Thursday, March 26, 2015

Compassion

                                                                 Matthew 14:13-21
                            https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+14:13-21

      A man named Peter Ustinov once said, "charity is more common than compassion. Charity is tax deductible, compassion is time consuming".

      Today, I am going to talk about compassion. Godly, Christ like compassion. Compassion in the midst of our own wants, our own needs, and our own limitations. Compassion shown to others, because compassion has been shown to us. Compassion because Jesus looked for the broken and poor, He dealt with them with compassion, and then left them for us to care for.

      All four of the gospels tell this story, each with a different amount of details, some with much conversation, and some with little. But anytime something is mentioned more than once, to me that says it has special significance. 3 times means you better sit up and take notice. But 4 times? You had better engrave it into your soul. And that my friends are what we are here to do today. To make the word of God a living part of us.

      So, Matthew's account, where we are today, is pretty straight forward. Easy to understand and digest. Matthew addresses this miracle from the simple standpoint that Jesus saw the needs of the people and He met those needs in a way that only He could. Yet, He didn't do it alone. He used His disciples, just as He does today.

      I think one of the biggest statements made in this story is found in verse 14, When He went ashore He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them, and healed their sick. Let me talk about the word compassion for a moment. It is translated from the greek word splanchnizomai, which means yearning with the bowels. Have you ever been so deeply moved with sympathy or empathy for someone that your stomach ached? Then you have a feeling of the depth of Jesus' pity was for the people that followed Him.

      Compassion is that internal yearning, that deep sense of empathy or sympathy, and concern for people who have great needs, which affects us physically because of it's intensity. It is such a deep emotion that it can't easily be shut down or ignored. We simply cannot walk away from people in great pain, desperate need, or deep poverty. Jesus had splanchnizomai on the people, and so He dealt with it. We are to have that kind of compassion for people and deal with it just as Jesus would if He were standing there in our place.

      Imagine being tired, hungry, and emotionally over worked. Then you look out and see some poor person with such a great need that they are just a pitiful sight. You can tell by looking at them that their problem is not a quick fix, it's going to take some effort. That's when most people would turn and making nimble practiced justifications for not responding to the need they see. But, Jesus completely disregards His own needs and focuses on the needs of those He came to save and to serve. No matter how tired or needful Jesus was, He always gave to others first. This is the kingdom principle that must be a part of the walk of faith of believers today. If a person is a true Christian, then they are by definition a disciple of Christ.

      In verse 15 it says, when in the evening, the disciples came to Him and said,, this place is desolate and the hour is already late. So send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves. So, what do the disciples see? they see the need of the people, and they see their own limitations. They see the world through the eyes of the flesh. What they don't see is Jesus as they should have. They don't see their circumstances through the eyes of the master of all of creation sitting in their midst. This is the Jesus whos has healed thousands, driven out demons, given sight to the blind, made the deaf here, and raised the dead. How is it that they couldn't see Him as the one who could feed several thousand people? They couldn't see it because they were focused on themselves. Sure, they saw the people and their needs, but their focus was on themselves. Isn't this like us in our own lives? We see the needs of others , look immediately at the resources we don't have, and we fail to respond to the need before us. Do we believe that we arm the hands, feet, arms, mouth, body, wallet, ride, smile, kind word, gentle touch, shelter, provider, etc. etc. of Jesus Christ? Then how should we respond when we see need?

      In verse 16 it says, But Jesus said to them, they do not need to go away, you give them something to eat. In other words, take what you have and give it to those in need. Do it in faith and trust Me for the rest. Being concerned for people is just the start. Now do something for them. What was their response? They argue, can you believe it? They actually argue with Jesus. Who can argue with Jesus like that? I better be the first to raise my hand because I can. I argued with Him the whole time I was writing this sermon. But, He turned my heart around and got me to see that He was giving me an opportunity to live this message. So, I took it, and the blessing is wonderful all the way around. I can't even begin to tell you how many times , or how often I have felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit, and have discussed, argued, cajoled, minimized, justified, and rationalized not doing what was needed. There are always reasons not to, atleast I seem to always be able to find them. Maybe it's just me, but there are always this fear factor that makes me get to concerned about the response I am going to get from the gallery. But, I forget about the gallery that I am supposed to be playing to. Jesus Christ is the gallery I am supposed to play to, if you will, because He has given me the example to follow, and He is there cheering me on. Saying, They don't need to go away, you give them something to eat. Take from what you have, that I have given you, and give it to those that are in need of it.

