Do We Really Have Compassion for the Lost?

Do you minister out of a compassionate heart or only for your comfort? In other words, do we seek to reach all of humanity with the gospel message of hope and restoration, or do we avoid those that are deeply troubled and seek out instead the people that are more like ourselves? Jesus’ encounter with a mother and daughter should teach us a lesson about this:

Matthew 15:22–23 (NAS): And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.”

What did the disciples see in the demon possessed girl? A pest and a nuisance? Just another broken person that would demand more time, energy, and money? I have heard Christians moan when another drunk comes to church. I have seen the faces of “God’s children” when another mentally disturbed person needs more time in prayer and counsel. I have seen the way that too many needs by the poor can begin to irritate a local body, even when those in need are from within the congregation.

Brethren, look at the verses above! We have a mother pleading for her child. See her desperation! What if you were that mother! Do we see that this woman cries out to the “Lord, Son of David” in hope and reverence, or do we see her as the outsider, the “Canaanite?” She is different. She is desperate. And to some, those differences and desperation are off-putting and repulsive. “Let them go somewhere else. We don’t need that here. This is a respectable place.”

Do we see the demonic and want to push it away, or do we see that she is “cruelly demon-possessed” and our hearts are broken for her bondage and we want to see her set free? Do we cast blame, saying that she probably did this to herself, that these are probably the consequences of her poor choices, and so she deserves what she has become? Do we point to this person as an example to our children of what to avoid, instead of pointing out the need for compassionate Christ-like love?

I fear that we can worship the idol of comfort in our churches and not the God of all Comforts who wants to bring peace to people like the demon-possessed woman. Look around the next time you’re at church. Do the people reflect the needs of broken humanity brought to peace in Jesus Christ, or do they reflect the social comfort of being around respectable people? Then ask yourself, are we more like the Lord or like the disciples when we encounter the deeply troubled?

The Warm Light of Hope

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

Right now, the world seems very dark. In the US, elections are looming like a dark cloud and whispers of revolution after the election tell us that disruptions will not be over once the election is decided.

The threats of the Coronavirus are once again being touted on the media and communities all over the world are beginning to close again.

Hurricanes have struck the southern Gulf states and wildfires have decimated the West.

Rioting has continued in some areas, and will most likely begin again following the elections on Tuesday. Other parts of the world are feeling the tightening fist of control take advantage of these uncertain days.

Add to these the personal struggles with sickness, joblessness, depression, hunger and poverty, heartbreak, wayward children and those who have run headlong to embrace the darkness, and these days are long and heavy.

A dark, cold winter is coming upon us–something that has nothing to do with the weather outside. A spiritual darkness is over our world and it has settled over the US.

My daily readings in the Bible have brought me to the minor prophets and the book of Revelation. The book of Micah speaks about the fact that most of the prophets were unfaithful, speaking lies to appease the people and to gain a benefit for themselves. And Revelation 10 (my reading today) speaks of the unthinkable judgment that is still in the future for the world.

While the darkness of the world can have an anxiety inducing effect upon those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Savior, it should not have this effect upon the children of God. As Jesus said in Matthew 5 above, we are a light in this dark world, like a city upon a hill that glows with life. We are like a lamp in a dark house that gives light and hope and joy to the home.

Jesus is our hope. The prophets of the Bible didn’t only speak about judgment that was coming for sin, they also spoke of the hope and restoration of a new world for God’s people. This world is not our home. We all need to keep saying this to ourselves as we think about what is happening–This world is not my home!

I’m not speaking about running away, or about an ejection button that allows me to disengage from the world and its darkness and fears. I am saying that this broken world can never give us hope or safety or comfort the way that Jesus Christ does. And while we are here, for as long as Jesus holds off on his return, we ought to be holding out that light to those still in the darkness, longing for hope and seeking desperately for peace.

Hold out your lamp. Call your lost neighbors to the warm glow of knowing Christ. Shine brightly with the hope of the New Jerusalem even amidst the broken misery of the city of man. It is coming and we shall soon see our King. Don’t dwell in fear and don’t lose hope.

Shine the light.

What is Harder than a Rock? The Human Heart

As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you! But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster.” Jeremiah 44:16–17 (ESV)

“As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.””
Hebrews 3:15 (ESV)

It is amazing how hard the heart of man can become. The Bible likens it to a stone because it can become unfeeling and unbending like rock. But the metaphor of a rock falls short when it comes to the depths of that unbending attitude.

In Jeremiah 44, the prophet once again declared the coming judgment of God as well as the mercy of God if they would only repent. But instead of repentance, the people doubled-down in their sin. They not only wouldn’t turn from their sin, they would instead make sure that they kept their vows to their false gods and continue to make offerings, just as their wicked forefathers and leaders had done before them.

This people who would not keep their covenant promises to the LORD, were so ingrained in their sin that their hard hearts led them to lock on to their promises to worship false gods like a pit bull onto a piece of raw meat! In this way, they were not like rocks. Rocks don’t get harder, but people’s hearts sometimes do. They don’t just reject God, they go even further and show their open disdain and hatred of God.

But what is even more amazing than the hardness of man’s heart is the grace and mercy of God. In Hebrews 3, the writer of this letter uses the rebellion of Israel in the Old Testament as an example. The failures of Israel become a tool for teaching, showing that God will keep his word and punish those who insist on rebelling. But along with that, even hundreds of years after these events in the wilderness, God is still offering mercy and forgiveness to all who will listen and come to him. What overflowing grace!

The offer of the free grace of God is still offered today. Men and women can dive deeper into their sin so that their hearts become completely unfeeling and their hatred against God and everything else is seething. Or they can listen to the Spirit as he speaks through the Word of God and offers to them salvation and cleansing from all their sins.

Some offers are too good to be true, but not this one. This one is genuine. If you don’t have forgiveness from God, then this offer is for you. Don’t pass it by. Don’t grow colder and harder. There is only pain, misery, and death on that path. Go to Jesus. He receives sinners and turns them into saints.