Tuesday, April 9, 2024

The Spiritually Mature Life: Having the Fruit

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, I started a new sermon series at Bethlehem Church called A Spiritually Mature Life. This sermon series is focused on following the guidance of the Holy Spirit so he can produce the type of life that God wants us to live.

There are two ways we can live our lives. We can follow the desires of our flesh or we can be guided by the Holy Spirit. To follow the desires of our flesh leads to a life that is contrary to the Kingdom of God and thus leads to death. To follow the Spirit produces the fruit of eternal life in us. Eternal life is characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In other words this is the type of life God created us to live. It is a life that demonstrates God’s character in this world.

Text: Galatians 5:16-25
Big Idea: Following the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of eternal life in us.
Challenge: This week expect the Holy Spirit to guide you.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

We Have A Voice

I am not sure how I stumbled upon Preston Sprinkle. It could be that I was looking for a podcast to listen to and the title Theology in the Raw grabbed my attention. 

It doesn’t matter how or when I discovered Preston and his podcast, what matters is that I have been listening to him for several years now. Not only have I spent hours with him and his guests, he, in the process, has been influential on my own intellectual journey.

One of the areas that I have enjoyed listening to Preston about is the area of politics. If you have known me for any length of time you know that I have an interest in the area of politics and discipleship. I have written several posts about politics because I am concerned about the influence it has on us who follow Jesus. There is no doubt that many American Christians believe their faithfulness to God is connected to their politics.

Last week I saw this xeet/tweet on X/Twitter:

While I am sympathetic to what Preston posted, I don’t think it is entirely correct. The reason I don’t think it correct is because the position of Jewish exiles and 1st century Christians is different than our position as American Christians.

This has nothing to do with the United States being a “Christian Nation.” Personally, I  think this belief of being a “Christian Nation” has done more harm to God’s Church in the United States than good. One reason for that is because it has caused us to engage in a culture war to maintain Christian influence in the political sphere, rather than focusing on discipleship, which is the true work of the church.

What makes us different from the exiles in Babylon and the 1st century Christians is that our position as American Christians is one in which have a voice. And since we have a voice we should use it as much as we can, because what happens here and the decisions our politicians make affects the entire world (which is why it is correct to see the USA as an empire). 

Using our voice doesn’t equate to choosing sides and voting. One of my favorite posts is this one explaining why not voting was a legitimate option for a Christian. 

Using our voice means we speak “prophetically” about what our government is doing. So if we have the understanding and the knowledge of US foreign policy we should speak out about bad it is or how the healthcare/insurance systems is not good for people. 

Using our voice means praying for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Since the government is so big on both the Federal and State levels, this might seem like a pointless exercise, but it is God has instructed His people to do, so we can live peaceful lives.

The biggest way we can use our voice is to think locally and act locally. The reality is that the smaller the group the bigger the impact. We often get caught up in politics that we have the least influence over: Federal. Outside of voting (and even that impact should be questioned) there is not much we can do to influence those in power at the National level. Yet, there is a lot we can do locally.

At the local level there are always organizations that are looking for volunteers to help. At the local level there are different ways to help shape the condition of the community. At the local level we are better able to see the needs and witness results.

So, I totally agree with Preston that it improper for God’s people to be consumed with presidential politics and other national realities that cause us to forget our supreme allegiance to Jesus. But that doesn’t mean we should find politics uninteresting. Rather it means that we should follow the politics of Jesus: unconditional love and uncompromised truth.

As an exile living in the shadow of empire, remember there is only one kingdom (God’s Kingdom) that you are loyal to and only one king (King Jesus) worthy of your allegiance. So use the voice and influence He has given you to make a difference.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Marriage was God’s Idea

Marriage was his idea, after all. God created marriage, and put the desire in our hearts. However else it is you think you came together, what other forces you think were at work, the hopeful truth is that marriage is something God cares deeply about—including your marriage. When through the prophet Malachi the Lord God of Israel says, “I hate divorce,” we hear it with a shudder. But it ought to be with a surge of hope—the passion conveyed in those three words reveals how deeply he loves marriage, how strong his vested interests are in its success.

John and Stasi Eldredge — Love and War: Finding the Marriage You've Dreamed Of (pp. 17-18)

In life we have many types of relationships. There are the relationships that we form with the people at work or at school. There are the relationships that are formed with the people at church or in our sports league. There are the relationship that we have with our parents, siblings, and other relatives.

Among these relationships marriage is unique. Marriage is a relationship created around the promise to live life together. A relationship that is the foundation of family and creates the environment children need to mature into good people.

Christians believe that marriage is much more than a romantic relationship or contractual relationship created for mutual benefit. We believe that marriage is a sacred covenant ordained by God, and because it is given to us by Him, it contains His wisdom for what is best for people.

