Teresa of Ávila: Compassionate Her

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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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A. W. Tozer: No One Need Be Poor

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15

“There is nothing good, nothing holy, nothing beautiful, nothing joyous which He is not to His servants. No one need be poor, because, if he chooses, he can have Jesus for his own property and possession. No one need be downcast, for Jesus is the joy of heaven, and it is His joy to enter into sorrowful hearts. We can exaggerate about many things; but we can never exaggerate our obligation to Jesus, or the compassionate abundance of the love of Jesus to us. All our lives long we might talk of Jesus, and yet we should never come to an end of the sweet things that might be said of Him. Eternity will not be long enough to learn all He is, or to praise Him for all He has done, but then, that matters not; for we shall be always with Him, and we desire nothing more.”

A. W. Tozer in The Pursuit of God (Gutenburg eBook, 2008) 41.

It can be overwhelming to see the pervasive poverty in places like India. For that reason I decided to focus on the “compassionate abundance” of Jesus as Tozer describes it. This helps me get perspective in the solitude of my hotel room.

“No one need be poor.” The greatest gift for humankind is free for all. It’s Jesus. But do I live in such a way that others see this? My prayer is that my ministry here and the service of everyone reading this today, points people to Jesus.

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Charles Haddon Spurgeon: Confidently Trust

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, He rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. Mark 9:19-27

“A certain man had a demoniac son, who was afflicted with a dumb spirit. The father, having seen the futility of the endeavours of the disciples to heal his child, had little or no faith in Christ, and therefore, when he was bidden to bring his son to him, he said to Jesus, “If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us, and help us.”

Now there was an “if” in the question, but the poor trembling father had put the “if” in the wrong place: Jesus Christ, therefore, without commanding him to retract the “if,” kindly puts it in its legitimate position. “Nay, verily,” he seemed to say, “there should be no ‘if’ about my power, nor concerning my willingness, the ‘if’ lies somewhere else.” “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” The man’s trust was strengthened, he offered a humble prayer for an increase of faith, and instantly Jesus spoke the word, and the devil was cast out, with an injunction never to return.

There is a lesson here which we need to learn. We, like this man, often see that there is an “if” somewhere, but we are perpetually blundering by putting it in the wrong place. “If” Jesus can help me—“if” he can give me grace to overcome temptation—“if” he can give me pardon—“if” he can make me successful? Nay, “if” you can believe, he both can and will. You have misplaced your “if.”

If you can confidently trust, even as all things are possible to Christ, so shall all things be possible to you. Faith standeth in God’s power, and is robed in God’s majesty; it weareth the royal apparel, and rideth on the King’s horse, for it is the grace which the King delighteth to honour. Girding itself with the glorious might of the all-working Spirit, it becomes, in the omnipotence of God, mighty to do, to dare, and to suffer. All things, without limit, are possible to him that believeth. My soul, canst thou believe thy Lord tonight?”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon in Morning and Evening Daily Readings (Grand Rapids: CCEL) Evening Reading for 23 September.

In moments of hopelessness when we have little faith, our generous and compassionate God does not kick us for perpetually blundering but answers our humble cries for help. That’s generosity! He gives us exactly what we need and don’t deserve!

The trip to India (picture above) is going well. So far, by God’s grace, I trained 30 influential ministry heads on The Council: A Biblical Perspective on Board Governance, and then I shot 16 videos for a “Biblical Understanding of Management” course for CIM along with many visits.

In meetings I am hearing “if” a lot. Many lack hope. That’s where encouragement to “confidently trust” makes all the difference. If you struggle or know someone stuck in an “if” moment, remember this or remind them that Jesus can help just like He aided this desperate father.

He does His best work in our darkest moments. Let us, like Him be generous and compassionate and do our best work by moving toward struggling and discouraged people. We can make a generous difference, not if but when we act on the belief that all things are possible with God!

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Severe Rebuke

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

“Reproof is unavoidable. God’s Word demands it when a brother falls into open sin. The practice of discipline in the congregation begins in the smallest circles. Where defection from God’s Word in doctrine or life imperils the family fellowship and with it the whole congregation, the word of admonition and rebuke must be ventured. Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin. It is a ministry of mercy, an ultimate offer of genuine fellowship, when we allow nothing but God’s Word to stand between us, judging and succoring. Then it is not we who are judg­ing; God alone judges, and God’s judgment is helpful and healing. Ultimately, we have no charge but to serve our brother, never to set ourselves above him, and we serve him even when we must speak the judging and dividing Word of God to him, even when, in obedience to God, we must break off fellowship with him. We must know that it is not our human love which makes us loyal to the other per­son, but God’s love which breaks its way through to him only through judgment. Just because God’s Word judges, it serves the person.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community (New York: Harper One, 1954) 107.

