Christ's compassion, Christ's Love

Abundant Life

Read John 10:1-14.

Have you ever considered your life to be worthless or that people would just be better off without you? I know, I know this sounds rather melodramatic to some, but in the depths of depression, there are loads of people who feel this way. And telling someone in the throes of this despondency that God loves them may be like singing a song to a deaf ear that cannot comprehend.

Or perhaps we’ve never experienced such sorrow so we just want to tell that individual “cheer up,” “look at the bright side,” or if we’re a little more blunt, “suck it up.” Unfortunately, even with good intentions, this type of advice can cause even greater despair.

Perhaps you are in a low place right now and just want to give up. Can I tell you that your life is worth a great deal to God? Even in the midst of circumstances that seem overwhelming. Even when you have committed some horrible sin, or have been caught up in an addiction, or deserted, or wrongfully accused, your life is meant…well, to live.

Jesus promised us abundant life as we follow Him (John 10:10). An abundant or satisfying life does not mean that everything will go our way. No, we will suffer. He promises us this. But our lives still matter and are worth living, even if the circumstances are horrific.

In John 10:1-14, notice what Jesus says about thieves, and contrast it to what He says about the good shepherd. The thieves (the enemy, Satan and his forces) want to steal and kill and destroy. So, there may be literal attempts on our mortal lives, attempts to steal our joy, or attempts to destroy our very reasons for living. There will be hard times but that does not mean we can’t have an abundant life. Not if you think of abundance as having a rich and wide variety of experiences.

Mankind dreamed of flying for millennia, and there were some rather humorous attempts at flight in our not-so-distant past.* Did you know an airplane (or bird for that matter) essentially “struggles” to get in the air? Lift and thrust must overcome the forces of gravity and drag. But once at cruising altitude we probably feel only the forward momentum, and if we are not afraid to look out the window, we can view mountains, forests, farm land, cities, all from a new and exciting perspective.

Consider that Jesus knows us in our struggles and is with us as we struggle through our daily lives. The thieves may be right outside the gate or climbing the walls, but the Good Shepherd is fighting for us. He has already laid down His life so that we may have a full, abundant, and satisfying life. Yes, we will face obstacles. Yes, we may face real danger. But remember Jesus has overcome the most powerful enemy…that of death.

Even now, He fights for you.

He loves you. Yes, really. Walk with Him. Just walk at His pace, in His path, and let Him guide you to abundant life.

A Moment to Reflect

Do you believe the Good Shepherd fights for you?

Have you ever survived something that was a real danger to your life? Do you feel as if God intervened?

Take a few minutes to laugh:

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Christ's Love

Peace to You, my Children

Have you ever wished you could just disappear? Responsibilities weigh you down, and you want to leave them behind. That weight perhaps causes you to forget the good things, the blessings you have.

Maybe you feel this way now or have felt this way in the past. There is no peace in your home, in your job, your community, let alone in your country and in the world. You are tired of the bickering in politics. Yes, I “went there” because I have found that putting my energy into “whose side” I’m on can drain me. My fear of the future may haunt me because of what the politicians are doing or not doing. Or because of war or the threat of war.

The Eleven disciples who remained after Judas died are different from us though, right? They know they have to continue His mission. They’re not worried about the political atmosphere or the Roman’s torture. So, they go out and preach everywhere the Gospel and love of Christ!

Oh, wait. No, they don’t.

Instead, they go into hiding. Fearful of the Jews—which meant, by the way, the fear of the Jewish leaders—they disappear from the public eye. Huddling together, they lock the doors. But without a warning, instead of a dreaded pounding on the door, Jesus appears in their midst.

And is He ever upset with them! He reminds them that they’ve denied Him, deserted Him, and even fallen asleep while He asks them to pray (Matthew 26:36-45, 56, 69-75). I can hear Him saying, “Hey guys, you know the plan. Why are you hiding? I faced the same threats you’re afraid to face. Now get out there and do what I told you to do!”

At least that’s what He could have told them. But instead, His first words are “Peace be to you.”

Wow. I get so excited when I think of Jesus uttering those words to them in love. In absolute love.

They are frightened by His appearance, thinking he is a ghost or spirit. At this point Jesus seems disappointed with their doubt yet He tells them to “Handle me and see…” in order to assure them it is Him in the flesh. (Luke 24:36-40).

