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Posts Tagged ‘Compassion’


Though my sermons for Advent seem to be more about the Resurrection than the Incarnation (though the former requires the latter), I’ve been doing some reading on the Incarnation.  Paul Miller’s Love Walked Among Us: Learning to Love Like Jesus is a very good book.  I’m not done yet, but I’m getting there.  I’ll do a review when I am done, but I wanted to process some thoughts with all y’all.

“The person of Jesus is a plumb line to which we may align our lives.”

He is the standard and I fall woefully short, particularly when it comes to love.  This is one of those “ouch!” statements that fill the book.  In view of God’s kindness in presenting Jesus as a propitiation for my sin, it drives me to repentance instead of despair.

“Jesus has shown us how to love: Look, feel, and then help.”

Much of what we call love may not really be love.  That is because we do not “feel” the other’s pain.  We move from looking to helping- avoiding the emotional attachment necessary to love them well.  Jesus identified with people in their pain rather than just wave a magic wand.  Oh, miracle wand.

“Loving means losing control of our schedule, our money, and our time.  When we love we cease to be the master and become the servant.”

Love is not just inefficient, but it is costly.  And humbling.  Now wonder we avoid it whenever we can!

“Jesus lowers himself in order to care, while the disciples elevate themselves in order to judge.  (speaking of John 9:1-7) … Compasson affects us.  Maybe that’s why we judge so quickly- it keeps us from being infected by other people’s problems.  Passing judgment is just so efficient.”

They were more concerned with how this happened, why the guy was blind.  Jesus was more concerned with restoring sight.  Like the religious leaders who later interrogated the man, the disciples were spiritually blind.

“Love often doesn’t erase worries- it just shifts them to a different set of shoulders- our own.”

Yeah, that whole bearing one another’s burdens thing (Gal. 6).  It is bearing those burdens that is often instrumental in our own growth, though at the time it seems to impede our growth.  We think our time would be better spent elsewhere.

“He doesn’t just need an assist from God; he needs a complete overhaul, so he cries out, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner.’  He has come to the earth-shattering conclusion that he, not his circumstances, caused  the mess in his life. … It is a huge relief to admit that you are a mess: that you turn inward and instinctively take care of your needs first. … Knowing you are a mess means you can stop pretending you have it all together.  Jesus says to people, ‘Relax- you’re much worse than you think!’  It is a little scary to move in this direction because you lose control of your image- of how others see you.  But did you ever control it anyway?  … Getting in touch with your inner tax collector makes room for God’s energy in your life.”

 This is part of the joy of interviewing for pastoral positions.  What they see is what they will get with me- I’m not trying to sell myself and create false impressions.  That doesn’t always work well … but it will with the people God wants me to work with.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

“Our helplessness is the door to the knowledge of God.  Without changing the heart, obsessing over rules is like spray-painting garbage.”

Nice imagery.  One last quote…

“Because he has the love of God in his heart, he doesn’t need other people to love him.”

This is what I aspire to- so I’m not pretending with anyone so I don’t lose their ‘love.’  Only as we depend solely on the love of God for us will be truly be able to love people as God intends rather than the shallow substitute we offer.  We call it sugar, but its not; butter, but its “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.”  Oh, what wretches are we.

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This is my chosen sermon text for the week.  Here are some interesting thoughts I ran across in my prep today:

“There can be no sustained faithfulness on our part unless we are convinced that we can trust God.  The basis for that trust is the consideration that we have a high priest who is merciful and compassionate in his relationship with us.”  Wiliam Lane in Hebrews: A Call to Commitment

“The promise is that God’s children will receive mercy accompanied by sustaining grace.  Mercy and grace are closely allied and essential aspects of God’s love.  That love is outgoing in providing the protective help that does not arrive too late but at the appropriate time, because the moment of its arrival is left to the judgment of our gracious God.”  William Lane in Hebrews: A Call to Commitment

“For he is not talking about sin and its guilt but about temptations, afflictions, and persecutions.  So the mercy meant here must be the cause for our deliverance- namely, in its consequences.  … In addition to this, the apostle is not here referring to the initial approach of sinners to God through Christ for mercy and pardon, but about the daily access of believers to him for grace and assistance.  To receive mercy, therefore, is to be made to participate in the gracious help and support of the kindness of God in Christ, when we are in distress.  This springs from the same root as pardoning grace and is therefore called ‘mercy’.”  John Owen in Hebrews

“… God’s word is like a long staff by which he examines and searches what lies deep in our hearts… God, who knows our hearts, has assigned to his word the office of penetrating even into our inmost thoughts.”  John Calvin in Commentary on Hebrews

“… for when Christ receives us under his protection and patronage, he covers with his goodness the majesty of God, which would otherwise be terrible to us, so that nothing appears there but grace and paternal favor.”  John Calvin in Commentary on Hebrews

“After terrifying us, the Apostle now comforts us, after pouring wine into our wound, he now pours in oil.”  Martin Luther, quoted by Philip Edgcumbe Hughes in A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews

“The hardness of the struggle should be an inducement to the Christian to draw near to the throne of God’s grace, rather than to draw back and abandon the conflict…”  Philip Edgcumbe Hughes in A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews

These are things I need to keep in mind, not just for a sermon, but everyday life.  As I prepare, it has been one rough week.  It is not just something to talk about, but something I need to be true and rely upon.

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The Fear of God by John Bunyan is probably one of those books you will never see on the top of a best-seller list.  And that is a shame.  First, we are talking John Bunyan, who is a best-selling author.  His Pilgrim’s Progress is a classic work of English, and Christian, literature.  If you haven’t already, buy a modern English edition and enjoy.  Second, this is a neglected topic.  The only other book on this topic I can recall is Jerry Bridges’ The Joy of Fearing God (an excellent book by the way).  And Bridges is heavily reliant on this book.  My copy has a blurb by Jerry on the cover.

If anything, Bunyan is thorough.  That is a typical Puritan trait.  And at times it can weary the modern reader.  At times I felt like saying, “John, I think I get it.”  But if I had to choose between overdoing it, and treating it too quickly, I’ll take the former.

The book begins with reasons why we should fear God.  I love this quote, “Man crumbles to dust at the presence of God, though He shows Himself to us in His robes of salvation.”  But the meat of the book comes in distinguishing the various types of fear, and their place, or lack thereof, in the Christian’s life.  Some are “natural” found even in unbelievers.  These flow from the light of nature and His difficult providence.  But there is one  that is godly, though temporary.  This is essentially the stirring of the Spirit to produce a sense of guilt and condemnation.  When a person converts they should then have a filial fear (the awe/respect of sons toward their father).  The fear from guilt and condemnation should then dissipate.  Though, the Evil One likes to utilize its counterfeit to hinder the spiritual progress of Christians.

In Bunyan’s eyes, gracious fear of God is the seedbed of all other graces we experience as a Christian.  He sees faith, repentance, love and other graces flowing out of God-given fear.  He then goes in depth concerning the effects this fear has in Christian living: care for the poor and distressed, prayer & the other means of grace for instance.

Bunyan advances to the privileges of those who fear God, knowing Him as our Savior, our Shield and Defender, etc.  In typical Puritan fashion, Bunyan includes many uses of this doctrine, including ways to cultivate it, and ways in which it is hindered.  Bunyan ends with a word of chastisement for the hypocrites.  Odd to see that, from our modern perspective.

This is a book well worth reading.  But a warning- it is not light reading.  You need to have lots of mental energy when you sit to read it.  That is not a bad thing, but if you don’t you will get frustrated and put it aside without giving it a fair hearing.  Read, and be humbled.

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