Some of you may be thinking that this compassion journey is messy and too hard. That may be true. But sit in the reality of this idea for a minute. “Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin.”

The Apostle Paul taught us that Scripture is good for corrective purposes so that we fulfill our calling which is to be thoroughly equipped for every good work. That’s generosity. Though we live in a world that disdains confrontation, rebuke is a good thing as it puts us back on track.

Ministry in India is going well. Today, at one point I thought the teaching might sound like rebuke so I prayed for God to fill me with love. Then I read some Scriptures. The Spirit moved, like a revival broke out. Rebuke, though hard, can be generous and compassionate service.

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Henri Nouwen: Compassionate Authority

The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Mark 1:22

“We usually think of people with great authority as higher up, far away, hard to reach. But spiritual authority comes from compassion and emerges from deep inner solidarity with those who are “subject” to authority. The one who is fully like us, who deeply understands our joys and pains or hopes and desires, and who is willing and able to walk with us, that is the one to whom we gladly give authority and whose “subjects” we are willing to be. 

It is compassionate authority that empowers, encourages, calls forth hidden gifts, and enables great things to happen. True spiritual authority is located in the point of an upside-down triangle, supporting and holding into the light everyone they offer their leadership to.”

Henry Nouwen in Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (New York: Harper Collins, 1997) reading for 12 April.

I have arrived safely in India. I will speak in multiple venues in four cities offering a biblical perspective on governance, management, and fundraising. My aim is to empower national workers to build trust and grow local giving. 

And Nouwen has taught me that the most generous thing I can do is not teach from a position of authority above them, but to ask questions and seek to understand their challenges so that my training comes from a place of “compassionate authority.” 

I am convinced that this is what set Jesus part from other teachers.

What about you? In what settings has God positioned you for generous service? Picture that place in your mind. Now ask the Holy Spirit to help you move to a place of “deep inner solidarity” with those you serve, to grasp their joys, pains, hopes, and desires.

Maybe this is why I am having back pain, to attune to the pain of others.

At GTP we have built a “with you” culture. Read about it on our website. Many of the memorable Scripture texts contain these words. I am praying that just like Christ is “God with us” that people in India will feel my “with you” posture.

Make it so Lord Jesus. 

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C.S. Lewis: Grief and Fear

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. Psalm 42:6-7

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing. At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me.”

C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed (London: Faber & Faber, 1964) 1. This book contains the reflections of C.S. Lewis after the loss of his wife.

Lewis opens the book by commenting that grief feels like fear. The pain appears to paralyze the suffering person. It hinders his or her ability to comprehend reality, and they don’t want to be alone.

As I think about ‘compassion’ in 2020, I feel that God is leading me to identify with the feelings and situation of those who suffer, so that my generosity can meet and minister to them.

Often you and I might think we know what a hurting person needs but without compassion and tenderness, our efforts may miss or, God forbid, make a bigger mess of their situation.

I arrive in India last today. God is nudging me that I need to listen and do activities to connect with the hearts of people as individuals and groups before offering any advice or instruction. God help me.

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Thomas Merton: Alleviate Suffering

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick. Matthew 14:14

“Physical evil is only to be regarded as a real evil insofar as it tends to foment sin in our souls. That is why a Christian must seek in every way possible to relieve the sufferings of others, and even take certain necessary steps to alleviate some sufferings of his own: because they are occasions of sin. It is true that we can also have compassion for others merely because suffering is an evil in its own right. This compassion is also good. But it does not really become charity unless it sees Christ in the one suffering and has mercy on him with the mercy of Christ.

Jesus had pity on the multitudes not only because they were sheep without a shepherd, but also simply because they had no bread. Yet, He did not feed them with miraculous loaves and fishes without thought for their place in His Father’s Kingdom. Bodily works of mercy look beyond the flesh and into the spirit, and when they are integrally Christian they not only alleviate suffering but they bring grace: that is, they strike at sin.”

Thomas Merton in No Man is An Island (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1983) 85.

The brokenness in our our world tends to foster sin and further suffering. To add compassion to our generosity is to bring grace where sin abounds.

This may sound like a heavy idea to start the year, so let’s keep it simple. Christ aimed to alleviate suffering and we get to follow His example.

When we do, we strike a sin and declare victory for the Kingdom of God. Sadly, some places have more suffering than others,. We must go to them.

Today I am flying to India via Washington D.C. and Frankfurt, Germany. I don’t actually arrive until late tomorrow. Why go there?

There is brokenness in ministries that lack governance and accountability structures. I am doing replicable seminars to bring wholeness.

It’s a long trip and I myself am suffering from back pain. But just like God miraculous supplied what Jesus needed, I am confident He will carry me.

What suffering do you see that generous service could help alleviate? Ask God to help you add compassion to your generosity.

