Charles Swindoll: Obscurity

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Charles Swindoll: Obscurity

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Matthew 25: 34-36

“As one understanding soul expressed it: “Compassion is not a snob gone slumming. It’s a real trip down inside the broken heart of a friend. It’s feeling the sob of the soul. It’s sitting down and silently weeping with your soul-crushed neighbor.”

Parceling out this kind of compassion will elicit no whistles or loud applause. In fact, the best acts of compassion will never be known to the masses. Nor will fat sums of money be dumped into your lap because you are committed to being helpful. Normally, acts of mercy are done in obscurity with no thought (or receipt) of monetary gain.

Compassion usually calls for a willingness to humbly spend oneself in obscurity on behalf of unknowns. How few there are in our fast-paced, get-rich-quick society who say to such a task, “Here I am, use me.”

Truly compassionate people are often hard to understand. They take risks most people would never take. They give away what most people would cling to. They reach out when most would hold back with folded arms. Their caring brings them up close where they feel the other person’s pain and do whatever is necessary to demonstrate true concern.

If God’s people are to be living examples of one thing, that thing ought to be—it must be—compassion.”

Charles R. Swindoll in Day by Day with Charles Swindoll (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005) week 11, Friday reading. The header photo is the Dixon Chapel at Cherry Hills Community Church, the site of Sophie’s wedding.

It was a beautiful ceremony and celebration yesterday. I am thankful for all who surrounded Sophie and Peter with love and support. Few will receive thanks for all the little things they did, but I am so grateful.

Obscurity. Not the destination most people aspire to visit. Think about it. Obscurity is where God leads us when we aim to live, give, serve, and love like Jesus with compassion.

Showing compassion will lead us to forget about ourselves and to set aside our agenda in order to serve those who are before us in need. In this sense, compassion leads us toward obscurity.

When I ponder the reason for this, I see the brilliance of God’s design for us. Any other path would lead us to pride. This path helps us maintain our perspective and reflect God’s generous love to the world.

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John Ruusbroec: Our Bridegroom Stirs the Merciful to Compassion

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:12-13

“Out of mercifulness comes compassion and a common suffering with all men. For no man can suffer with all men, except he be merciful. This compassion is an inward stirring of the heart with pity for all men’s need, material and spiritual. Compassion makes man to agonize and suffer with Christ in His sufferings, as man observes the cause of His torments, their manner, and His patience: His love, His wounds, His tenderness; His pain, His humiliation, His nobility; the wretchedness, the shame, the contempt, the crown, the nails; His mercifulness, and how He perished and died in meekness. This incomparable and manifold suffering of Christ our Redeemer and our Bridegroom stirs the merciful man to compassion and to pity for Christ. 

Compassion makes man to look upon himself, and to observe his faults and his lack of virtues and of care for God’s honour; his lukewarmness and sloth and the multitude of his faults; how he has wasted time, and how now he lacks virtues and perfection. And this so causes man to have mercy upon himself in a just compassion. The next compassion makes man to see the erring and straying of men, their heedlessness of their God and of their eternal blessedness, their ingratitude for all the good that God has done to them, and all the suffering He has endured on their account. And that they are strangers to virtue, ignorant of it, unskilled in it; apt and servile to all wickedness and unrighteousness; how anxiously they scan the losing and the winning of earthly goods; how heedless and reckless they are of God and everlasting good and their eternal blessedness. And to observe this makes great compassion in a good man for the blessedness of all men. 

A man shall also in pity observe the material necessities of his fellow-Christian, and the manifold sufferings of human nature. When a man observes men’s hunger and thirst, cold, nakedness and sickness, poverty, rejection, the various oppressions of the poor, the sorrow that comes through the loss of kinsmen, of friends, of possessions, of honours, of peace, through the innumerable griefs that come upon human beings: all this moves a good man to compassion, and he suffers with all men. But his greatest suffering is that men are impatient under these afflictions and lose their reward, and often earn damnation. This is the work of compassion and mercifulness. This work of compassion and of love for all men conquers and drives out the third deadly sin, which is hatred and envy. For compassion is a piercing of the heart which love makes common to all men, and there is nothing that can heal it so long as any suffering remains in man: for God alone has pity on it and has complete knowledge of all suffering. And therefore Christ says: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. That shall be when in joy they reap that which now through compassion and sympathy they sow in sorrow.”

