Thomas Aquinas: Fear

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Thomas Aquinas: Fear

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

“Fear is such a powerful emotion for humans that when we allow it to take us over, it drives compassion right out of our hearts.”

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) in Daily Inspiration: 365 Quotes from Saints (Boston: Wyatt North, 2018) 371.

I discovered something in my reading just prior to departing on this trip. As you are reading this, I am somewhere between Tokyo and Jakarta.

Aquinas explains why there is not a lot of compassion in the world today. The world is gripped with fear, and fear drives compassion from our hearts.

What are you afraid of? Seriously, name your fears. Give them to God. In exchange ask for His perfect love to fill and restore you.

As we give God our fears–fear of not having enough, fear of sickness, fear of failure–we are free to show compassion like Jesus who had no fear.

He knew the Father had His every need sorted. He has your every need sorted too. He lived generously with this belief carrying Him. Do you?

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Christine Aroney-Sine: Nurture Compassion

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Luke 6:35

“The three most important ways to nurture compassion are modeling, surrounding ourselves with people who regularly practice compassion, and coming face-to-face with people who need our care. Without role models to guide us, face-to-face encounters to prompt us, and encouragement to reach out and be kind, the impulse shrivels and dies. In our overprotective society where we don’t want our kids fraternize with the “wrong crowd,” adults often discourage children from being compassionate to outsiders, especially to those at the margins. We hasten this turning away by protecting our kids from exposure to pain and suffering. Unfortunately, we deaden our compassion and desire to be kind, especially to those outside our family or community.”

Christine Aroney-Sine in The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices for Delighting in God (Downers Grove: IVP, 2019) 171.

Modeling. On this exploration of compassion, think about the most compassionate person you know. Sit down with that person and ask him or her about their journey. Find out what factors shaped that trait in their lives. Discover one thing you can share with others about this person.

Surrounding. Resolve to spend time with people who regularly practice compassion. Determine one thing you can jettison from your schedule and add a rhythm of investing time with such people. Follow their example. Be open to changing the way you live.

Coming. God did not send help; He came. We get to do likewise. Come face-to-face with people who need care on a repeated basis this year and see how it transforms your life. We have to nurture compassion to add this trait to our generosity. This is how my travel impacts me.

Speaking of travel, I fly to Tokyo today and then Jakarta to speak at two days of meetings with Anjji Gabriel, GTP Regional Facilitator for South East Asia and Ruthie Cristobal, GTP VP for Partnership and Communications. Pray for God to stir of movement toward faithfulness in Indonesia.

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Anthony of Padua: Indifferent

Take special note of anyone who does not obey our instruction in this letter. Do not associate with them, in order that they may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard them as an enemy, but warn them as you would a fellow believer. 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15

“Should an ass fall buy the wayside, how quickly people run to lift him up. Yet, alas! Souls perish and no one is moved. The devil besieges the city of the spirit, setting a light to the fires of concupiscence, massacring the virtues, the good works just begun, the holy resolutions. And how few weep for that calamity!

Some show a compassion, merely sensual in origin, for a neighbor’s physical needs. At least it shows that they have some good will. Others are too hard and severe, making no excuse for human weaknesses. Both end up by remaining indifferent. With a fallen brother we must show ourselves neither too tender nor too hard, neither soft as flesh nor hard as a bone. In him we must love our human nature while hating his fault.”

Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) in Voices of the Saints: A Year of Readings, ed. Bert Ghezzi (New York: Image, 2000) 52.

So true that we will pause to help an animal but remain indifferent to hurting humans. God forgive us. Teach us compassion. Help us hate the faults of fellow humans and love the human nature in them.

This compassion journey is taking us places the culture does not encourage us to go. Loving enemies and broken people who get the consequences of their actions are often outside the bounds of our generosity.

Think about it. Jesus showed us love when we were enemies, broken, and needy. We get to do the same thing. Paul urges us to warn them, no doubt with an even mix of grace and truth. God help us.

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Anthony Zaccaria: Tolerance and Gentleness

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary :“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21

“We should love and feel compassion for those who oppose us, rather than abhor and despise them, since they harm themselves and do us good, and adorn us with crown of everlasting glory while they incite God’s anger against themselves. And even more than this, we should pray for them and not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by goodness. We should heap good works like red-hot coals of burning love upon their heads, as our Apostle urges us to do. So that, when they become aware of our tolerance and gentleness they may undergo a change of heart and be prompted to turn in love to God.”

Anthony Zaccaria (1502-1539) in Voices of the Saints: A Year of Readings, ed. Bert Ghezzi (New York: Image, 2000) 54.

