Max Lucado: Choose Kindness and Compassion

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Max Lucado: Choose Kindness and Compassion

Thus has the Lord of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother.’ Zechariah 7:9

“I choose kindness… I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone. Kind to the rich, for they are afraid. And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.”

Max Lucado in Let The Journey Begin: God’s Roadmap for New Beginnings (Nashville: Countryman, 1999) 51.

I love the verb “dispense” in today’s Scripture as it implies that we are merely the distributor of what God supplies. We get to dispense true justice. That means we give the good things He supplies to everyone, not just our friends.

Then, I notice the verb “practice” linked to my word for 2019, kindness, and my word for 2020, compassion. We figure it out as we live it out that all the rich blessings from God are ours to enjoy and share to shape the lives of those around us.

As Lucado notes, we practice kindness and compassion because those we serve are alone, afraid, and just as needy as we are. How will you practice kindness and compassion today?

I will make myself available to do this in El Salvador. You do it where you are. Together, let us choose kindness and compassion.

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Dallas Willard: Made for Higher Things

Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones. Isaiah 49:13

“The distance between the aspirations and the physical realities of humanity can be the stuff of the ridiculous, the cynical, and the tragic but at the same time be filled with compassion, faithfulness, heroism, and creativity. In short, that distance is life as we know it.

Yet, as creatures go, we are different. We are made for higher things. Our aspirations hint of such a truth. The age-old distinction between the body—the physique—and the person—the soul, spirit, mind—is rooted in the contrast between the unconscious physical facts of our lives, which sometimes shock or shame us, and our “conscious” life, our experiences, interests, meanings, thoughts, intents, and values. And it is the nature of our conscious life that separates us from other creatures, putting an odd distance between our innermost being and the dust heap we also truly are.

When God made us He made creatures capable of astonishing presumption. We humans can almost forget that we are dust. Perhaps we must in some measure forget it in order to carry on. Yet, as we breathe and eat and sleep, we also think and aspire—and that is amazing. In that paradox, that puzzle in which the pieces do not truly fit together, we can either applaud ourselves for such a rare and amazing accomplishment or we can begin to understand that we are touched by powers beyond ourselves.”

Dallas Willard in The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (New York: Harper Collins, 1999) 46-47.

Two phrases struck me as we prepare to lead a Journey of Empowerment (JOE) today in El Salvador. “We are made for higher things” and “We are touched by powers beyond ourselves.”

The God of the heavens has compassion on us. So we get to make know this God to the world. This is only possible with His help. I will generously make Him known in El Salvador today. Will you do likewise where you are?

Don’t do it because the puzzle pieces of life fit together. Do it because they do not. Life is ridiculous, cynical, and tragic. It’s also, thanks to God’s generosity, filled with compassion, faithfulness, and much more.

We are made for higher things. We get to point others to God. Let God stretch you out of your comfort zone. Rely on the powers only He can provide outside yourself. You got this. God’s got you!

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Timothy and Kathy Keller: Temporary Stewards

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—when you already have it with you. Proverbs 3:27-28

“The good that we must give to our neighbor means practical aid for an economic or physical need. It is striking that hte text adds that this is not simply a matter of charity but is your neighbor’s due. To not care for them when they are in need is not merely a lack of charity; it is injustice. Put bluntly: If you have things you neighbor doesn’t have, share them, because he or she has a right to the part of the world over which God has made you a temporary steward.”

Timothy and Kathy Keller in God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs (New York: Viking, 2017) reading for 27 January.

Special thanks to dear brother and Daily Meditations reader, John Ranheim, for sharing this post with me. It’s great to be reminded that we are only temporary stewards.

The implications of this are significant. For example, it leads me to view the car God has supplied as hired and the townhouse I get to live in like a hotel. They are not my things. I am only a temporary steward.

The key is not to treat anything as our own. We are not permanent owners. Such people often hold back from giving because they think they own the assets under their management. We own nothing.

As God grows our hearts in compassion this year, let’s not wait until tomorrow when we have the power to act today. When we see needs and have resources, let’s meet them.

I made it safely to El Salvador with Juan Callejas and Ereny Monir. Yes, that’s a nearby volcano pictured above from my hotel. Pray with us that our teaching time today effectively raises up faithful stewards.