John Ruusbroec (1293-1381) in The Spiritual Espousals (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1985) 68-69.

What better piece to read on the day I give my daughter to be married to groom than The Spiritual Espousals by John Ruusbroec. In this section entitled “Mercifulness fosters Compassion” he makes many profound points. Three are noteworthy.

Firstly, compassion draws us closer to Christ. We see Him for who He is and what He has done for us. Secondly, this helps us see ourselves rightly and this includes all our faults and frailties. Thirdly, this leads us to attune to the spiritual and physical needs of others. This propels us to a life of generosity.

So, here is my prayer on the wedding day of Sophie Victoria Hoag and Peter Joseph Gomez. May they, with God’s help, clothe themselves with compassion so they see God for who He is, so they see themselves rightly, and so they attune to the needs of others all the days of their lives.

I love you Sophie and Peter. Happy wedding day!

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Oswald Chambers: Never Lonely and Never Lack

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?” John 14:9a

“Once we get intimate with Jesus we are never lonely and we never lack for understanding or compassion. We can continually pour out our hearts to Him without being perceived as overly emotional or pitiful. The Christian who is truly intimate with Jesus will never draw attention to himself but will only show the evidence of a life where Jesus is completely in control. This is the outcome of allowing Jesus to satisfy every area of life to its depth. The picture resulting from such a life is that of the strong, calm balance that our Lord gives to those who are intimate with Him.”

Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest reading entitled “Intimate with Jesus” for 7 January.

It is possible to be with people but to lack intimacy with them. With the festivities surrounding our daughter’s wedding, I am seeing many family members and friends that I love but do not know very deeply because I don’t get the privilege of spending much time with them.

The same is true in our walk with Jesus. We can go to church, read the Bible, and be familiar with who He is, but to be intimate with Jesus, to know Him and be known by Him, calls for great commitment of spending time together. We must say ‘no’ to everything else to say ‘yes’ to Him.

What’s your daily office look like? Some call it a quiet time. Others refer to it as going to their prayer closet, sitting in their Jesus chair, or doing daily devotions. Whatever the label, it’s the place where you go to grow in intimacy with Jesus, to know and be known by Him.

In that relationship we are “never lonely and never lack” because in Christ we have everything we need. From there we can live, give, serve, and love generously as we are content and complete. Want to grow in generosity? Deepen your intimacy with Jesus. You will never be lonely and never lack.

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Richard Foster: Touched

A man with leprosy came and knelt before Him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean. Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” He said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Matthew 8:2-3

“The one thing we are to do is show compassion. Always! The Gospel writers frequently mention that Jesus was “filled with compassion” for people. In one story a leper came to Jesus, begging to be healed. When Jesus looked at the leper, He was moved with compassion. The Hebrew and Aramaic roots of compassion are inward parts, what the old King James Version used to call bowels of mercy. It comes from the same source as the word womb, and so we could speak of the womblike heart of Jesus, which brought healing mercy to the leper. Now, Jesus could have kept His distance and commanded the man to be well, but instead He touched him. Jesus’ touch of compassion was comparable to our taking hold of a person with AIDS, stopping the bleeding with our bare hands, and putting our own life in jeopardy. This is the compassion of Jesus.”

Richard Foster in Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (New York: HarperCollins, 1992) 208.

It has touched me deeply to see the love that many are showing to Sophie and Peter as they prepare to unite as one in marriage on Monday. It’s great to see them willingly surround this young couple in support.

I am also moved at the way in which our Lord always shows compassion to those who call to Him. He sympathizes with suffering and acts to bring healing. He moves toward, not away from brokenness, and touches it.

God, by your Holy Spirit, help us touch people with compassion. Teach us to rally willingly around them to encourage them and to move toward those who are hurting. In your mercy hear my prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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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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