      But, in Vs. 17-18 they said to Him, we only have 5 loaves and 2 fish, and He said bring them to me. You see? Right there, Jesus tells us that we bring Him what we have and allow Him to bless it and use it. When was the last time you took a look at what you have and prayed, Lord this is what I have and it is Yours to use as you desire to touch the life of someone else? This is not a prayer that immediately jumps to our lips when we see the need that someone else has. We, like the disciples try to figure things out in our own minds. We fall back on what we think we know, on what we are used to. Being a disciple of Jesus requires a radical shift in thinking, a drastic alteration of our view of the world and how it operates. If we truly believe that we are indwelt by Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, then when we are there, Jesus is there. How would Jesus respond?

      In Vs. 19-21 it says, Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the 5 loaves and 2 fish, and looking up towards Heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. There were about 5000 men who ate, besides women and children. As the messiah promised to Israel, Jesus would provide for all of their needs. He was well aware that the sick and lame needed healing, He was even more aware that every man, woman, and child present that day needed the redemption that the promised Messiah really came to give. That is always the deepest need of every man.

      In this last portion of Matthew's account we see a pattern instituted that has been continuing on since that very day. Jesus gave to the disciples that which He blessed, and they in turn give it out to the people. This is the pattern for all those who minister for Jesus Christ. Not only do the miracles of Jesus testify as Him being the Messiah, they are His way of demonstrating the depth of His compassion fro those in need. He can provide for every need, and He will. Our focus is to be on His Kingdom and His righteousness. Jesus Christ requires that we care more about the health and well being of others than we care about our own. He will care for us, we are to care for others.

      Do you believe that this is what Jesus requires of us? Do you believe he really meant it. Do you belong to Him, or do you belong to you? Do you believe in Him, or do you believe in you? Do you see through the limited vision of the flesh or are you asking Him to open the eyes of your heart and let you see as He sees? Jesus promises that if we give, it will be given to you. Do we believe Him, or are we like the disciples and believe only what we have known, only what we see, or only what we can imagine? The message here is that all of us have an opportunity to give sacrificially to others, and we need to take that opportunity when it presents itself. It is time for everyone of us to step out of the box, step out of our comfort zone, step out of the church setting and really be Jesus Christ to this world. What do you have to lose? Nothing, it's all His anyway. We just have to live like we really believe that what we believe is really real.

      A man named Peter Ustinov once said, "Charity is more common than compassion. Charity is tax deductible. compassion is time consuming......Amen



     

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Death is not the end

   

       We all mourn in our own way, there is no set pattern. And we can mourn with the assurance of Jesus Christ, because He tells us, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." And, as a Stephens Minister, I want you to know that God is not immune to our emotions. As our Heavenly Father, God knows what His children are feeling, He felt it when Jesus died on the cross. And because He is all knowing, He already knows what we are thinking. It says in the bible that His Spirit witnesses to ours, which means He mourns our loss too. He knows what we are going through, experiencing the life, death, and resurrection of His Son. God has been through everything we are going through, or have gone through. He has been there. In the Old Testament we find scripture that tells us "The Eternal God is our dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33:27). Also, from Psalm 34:18 it says, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power, whose understanding is beyond all measure. So I believe that God is right here mourning with us, and because of that we can be honest with what we  are feeling, and we can remember our loved ones as they were. We can take that  moment and turn to God, and allow Him to comfort us in there memory.

        I have heard it said somewhere that death may end our lives, but it can never end our relationships. So let our caring and, loving loved ones be a testimony in our lives. Family will remain family, Friends will remain friends. Death can't stop that. God sent His Son to make sure that those who put their faith and trust in Him, will no longer see death as an ending, but as a pit stop on the way to something far greater. When memories of our loved ones drop into our consciousness, you will have no choice but to smile at them, cherish those times, and share them with each other.