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Bruce Demarest: The Trinity and Generosity

Now they know that everything You have given Me comes from You. John 17:7

“As apprentices of Jesus, we must intentionally and prayerfully model the others-centeredness, intimacy, trust, honest communication, and unconditional love that He exhibited in relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit as a member of the social Trinity. To experience transformation into wholeness and holiness, we are called to cultivate, nurture, and sustain the quality of relationships experienced between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. We do this by imitating Jesus’ life on earth, which flowed from His life in the Trinity. Jesus cared greatly for people who cared little for Him or His kingdom cause.

For example, Jesus dealt patiently and compassionately with the Samaritan woman who resisted His efforts to lead her to the truth (see John 4:4-30). He patiently nurtured His disciples, who were spiritually dull, strong willed, self-confident to the point of arrogance, and at times contentious with one another and with Him. He demonstrated extraordinary humility and love by washing His disciples’ feet (see John 13:3-14). He dealt lovingly and nonjudgmentally with the woman caught in adultery, while dealing firmly with the scribes and Pharisees who used her as a pawn to trap Him (see John 8:1-11). He showed compassion to the rich young ruler in his misguided search for purpose and satisfaction in life (see Mark 10:17-22).”

Bruce Demarest in “The Trinity as Foundation for Spiritual Formation” in The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2016) 234-235.

When the Trinity shapes our generosity, we become more compassionate. We give people what they need and not what they deserve.

But how do we live this way? Daily, like Jesus, we open ourselves to receive from the Father and we give only what we receive by the Spirit.

We must neither overcomplicate it as apprentices of Jesus nor be arrogant about it. As hands and feet of Jesus, let us humbly follow His example.

The best part is that when we live this out, people will know. Jesus said, that people knew in watching Him and they will know in watching us.

Father, as I fly to El Salvador today to meet up with colleagues, fill me with your Spirit to serve compassionately. Hear my prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Henri Nouwen: Learn to Steal and Lift Up Real Joy

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:21-24

“I have a friend who is so deeply connected with God that he can see joy where I expect only sadness. He travels much and meets countless people. When he returns home, I always expect him to tell me about the difficult economic situation of the countries he visited, about the great injustices he heard about, and the pain he has seen. But even though he is very aware of the great upheaval of the world, he seldom speaks of it. When he shares his experiences, he tells about the hidden joys he has discovered. He tells about a man, a woman, or a child who brought him hope and peace. He tells about little groups of people who are faithful to each other in the midst of all the turmoil. He tells about the small wonders of God. At times I realize that I am disappointed because I want to hear “newspaper news,” exciting and exhilarating stories that can be talked about among friends. But he never responds to my need for sensationalism. He keeps saying: “I saw something very small and very beautiful, something that gave me much joy.” 

The father of the prodigal son gives himself totally to the joy that his returning son brings him. I have to learn from that. I have to learn to “steal” all the real joy there is to steal and lift it up for others to see. Yes, I know that not everybody has been converted yet, that there is not yet peace everywhere, that all pain has not yet been taken away, but still, I see people turning and returning home; I hear voices that pray; I notice moments of forgiveness, and I witness many signs of hope. I don’t have to wait until all is well, but I can celebrate every little hint of the Kingdom that is at hand. 

This is a real discipline. It requires choosing for the light even when there is much darkness to frighten me, choosing for life even when the forces of death are so visible, and choosing for the truth even when I am surrounded with lies. I am tempted to be so impressed by the obvious sadness of the human condition that I no longer claim the joy manifesting itself in many small but very real ways. The reward of choosing joy is joy itself. Living among people with mental disabilities has convinced me of that. There is so much rejection, pain, and woundedness among us, but once you choose to claim the joy hidden in the midst of all suffering, life becomes celebration. Joy never denies the sadness, but transforms it to a fertile soil for more joy. 

Surely I will be called naive, unrealistic, and sentimental, and I will be accused of ignoring the “real” problems, the structural evils that underlie much of human misery. But God rejoices when one repentant sinner returns. Statistically that is not very interesting. But for God, numbers never seem to matter. Who knows whether the world is kept from destruction because of one, two, or three people who have continued to pray when the rest of humanity has lost hope and dissipated itself? 

From God’s perspective, one hidden act of repentance, one little gesture of selfless love, one moment of true forgiveness is all that is needed to bring God from his throne to run to his returning son and to fill the heavens with sounds of divine joy.”