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Anthony of Padua: Gracious, Spacious, and Precious

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

“Just as the Father is compassionate toward you in a threefold way, so ought you to show compassion towards others in three ways. The Father’s compassion is gracious, spacious, and precious. The Father’s compassion is gracious, that is, grace-filled because it purifies the soul of vice… The Father’s compassion is spacious because with the passage of time it extends itself to good works… The Father’s compassion is precious in the joys of eternal life.”

Anthony of Padua in Sermones as recounted by Rosemary Ellen Guiley in The Quotable Saint (New York: Visionary Living, 2002) 35.

Let us begin 2020 with thankfulness that we serve a God who is the Father of compassion and comfort. As Anthony declared, this compassion is gracious, spacious, and precious.

It comes to each of us as unmerited favor. It does not diminish but grows and blesses all it touches. It brings healing to the deepest pain. It gives people not what they deserve but what they need.

Compassion relates to our generosity because the Father generously extends compassion and comfort to us so that we can share it with others. How will you generously show compassion in 2020?

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Anthony Mary Claret: Resolutions

Anthony Mary Claret was an archbishop. missionary, and confessor of Isabella II of Spain. He took a retreat in 1863 and this was his list of resolutions. It’s a fitting post for ending 2019 as it celebrates my word for the year: kindness.

“In this retreat, I drew up the following resolutions.

  1. I will, when praying, remember the reprehension Catherine of Siena received. I will also be mindful of Aloysius, who spent an hour reciting Matins.
  2. My particular examen will be on meekness. I will remember on this score the example of Jesus, my Master and Model, who says: “Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” … I will consider the usefulness of meekness, because by humility, God is pleased, and by meekness, so is our neighbor. It is better to do less but with patience, meekness, and kindness, than to do more with precipitation, anger, and impatience. When people see a person whoo does things in the latter fashion, they are scandalized and repulsed.
  3. I will never get angry, but suffer in silence, and offer to God everything that gives me pain.
  4. I will never complain, but resign myself to God’s will, for He arranges everything for my good, even making use of poverty, humiliations, and contempt of others for this end.
  5. I will be kind to everybody, particularly too those whom I find troublesome.
  6. I will never talk of myself, or oof my affairs, either in praise or blame.
  7. I will say to my God; “Lord, if Thou willest to use me, a miserable instrument, for the conversion of sinners, behold I am ready to do thy will.”
  8. Before eating, I will say, “Lord, I eat to strengthen myself and in order to serve Thee more faithfully, And I do so, not taking pleasure in these worldly things, but purely out of necessity.”
  9. In all my actions I will strive for purity and rectitude of intention, great attention, and care, and a constant deliberation of will.
  10. I will endeavor with the greatest possible care to do each particular action well, just as if I had nothing else to do.”

I have tried to put into practice all these resolutions with the grace of God.”

Anthony Mary Claret (1807-1870) in The Autobiography of St. Anthoy Mary Claret (Compton: Claretian Major Seminary, 1945) Chapter 9.

Return to the resolutions that stuck out to you. Read those parts again. Ask God for the grace to put them into practice in the new year. Be sure to follow through with generosity, meekness, and kindness.

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Birgitta of Sweden: The World’s Ugliness

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:36

“The ugliness and beauty of this world are like bitterness and sweetness. The ugliness of the world—which is its contempt and its adversity—is a profitable sort of bitterness that heals the just. The world’s beauty is its prosperity, and this is a flattering sort of sweetness, but false and seductive… Therefore, in order to escape the ugliness of hell, and to acquire the sweetness of heaven, it is necessary to go after the world’s ugliness rather than its beauty. For even though all things were well created and are all very good, nevertheless one must beware especially of those things which can furnish an occasion for the loss of the souls of those who use gifts irrationally.”

Birgitta of Sweden (c. 1303-1373) in Fifth Book of Questions, Seventh Interrogation 7-10 in Birgitta of Sweden: Life and Selected Revelations (Mahwah: Paulist, 1990) 110.

In a recent conversation with Patrick Johnson of Generous Church, we were talking about how most American’s value comfort over commitment to Christ. That’s what Birgitta was talking about some seven centuries earlier.

People pursue beauty and things and all the world offers over the hard and challenging path of obedience to Jesus. As we prepare for a new year, what will you chase after? With Birgitta, I say aim at the world’s ugliness.

Do this and you will have no regrets for eternity. But those who irrationally aim for all that the world offers will end up empty now and later. It might taste sweet at first but it won’t be lasting. Beware. Be sure to get this right.

Generosity flows not from prosperity but proper perspective. Remember, Jesus celebrated the giving of the widow with two cents. The way of Jesus is to move toward brokenness to find healing. That’s what I am learning.

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