Saturday, October 29, 2011

Compassionate Shepherd

This is a detail of a painting I finished today and you may be wondering why I painted Jesus crying.  Well, even though Jesus certainly experienced all the emotions that we do while He walked planted earth, including laughter and joy, it is His tears of compassion that touch me most.  In fact, I tend to be a cryer when I pray.  I think that God gave us tears to express those deep emotions that just can't be expressed in any other way.  The shortest verse in the Bible is simply "Jesus wept."  Here we see the most strong and powerful being that ever existed.  And at times, He cried.  Most notably, He cried over us.  We tend to weep over those we love most.  The love in those tears are more than I can comprehend.  May you feel the mighty and compassionate love of God wrap around you today.  

"NO WAY!" "Well, O.K...."

"Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.  The son answered, 'No, I won't go." but later he changed his mind and went anyway.  Then the father told the other son, 'you go,' and he said 'yes, sir, I will.'  But he didn't go.  Which of the two obeyed his father?"  They replied, "The first,"  Then Jesus explained His meaning.  "I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do."  Matthew 21:28-31

We human beings tend to look at the outside of a person to make an assessment of another person's attitudes and motives - or what we would call 'the heart."  I'm so thankful that we have a heavenly Father that sees far deeper to the inner core of our being, knows us in intimate detail and truly "sees our hearts."

Jesus in the above passage was addressing some religious leaders.  These leaders were strict, legalistic, and did much of their pious works for show and attention.  Jesus saw right through them.  While they may not have engaged in what we would consider "big sins," their pride and arrogance was offensive to God.

Jesus had an overwhelming compassion and desire to reach out to those who "had really blown it" in life.  In the people who were regarded the least in society - "corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes," Jesus saw souls who had certainly made bad choices and even caused others pain - but also saw a humility that was redeemable.  For Jesus saw that the person who has really messed up by the world's standards often times recognizes their humble state before God and has no quarrel with the fact that they have sinned.

It was to these that Jesus said, "come" - do leave behind that lifestyle - but come now, come as you are.  You can be a brand new, forgiven and amazing creation with a fresh start.  For through Christ God forgives completely and He is all about the attitude of the heart.  He simply asks us to "come."

And so, ultimately, it's not about the mistakes we have made or having a 'clean track record.'  No, rather it is about the condition of our hearts.  And truth be told, sometimes we human beings have to go through a lot of bad stuff before our hearts are willing to become humble and soft and able to see our desperate need of a Redeemer.

Looking for a merciful and compassionate "Shepherd of your soul?"  Come to Christ.  Express your belief in Him, ask Him to forgive your past and accept His free gift of life.  And, if you let us know that you did, we will celebrate with you.  For a brand new start on life is cause for joy and celebration and open to anyone.         

Saturday, October 22, 2011

This Little Child is the Greatest...

"About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?'"  Jesus called a little child to Him and put the child among them.  Then He said, "I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.  So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven."   Matthew 18:1-4

Is there no thing so tenderly precious as the honest expressions of a child's heart?  True, children "have their moments,"  because they are human and we all share that nature, but when a child exhibits their humility, trust and love, there is nothing like it.  When children trust and confide in us, we have the most solemn obligation, the responsibility to nurture that child's heart and this includes their spiritual training.  Minister-singer David Johnson sang "children are precious, they have the right to know...teach your child about the King of Kings, teach them how to pray..."

Of all the Kings, authorities and kingdoms of the world, when Jesus was asked about true greatness, He pointed to a child.

At that moment when we come to the end of ourselves and do the honest act of turning from our sins and humbly receiving the forgiveness of Christ, we become spiritual children - babes in Christ.  As Jesus said, we become "born again."  Everything is fresh in new.  We can trust and hope as a child does and place our complete faith in our Heavenly Father.     

The Gift of Presence

"When three of Job's friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him...Waling loudly, they tore their robes and threw dust into the air over their heads to show their grief. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words." Job 2:11a; 12b-13

We know from the rest of the story of Job that after Job's comforters started talking they made his suffering even worse. But for the first seven days they got it right. They stopped whatever they were doing and traveled to be with their friend. The joined Job in his grief and expressed their deep sadness over his situation - wailing loudly.

Grief shared brings a measure of comfort. It means so much when we know we aren't alone - when others hurt for us.

Job's comforters showed sensitivity to his plight. They understood (at that point) that their words could not make the situation better and were wholly inadequate to express the depth of grief required.

Sometimes words aren't enough.

Job's friends gave him the gift of their presence. They were there just staying close - expressing great care just by being there.

Maybe Job would tell us something like this:

The person in grief doesn't need to be fixed, to get their mind off the tragedy, to be told to get over it, to look at the bright side or any other cliche statements. That person needs time and space to process grief and the best comforters are those who allow them that and just stay by their side without shallow commentary.

The gift of presence - emotionally, physically and spiritually is what it means to "be there."

Keeping Perspective

"Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember You."  "Why am I discouraged?  Why is my heart so sad?  I will put my hope in God!  I will praise Him again my Savior and my God!  Psalm 42:5b, 5a

Everyone has discouraging days.  I am comforted by the Psalmists wise words that instructs us what to do when those times come.  Even though his feelings are honestly expressed, he ends the sentence with , "but I will remember You."  It's o.k. to tell God our gut-level feelings, but how important to add what we know, by faith, to be true.

When we remember what good things God has done in our lives it puts that sense of discouragement back into perspective.  The fact is that we each have much for which to be thankful - despite the times of overwhelming problems.

"...but I will remember You."  It was most likely a discouraging time that led most of us to realize our need for a Savior.  In turning to Christ as we realized the depth of our own wrongdoing we received undeserved mercy.  In confessing our sins to Him and asking Him to come into our lives and become our Lord and boss, we receive a rush of deep peace and relief that only forgiveness can bring.

Our lives have worth and purpose in Christ.  Even on discouraging days we can remember how much God has done for us and place our trust in Him anew."


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fighting Against Discouragement

But the Lord is in His holy temple;  the Lord still rules from Heaven.  He watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth."  Psalm 11:4

When troubles get me down I must remember this verse.  It does me no good to fret about wrong doing or camp on my troubles.  The night is most likely the time when negative thoughts either wake me or bombard me if I wake.  I have lost too much sleep in entertaining the "what ifs."  It helps nothing to do that.  Instead, the nights of victory are won through prayer and bringing to mind the promises in God's Word.  Rehearsing troubles can only rob me of sleep and faith.  Trusting that the Lord still rules from heaven gives me spiritual power whether the circumstances change or not. It's a discipline.  This turning to God is often going against my natural feeling and choosing, as an act of my will to trust.  All the people I look up to in the faith, past and present, have won such skirmishes by faith and trust.  It is hard fought battle in the mind, the will and the spiritual realm.  Author Mrs. Charles E. Cowman reminds us, "Let us give ourselves no liberty ever to doubt God or His love and faithfulness to us in everything and forever...Let us refused to be discouraged.  Let us refuse to be unhappy....Let us rejoice by faith, by resolution, by reckoning, and we shall surely find that God will make the reckoning real."