Henri Nouwen in The Return of the Prodigal Son (The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition) 115-116.

Special thanks to my friend and brother, John Cochran, for not only sharing this with me, but saying that when he read this it made him think of me. What a blessing and encouragement.

We do, all of us, need to learn, as Nouwen puts it, to steal and lift up real joy. There’s lots of brokenness around us but God is working in powerful ways and giving us a reason to celebrate.

As we combine compassion and generosity in the journey of life, sometimes we meet people in suffering and sometimes we need to throw a party to lift up real joy to celebrate victories, both big and small.

I am excited about what God is doing in Central America, where I head tomorrow with Juan Callejas and Ereny Monir. Pray for us. We journey to a new country where God has opened a door first: El Salvador.

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Peggy Reynoso: Suffering

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“When life is hard, we cannot help but ask if this is the abundant life Jesus came to earth to give us. We will only experience full life in the glorious freedom that awaits us on the new earth and new heaven, but meanwhile, my life has tastes of the rich and bountiful living that He wants to give us, even in the terribly hard things. My instinct is to avoid suffering whenever possible, and when it can’t be avoided, to hold my breath until it goes away. But you can hold your breath for only so long, and I had to come up for air a long time ago. As we reject pain avoidance and choose to live fully in the midst of suffering—even if it means feeling more pain—we are opened up to God and experience His power in our pain. In a failed world, suffering is a key element to living life to the full.

I hear Christians say that God is good (because) “He delivered me from . . . ,” (because) “He provided . . . ,” (because) “He answered prayer . . . ,” (because) “He opened up a parking space . . . ” If I followed that same line of reasoning, I couldn’t say that God is good. He didn’t answer my most heartfelt prayers. He didn’t spare my son; and He didn’t save my daughter’s life. I have found that when God’s gifts are not the reason I give Him thanks, I rediscover that God is good.

In affliction, our trust in God is deepened because suffering tests and affirms our faith in His goodness and trustworthiness. In good times, we experience God’s goodness in the good things He gives us. In hard times, we experience His goodness through His tenderness, mercy, and loving compassion manifested to us in the midst of suffering. God is not sometimes merciful and sometimes just; He is eternally and infinitely just and merciful and good in all that He is and does. From that reality spring our hope and comfort in suffering.”

Peggy Reynoso in “Formed Through Suffering” in The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2016) 193-194.

God’s generosity is rooted in who He is and not in what He gives us. Sometimes He allows us to endure suffering. In these times we learn about and experience His compassion.

As agents of generosity, we get to minister to those in suffering with the same compassion that God extends to us. When we ourselves go through tough times we get to show others how to hold on to God.

This is the hard side of life that many want to avoid. As Reynoso notes, “suffering is a key element to living life to the full” and because God is with us, hope and comfort spring forth despite difficulty.

To grow in generosity, next time you suffer, attune to how God is deepening your faith and touching you with compassion. This will enable you to give others the generous gift of compassion when they suffer.

Going up to the mountains and reading books like this one helps me get perspective. Perhaps a fresh change of scenery could help you see things anew today. Get outside and see what happens.

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Paula Fuller: What does lack of compassion reveal?

And he said, “The one having shown compassion toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “You go and do likewise.” Luke 10:37

“Jesus was radical in the way He taught about love for one’s neighbor and the implications for those who desire to partake of the eternal life that God promises. The ones in the story [Luke 10:25-37] who appear to be “in” are “out” and the one who is “out” is “in.” The priest and the Levite are insiders—those who are closest to following God’s law and presumably closest to understanding and receiving eternal life. However, they are really “out” because they fail to perceive the significance of expressing their love for God through an act of kindness to a fellow human being. Proper belief was insufficient.

When the priest and Levite saw the wounded man, they crossed to the other side of the road, continuing their busy lives of service for God. They were unaware of how this lack of compassion affected their standing in the eyes of the One they were committed to serve. The Samaritan is the outsider—the one who is furthest away from God and eternal life—but in the eyes of Jesus, he’s “in” because he gets it. The Samaritan has every reason to reject this wounded Israelite whose people have vilified his, yet he demonstrates that his affections and care for another person created in God’s image are appropriately ordered. He cares for the wounded man, seeking His good and invests time, money, and energy. He may even risk his own safety. The picture is extraordinary. It’s a picture of the condition of the heart…

Jesus chose the Good Samaritan as the hero. The one who is unorthodox according to the law is living in a way that captures the essence of what is important to God. Jesus didn’t tell us to be like the priest or the Levite. Jesus declared that it is better to reject religious duty than to neglect a deed of mercy. He pointed to the actions of the Good Samaritan and said, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). Note that the words of Jesus charge us to “go and do” not “go and believe.”