After this event (we don’t know how much later), Peter announces he is going fishing, and some of his fishing buddies decide to go with him. I’m not sure what motivates Peter, but he heads out to his former occupation. Apparently, Peter does not want the responsibilities of being a fisher of people with the obligation of not only catching them, but teaching and training them as well. No, he seems to be done with that.

So off they go. Back to what they’ve always done. The men fish all night as is the custom, but by morning, they have caught nothing.

Someone on the shore calls out, and the voice carries across the water, “Children, do have any food?”

With a weary sigh, they holler back, “No.”

Who is this guy anyway?

Maybe they should have known when He calls them “children,” but only after He tells them to cast the net on the other side of the boat, and they catch a net full of fish does Peter realize “It’s the Lord!” And Peter, being Peter, jumps in the water and swims towards Jesus.

When they haul the fish to shore, Jesus invites them to breakfast. He asks them to bring Him some of the fish they’ve caught even though he has already started cooking. He tells them to come and eat. He doesn’t fuss at them for fishing. He doesn’t tell them they should be ashamed for trying to net fish when he has told them to fish for people (John 21:3-13).

Do these reactions by our Lord surprise you? Don’t we sometimes see God waiting to fuss at us when we lack faith or when we turn back to our old ways?

But look at what Jesus does. He knows these men are hungry after working a physically exhausting and discouraging job. So, he prepares a meal for them. I also think He longs to sit with these men and enjoy their company before ascending to the Father. Just chill with his homeboys.

That is God. It is a beautiful picture of Him. He understands. He comes to us in our need and even in our doubts. He holds us close, sits with us in fellowship, and invites us to sup with him, to be nourished at his hand.

I know God disciplines us and guides us away from the wrong path, or even away from a good path to the best one, but He knows our needs too. He understands when we falter. He will come to us, remind us He is our peace, and remind us we are His children.

Perhaps He calls to you today. “Children, have you any meat?” If you don’t, He has something that will fill you.

No matter what your need, He longs to satisfy it. Bow to Him, set your longings at His feet, and trust Him to sustain you.

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Christ's Love, Sorrow

Comfort to Pass on

God's comfort

Have you ever experienced God’s comfort in a real and almost tangible way? I hope you have. But in order to experience that comfort we must also experience pain–emotionally or physically. At the same time, pain in this life is unavoidable. Experiencing the comfort only our God can give makes the pain, not only bearable,  but also worthwhile.

Most of us know that sooner or later we experience less than ideal circumstances. Something we didn’t see coming. Something that overwhelms us and brings us to our knees. It may not seem like a tragedy, but we are inconsolable because of a rejection, a broken relationship, a lost job or any number of crises. That broken relationship or rejection could be a spouse leaving or a grown child you haven’t heard from in years. That lost job could be what you thought was a God-given calling. But then the doors slammed shut. And you were left to figure out what to do next, attempting to make sense of this loss, and perhaps determined to never dream big again.

Second Corinthians teaches us that God is a God of comfort “who comforts in all our tribulation.” In all our tribulation. That includes trials, conflicts, rejection, and broken dreams. Isn’t it wonderful that the God of the universe wants to gather you in His arms and comfort you?

But there’s more to this promise. He comforts us “so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” You get that? We are to comfort others with the same comfort God has given us. That may make some of us uncomfortable. We may not like the idea of comforting others. But every gift God gives us–mercy, kindness, love, comfort–is something we can pass on to others.

It may be that our own tears need to clear a bit before we are ready to reach out, but eventually we’ll see someone who needs our compassion because they are going through a similar sorrow. Our hearts will stir, and we will be able to pass that wonderful gift of God’s comfort on to another.

Prayer:

God, please use my hurts so that I may see you as my Comforter, and please use those hurts as a way for me to comfort others who are in need.

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Christ's compassion

The Woman with the Bleed

Scripture: Mark 5:25-34

Jesus ministered to all kinds of people with a wide variety of illnesses and struggles. The one I want to look at today really touches my heart because it shows His concern for a condition that is almost uniquely that of a woman. And one that most of us would probably want to just keep quiet about. But since it is such a sweet story of Christ’s love for us, I want to take a close look at it.

Jesus has just crossed the Sea of Galilee with His disciples when we meet this woman with the bleed (or hemorrhage). Before she reaches him a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, kneels at Jesus’ feet and pleads with Him to come heal his daughter. So while Jesus (and apparently the crowd) takes off in that direction, this woman whose name is never given approaches Him thinking “if I can only touch the hem of his garment then I will be healed.” I imagine her hand as it reaches through the tangle of sweaty legs and dusty feet. And she does it. She touches His garment.