This saint teaches us how to show compassion to enemies. This is not an easy task, not for the weak or faint of heart. Think about it. Love is the antidote for winning the lost. Once they become aware that we are willing to bear their sins with “tolerance and gentleness they may undergo a change of heart” and turn to God.

The most generous thing we can do for our enemies is love them by bearing their sins with “tolerance and gentleness” so that we, in turn, are not overcome by them but overcome them with good. If there are evildoers around you, make the intentional decision today to love them and pray that your “tolerance and gentleness” becomes the tool by which God transforms their hearts and lives.

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George Müller: A Little Help

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in My name, and I will do it. John 14:12-14

“Monday morning. No money came in either Saturday or yesterday. The matter has now become a solemn crisis. We called the brothers and sisters together for prayer and I explained the situation. Despite this trial of faith, I still believe God will help us. Nothing should be purchased that we cannot pay for, and the children should never lack nourishing food and warm clothing. We discussed what unnecessary possessions could be sold.

A few hours later, nine sixpence were anonymously put into the box at Gideon Chapel. This money seemed like a promise that God would have compassion and send more. About ten o’clock, while I was again in prayer for help, a sister gave two sovereigns to my wife for the orphans. She felt she already delayed too long. A few minutes later, she gave me two sovereigns more. She did all this without knowing anything about our need. Thus the Lord most mercifully has sent us a little help and greatly encouraged my faith.”

George Müller (1805-1898) in The Autobiography of George Müller (New Kensington: Whitaker Hosue, 1985) 97-98.

Müller took good notes. His stories inspire us because they show us not what God did back in the 1800’s but what He does each and every day. These stories celebrate the reliability, compassion, and mercy of God toward His servants.

I read Müller after praying and thinking about the contrast between hurry and holy noticing yesterday.

Müller was a busy guy. Super busy! He ran more orphan houses and served more poor children than any one person is supposed to be able to manage. Some might say he lived in a hurry (some say I do). I read Müller as having keen eyes for holy noticing.

Let me explain. He saw each need, each challenge, with God’s eyes. That meant that each one was an opportunity for God to show up, for God to glorify Himself. Additionally, he avoided debt and converted unnecessary assets into cash to maximize his stewardship.

And what did God do, day in and day out for him. God gave “a little help” or daily bread.

Father, forgive us for hurrying through life thinking it is our job to supply our needs. When we are most busy, teach us to take time to pray because you are our faithful Provider. And help us by your Spirit to take good notes so you get all the glory we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Charles Stone: Hurry Marginalizes Our Values

Take notice, you senseless ones among the people; you fools, when will you become wise? Psalm 94:8

“Forty seminary students volunteered for a study at Princeton University. The instructors, who were the researchers in the experiment, explained to each student that their assignment was about religious education and vocation. Each participant would first complete a questionnaire and then walk to another building for further instructions.

Once there, each participant receive their assignment. Some were asked to prepare a talk on seminary jobs, while others were asked to prepare a talk on the parable of the Good Samaritan. Each participant was then instructed to go to another building to give their talk. Some were told to hurry to avoid being late.

Unbeknownst to the participants, however, the researchers had placed an actor, who was part of the experiment, in a courtyard that each student had to pass through on their way to the other building. He was slumped over and moaning in pain, obviously needing help.

What factor made the biggest difference in whether or not the student stopped to help? The result surprised the researchers. The subject of their talk did not influence whether or not a student stopped to help the person in need. Even those who were prepared to talk on the Good Samaritan were no more likely to stop and help than the ones who prepared a talk on seminary jobs. The common factor? Hurry.

Those who were in less of a rush stopped more often than those who had been told to hurry. Hurry influenced the frequency with which the students noticed the person in need. Hurry had marginalized their values in the moment.

The experiment reminds us that when we rush through life to get to the next better moment, we often fail to notice God’s prompting to act with Christ-centered compassion toward others. Holy noticing, however, trains us to be more present in each moment and more mindful of Jesus and the needs of others.”

Charles Stone in Holy Noticing: The Bible, Your Brain, and the Mindful Space Between Moments (Chicago: Moody, 2019) 163-164. Special thanks to my wife, Jenni, who is reading this book and encouraged me to check it out!

Do you have a full schedule today? My plate sure is full too.

Holy noticing, which is the opposite of hurry, has less to do with whether or not we have a lot to do today and more to do with whether or not we are attuned to what is happening around us along the way.

While Jesus did not have a place to lay his head and had a crazy schedule for three years of ministry, He noticed people. He heard the cries of the blind and lame. He made margin to meet hurting people.

Will we take notice of what is happening and be ready to share generously our time or resources with those in need around us? Or will we be in a hurry and ignore the needs crying out for help?

This relates not just to a person on a street corner, but the co-worker who may appear discouraged or the neighbor whom you have not seen in a few weeks. It’s the person we see repeatedly at the check-out counter.