Paula Fuller in “Participating in God’s Mission” in The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2016) 205-206.

Our lack of compassion reveals the condition of our heart.

This is a powerful reading. Compassion is what the Good Samaritan extended to the hurting person through his actions.

What do your actions reveal about your heart?

I am reflecting on how my actions reflect the condition of my heart as I rest over the weekend in the mountains. Go and do likewise.

And let us be sure that our reflection results in compassionate action.

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Richard Swenson: Overwork and Fatigue

This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” Isaiah 30:15

“Medicine has a long, proud history of overwork. Today, however, something is different. To be sure, doctors are putting in long hours—but the difference is, we are not bearing up well under new pressures. The enormous changes in medicine have rocked physicians, and most are trying to regain some semblance of person and professional equilibrium.

On top of all the unprecedented structural changes, the societal reimbursement for being a doctor is lower than in times past, thus not sufficiently blunting the work stress… This professional overwork ethic begins in medical school and intensifies in residency training. Enormous time commitments are simply expected. One week during residency I worked 128 hours—and, quite frankly, besides falling asleep in the middle of my spaghetti, I didn’t think much about it.

But studies reveal such overloaded schedules do indeed cause detrimental changes in medical trainees, replacing the altruistic motivation of patient service with the more primitive motive of shift survival. “For many residents, fatigue cultivates anger, resentment, and bitterness rather than kindness, compassion, or empathy.”

Richard Swenson in The Overload Syndrome: Learning to Live Within Your Limits (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1998) 180.

Do you know your limits?

I am learning mine in my role as CEO of Global Trust Partners. Being stretched is good. It takes us out of our comfort zone. But we must be careful not to overwork as it adversely impacts our generosity.

As Swenson notes with medical blokes, overwork and fatigue can cause our kindness, compassion, and empathy to turn into anger, resentment, and bitterness. I think this pattern could be true for workers in all sectors.

But how can we avoid this dreadful shift from happening in our own lives? I am learning to schedule breaks. This weekend, for example, Jenni and I are headed to the mountains of Colorado for some rest and recreation.

Is it time to schedule a break? Are you feeling overworked or fatigued? Don’t wait for your body to give out or for your kindness, compassion, and empathy to disappear. Your generosity depends on it. Take a break.

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Jonathan Edwards: No Compassion

Therefore, I indeed will deal in wrath. My eye will have no pity nor will I spare; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not listen to them.” Ezekiel 8:18

“Consider this, you that are here present that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of His anger, implies, that He will inflict wrath without any pity. When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; He will have no compassion upon you.

He will not forbear the executions of His wrath, or in the least lighten His hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay His rough wind; He will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear (Ezekiel 8:18).

Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare. God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery.”

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” Application 2.

This famous sermon brings up a great point about the generosity of our God and compassion. It’s only available for a season. There will come a time when compassion will be exchanged for wrath.

What’s the generous response to this profound truth? We get to encourage people to make the most of the day of mercy in which we find ourselves. We must show the pathway to repentance by our humility and good works.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10

Let us use this day of mercy to show acts of mercy. Let us use this time of compassion to do works of compassion. Do you know a neighbor who is lost. Love your neighbor today. Don’t wait.

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Blaise Pascal: Benefit

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18

“If the compassion of God is so great that He instructs us to our benefit, even when He hides Himself, what light ought we not to expect from Him when He reveals Himself?”

Blaise Pascal in Pensées (New York: Dutton, 1958) pensée #847.

Our compassionate God instructs us for our benefit, though He does it in a manner that only those who seek Him find Him. Those who wait on Him can expect great light.

What does this have to do with generosity? Our God works to our benefit and reveals what we need when we wait on Him. As conduits of blessing, we can trust Him to provide what we need.

With regard to generosity, sometimes the benefits we receive and share are not material but are precisely what we or others need. To get light is to receive discernment or direction.

May our generosity reflect that of our compassionate God. May it be just what people need and serve as light to them. And let us wait on Him with confident expectation to supply richly.

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