresa of Ávila: Compassionate Her

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things. Mark 6:34

“When I see people very anxious to know what sort of prayer they practice, covering their faces and afraid to move or think lest they should lose any slight tenderness and devotion they feel, I know how little they understand how to attain union with God since they think it consists in such things as these. No, sisters, no; our Lord expects works from us. If you see a sick sister whom you can relieve, never fear losing your devotion; compassionate her; if she is in pain, feel for it as if it were your own and, when there is need, fast so that she may eat, , not so much for her sake as because you know your Lord asks it of you. This is the true union of our will with the will of God. If some one else is well spoken of, be more pleased than if it were yourself; this is easy enough, for if you were really humble it would vex you to be praised. It is a great good to rejoice at your sister’s virtues being known and to feel as sorry for the fault you see in her as if it were yours, hiding it from the sight of others. ”

Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) in Interior Castle 3.11 (Grand Rapids: CCEL) 83.

In reading Interior Castle in 2015, this expression, “compassionate her,” struck me so I posted part of this quote. Today’s post is a longer excerpt which adds depth to it.

I had not thought about it for years until last night. I got to my hotel room in Bengaluru after 1:00am and took a hot shower, trying to relieve pain I was experiencing in my low back and hip.

I was also thinking about the word “compassion.” That’s when I thought of this expression from Teresa, “compassionate her.” So I located the quote and found these words follow that expression.

“If she is in pain, feel for it as if it were your own.” So again I gave thanks for the pain I am currently experiencing in my back and hip. Seriously, the pain has helped me minister more effectively in India.

Then I read Mark’s Gospel and was reminded that Jesus felt their pain and responded with teaching. With a week of teaching to go on this trip, it inspires me to “compassionate” each person I meet, to listen, to feel their deep pain, and to teach them with love.

Join me. Compassionate those around you. Feel their deep pain. Only after doing that will you know what they need. Then (and only then) teach them! Show them graciously, how to find healing and hope in God.

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