         So, when those times are at their toughest, I invite you to turn to Jesus, I know He understands. When He was preparing the disciples for His eventual departure, He told them, truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy (John 16:20-22). Our loved ones were truly a gift given for a short time. May we remember and be thankful for that gift.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Temptation

                                                                    Matthew 4:1-11


      As you have probably guessed from the reading, I am going to talk about temptation. We are all tempted, we can't help it. We all have things that are hard to walk away from. I am going to start with a little story that I think we can all appreciate, and I think it fits quite well with the scripture today.
There was this little boy named Bobby who desperately wanted a new bicycle. He set a plan to save all of his allowance until he had enough money for a brand new mountain bike. Each night during his prayers, Bobby would ask God for the strength to save is money. Kneeling beside his bed Bobby would pray, Dear Lord, please give me the strength to save all of my money, but just incase Lord could you please make the ice cream man not come tomorrow? That is a funny and cute joke, but really, temptation is no joke. Temptation is very much a reality in our lives. Temptation has no boundaries, we are all subjected to it. Greed, power, jealousy, prestige, the list goes on and on.

      Today in Matthew Chapter 4 we see that Jesus is tempted in the wilderness, immediately after being baptized Jesus is led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be alone and reflect , to ready Himself for the ministry that is to come. This is where Jesus would be tempted.

      The first temptation was to turn stone to bread. Jesus had just ended His fast of 40 days and nights. I am sure He was very hungry, but Jesus responded by saying, Man cannot live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. The 2nd temptation came upon the top of the temple. If He would leap from the temple the angels would catch Him. But, Jesus responded, do not put the Lord God to the test. The 3rd temptation came from on top of the highest mountain overlooking the world's kingdoms in all of their glory. The devil tempted Him with all the power to rule over those kingdoms if Jesus would just worship him. Jesus responded with saying away from me satan, for it is written worship the Lo0rd your God, and serve HIm only. You see, Jesus denied temptation, and so can we. But, it is easier to understand that before we are ever tempted, the thought of temptation begins in our hearts and minds.

      Martin Luther once responded to a question about how he handled temptation by saying, I too know something of temptation. But the difference is that when temptation comes knocking at the door of my heart, I always answer with "Go away, this place is occupied, go back to where you came from, for Christ is in here." Martin Luther knew who he was in Christ, he knew who his God was. He didn't just have the head knowledge, he also had the heart knowledge.

      Jesus knew who He was, God had just told everyone who He was when He was baptized. This is My Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased. Jesus went into the wilderness knowing that He was the Son of God. He knew who He was and who His God was. He had no doubts about Himself or doubts about the faithfulness of God. When we know who we are we can come out of our wilderness living in the promises of God. Because, just as Jesus is, we are the children of God, we are His beloved.

      Because the battle with temptation always begins in our hearts and then to our minds, it then leads to us making a choice. But, when we can understand who we are, like Martin Luther or Jesus, our hearts become filled with God's love and devotion. There are not any places where the seed of temptation can grow. And when there aren't any places for those seeds to grow, our choices between right and wrong are easier.

      When I was young I was overcome by the temptation of money and power, and I made a lot of wrong choices growing up. Those wrong choices lead us down a path of our own demise. Our souls are riddled with guilt, shame, and remorse. We have a hard time living with ourselves and it's in this time that our wrong choices start to grow. We begin to turn away from God onto a path of more self destruction. We feel bad about whom we are and believe that God can't love us any longer, that we let God down. This is a different kind of wilderness, this is the type of wilderness that can become a spiritual wasteland.

      The wilderness of temptation is hard work, I can imagine it being a sign at a mechanics shop. Come on in, let us shock, tire, break, and exhaust you, and I am sure Jesus was all of those. He was out there on a 40 day fast. Tired, dirty, and hungry. He was human, He suffered all the same things we do. But, there is good news. In the wilderness of temptation, we find Jesus, He meets us there. He is with us through all the pain and writhing of our temptation. Jesus is there to secure us, giving us strength and encouragement. We can come out victorious because we know Jesus is there with us. He reminds us that He is our refuge, our strong tower, and that He loves us. He is greater than any temptation. Jesus, who is God's grace poured out, is there to bring us out of temptation, victorious.