Let’s start by learning the names of these people and pausing to ask how they are doing. Let’s do this because, sadly, hurry marginalizes our values; whereas, holy noticing reveals our Christian faith to a hurting world.

Father, show me by your Holy Spirit where hurry must be replaced by holy noticing. Hear my prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Joan Chittister: Compassionate Community

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Philippians 4:5

“In a monastery of the heart, the commitment to the development of Benedict’s concept of community must be far wider in this century than it was in the sixth. It must burst through the monastery gates into a world where national laws and local prejudices fail to take into account the effects of our over-consumption of food, energy, resources, and weaponry on those who find themselves hungry, empty-handed, and sick . . .

We must begin to define community globally rather than simply locally, and work at every level to make it so. We must see the moderation of consumption as our way to reach beyond the boundaries of our own lives to the obscenely poor—who stand outside looking in at our three-car garages and second homes and wish for simply enough of what we have to live a humanely human life themselves.”

Joan Chittister in The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life (Collegeville: BlueBridge, 2011) 93-94.

Chittister inspires me to work for compassionate community locally and globally through my teaching, speaking, and engagement with the global network of GTP. I hope she inspires you too where God has you.

To build compassionate community locally and globally, it starts with our everyday decisions. Talk to a person close to you about this question. What are ways we can exhibit moderation to show more compassion?

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A. W. Tozer: Unfailing and Boundless

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Psalm 51:1

“Mercy never began to be, but from eternity was; so it will never cease to be. It will never be more since it is itself infinite; and it will never be less because the infinite cannot suffer diminution. Nothing that has occurred or will occur in heaven or earth or hell can change the tender mercies of our God. Forever His mercy stands, a boundless, overwhelming immensity of divine pity and compassion.”

A. W. Tozer in Knowledge of the Holy, 64. It’s great to be home safe. It’s a shocker to go from warm and tropical to cold and snowy. The new header photo illustrates the frigid weather that welcomed me home. Today we look at compassion through the eyes of a classic author and pastor.

We are all sinners. The fact that we don’t get the condemnation we deserve is because of God’s mercy. He does not leave us in our mess of our sin but in His unconditional love, He meets us where I are, shows us love, and delivers us from slavery to freedom in His boundless compassion. 

That’s what we get to do with our generosity toward others because of the unfailing love and boundless mercy and compassion of God. We get to give others what we graciously received. God, thanks for Your mercy, help our love to not fail, and fill us with divine pity and compassion. Amen.

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Diane J. Chandler: Source of Compassion

You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. Acts 10:38

“For Jesus, love was the center point around which all other emotions including anger, sorrow and grief, took their cue. Since God’s very essence and nature is love (1 John 4:8, 16), Jesus’ reciprocal love relationship with the Father was the source of Jesus’ love for others. For example, in explaining to His disciples that He must return to the Father, Jesus declares that the ruler of this world has no power over Him and that He loves the Father and does exactly what the Father has commanded Him (John 14:31). Therefore, Jesus’ self-sacrificial love and compassion for others directly flow from His love for the Father and obedience to the Father’s will. Jesus’ mission of love, which perfectly aligned with mercy and compassion, resulted in His “doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38).”

Diane J. Chandler in Christian Spiritual Formation: An Integrated Approach for Personal and Relational Wholeness (Downers Grove: IVP, 2014) 86-87.

As I think about compassion linked to generosity this year, and as I return home from Central America, I am reminded of what my friend Edgar Güitz said to me dinner night before last. “You must be so tired from giving out and giving out so much all the time.”

I returned to my room and contemplated. Some days I do feel weary. Other days I am energized. Why? So, I ran to the Father asking him to fill me with compassion. At that moment I was reminded of an important lesson. You may know this but it was a good reminder for me.

If God has us serving in roles where we give a lot, we must daily ask for a refill. Some days we forget (or at least I do). Then we become handicapped. But Jesus shows us how to do good. He relied on the power of the Spirit and tapped the Father as the Source of compassion to show us the way.

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Thomas Merton: Ignore

If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:16-17

“No man who ignores the rights and needs of others can hope to walk in the light of contemplation, because his way has turned aside from truth, from compassion and therefore from God.”

Thomas Merton in New Seeds of Contemplation (Trappist, KY: Abbey of Gethsemani, 1961) 18-19.

To ignore or do nothing about the basic needs of others is a big deal to God. He does not like it. When I travel outside the USA, I often see such great needs that I am overwhelmed about what to do. Most do nothing.

Perhaps you can identify with this based on your situation? What is the answer? Consider asking God what action is supposed to accompany your faith today, and go do it! Don’t ignore the still small voice.

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