Before we move on, we should realize a few things about this woman:

  • She has not only suffered physically and financially (going to one physician after another, spending all her money and growing worse instead of better), she is also suffering spiritually and socially as this affliction marks her as unclean and therefore not fit to go to the temple or synagogue. (Leviticus 15:25-27)
  • If she is married there is a huge problem with her uncleanness. Her husband would not be able to have relations with her. For twelve years.
  • We don’t know how old she is so we don’t know if she has children and at this point in time she would be unable to have them.
  • She is basically an interruption to an important mission—that of a desperate synagogue leader whose daughter is dying.
  • She goes to Jesus in what she hopes is a private way. (No one else need know of this—she can touch Him, disappear into the crowd, and head home.)

Now it would seem Jesus had a choice to make. At the woman’s touch, He knows something has happened. Should He ignore it and continue with the synagogue leader? Wouldn’t that have been easier? Wouldn’t it have been better to hurry to the dying daughter? Or should He stop and acknowledge what has just happened?

Jesus chooses to do the hard thing.

He embraces this “interruption” and asks who touched Him. I can imagine the look on the disciples’ faces as they say, “well, ya know, you’re in this huge crowd pressing up against you like you’re a rock star or something and you want to know who touched you. Lord, are you…all right?” Yes, I am taking a slight liberty with Scripture but the point is the disciples often have a tough time understanding what Jesus is doing, and maybe they’re a little embarrassed by his behavior. Perhaps they’re thinking “all right, Lord, we’re here for You, but perhaps You need to get out of the sun for a bit.” At any rate, Jesus keeps looking around, pretty much ignores the disciples, and keeps asking. He knows that someone has touched Him and received healing.

Now I’m sure Jesus already knows who touched Him, after all He has the ability (even with His human limitations) to perceive what is in people’s minds and hearts. So…if He does know, why would he ask who touched Him?

Maybe He wants the woman to come to Him by choice, not because He points her out saying “I know it was you.” But isn’t Jesus still trying to embarrass her? Surely she does not wish to be brought to everyone’s attention. She didn’t want to get up in front of all those people and ask healing for this delicate matter. No, she wanted just to touch Him secretly with no one else knowing, and be done with it. But Jesus has other ideas, and I don’t think it is to shame her any further, but rather in His tender way, He wants to tell her something in front of the whole crowd.

Since he is so insistent, the woman comes forward and falls at his feet “in fear and trembling.” Was she afraid she was about to be rebuked for touching Him? After all, she was unclean and had no business touching anyone. And surely she couldn’t help but touch some in the huge crowd. We can’t be sure but we do know she tells Him the “whole truth”, apparently not mincing her words. And I’m wondering now, does this crowd already know about her situation? Do they know this woman has not been to the synagogue for twelve years? Does this synagogue leader who is standing next to Jesus know these things? And are they appalled at her words?

Well, it seems that Jesus knows exactly what to say to her. Jesus does not shame her because of all this. Instead of saying “oh, now look what you’ve done. Now I’m unclean too” He chose compassion. He chose to praise her faith. He chose to tell her she was whole, to go in peace, to be freed from suffering.

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But first he calls her “daughter” which probably meant “daughter of Abraham.” I hope you see the significance in that. She had been cut off from worship of the God of Abraham, from so much of what made her Jewish, and now Jesus is calling her “daughter.” He plays a part in re-establishing her place in the community and in the synagogue. If He, as God in the flesh calls her daughter, then He apparently establishes a personal relationship with her. He could have said “dear woman” as He did His mother but He chose the term daughter for significant reasons.

In just a breath or two Jesus establishes a relationship with her, compliments her faith, wishes her peace, and frees her from a terrible affliction.

Jesus may not always free us immediately from our affliction or our suffering, but He does make a way for us to go in peace. And perhaps a more important thing to consider is how we can help others “go in peace.” So here’s some homework: Ask God to give you an opportunity to speak peace into someone’s life outside your regular circle of family, friends, and co-workers. Be honest if this is new or difficult for you. You may find that you have helped someone with a smile or a kind word. Voicing your appreciation to a waitress or a nurse or cashier can make their day and perhaps help lift a burden that you are not even aware of. And don’t be surprised at the peace you find in ministering to another.

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