Marriage is not merely a union of two individuals but a reflection of God's eternal design for companionship, intimacy, and mutual support.

John and Stasi Eldredge point out that, "Marriage was his idea, after all." In other words, we should not do not devalue or diminish marriage. There is a reason why God gave us the idea of marriage, and when we minimize the value of marriage our relationships, families, and communities will suffer. Marriage is part of God’s plan for the flourishing of human beings.

From the beginning, God created man and woman in His image, each uniquely designed to complement and complete one another. As Genesis records the creation narrative, we read the divine proclamation, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

Woven within the fabric of our being is the longing for companionship. This is a desire placed within our hearts by God Himself. This desire for connection, intimacy, and partnership finds its ultimate fulfillment in the covenant of marriage. Not only does marriage provide an intimate connection between a man and a woman, but from marriage the comes other people who become our family and friends. It is because of marriage that none of us have to live alone.

Despite the complexities of human relationships and the all the different challenges we encounter, the foundational truth stands—marriage is a gift from God and is a reflection of His love and purpose for our lives.

It is no wonder that throughout history and in different cultures, marriage has been seen as a sacred institution, a relationship created not by human wisdom but by divine providence. It is true that marriage has not been practiced the same, but it has still held value in the ordering of cultures.

In Malachi 2:16 (NLT) we read:

“For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”

Here we discover God’s plea to husbands to take marriage seriously and to love their wives, because their wives were dependent on them. At that time husbands had the life of their wives in their hands, and so God reminded them of their great responsibility.

Today, in the United States, things are different, but marriage is no less important, and a broken marriage still inflicts pain on all those involved. For marriage to be what God intended it to be, a relationship that benefits human flourishing, it must be built, not only on love, but also on faithfulness.

Loyalty and faith are essential for any covenant to endure. God’s covenant with His people endures because of God’s faithfulness. For a marriage covenant to endure it requires the faithfulness of the husband to his wife, the faithfulness of the wife to her husband, and for Christians, both their faithfulness to God. When faithfulness is lacking love is not able to endure.

In our culture it is love that draws people to marriage, but what holds that marriage together is that faithfulness that love creates. It is the commitment and loyalty that is present that results in the couple to be there together through all the ups and downs of life.

In a world marked by temporary relationships and changing values, the timeless truth of God's purpose for marriage provides a secure place to call home. All of us need a place of rest and safety that allows us to be recharged and strengthen to face all the challenges life has to offer.

So in a time that is plagued by loneliness, depression, and anxiety we should remember the importance of marriage. Not because these realities disappear in marriage, but because in a healthy, loving, and faithful marriage an environment is created that helps us face life together and thus reduces the impact of them on our life.

Part of God’s plan for human beings is marriage, and the more we devalue and diminish marriage, the more our families and communities will suffer.

Prayer Prompts: Living Out Faith in Love


Day 1: Monday
Prompt 1: "Heavenly Father, as we begin this new week, help us to renew our commitment to living out our faith in love. Guide us to be your hands and feet in our communities, showing love and compassion to those in need."
Prompt 2: "Lord, we pray for peace in areas of conflict around the world. Bring reconciliation and healing to nations torn apart by violence and strife, and raise up peacemakers to work towards reconciliation."

Day 2: Tuesday
Prompt 1: "Gracious God, grant us the courage to step out of our comfort zones and share the hope of Christ with those who do not yet know you. Open doors for us to be bold witnesses of your love and grace."
Prompt 2: "Father, we lift up educators and students. Grant them wisdom, creativity, and perseverance as they teach and learn in ever-changing circumstances."

Day 3: Wednesday
Prompt 1: "Lord, we surrender our plans and ambitions to you, trusting in your perfect timing and provision. Help us to let go of control and submit to your will for our lives."
Prompt 2: "Heavenly Father, we pray for families experiencing brokenness and discord. Bring healing and restoration to strained relationships, and help them to experience your redeeming love."

Day 4: Thursday
Prompt 1: "Gracious God, as we face challenges and uncertainties, remind us of your faithfulness and promise to never leave us nor forsake us. Strengthen our faith and trust in you, knowing that you are always with us."
Prompt 2: "Lord, we lift up victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. Bring freedom, protection, and restoration to those who are exploited and oppressed."

Day 5: Friday
Prompt 1: "Heavenly Father, we thank you for the gift of community and fellowship. Help us to cultivate authentic relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ, where we can support, encourage, and uplift one another."
Prompt 2: "Father, we pray for the marginalized and vulnerable in society. Give us hearts of compassion and empathy, and inspire us to advocate for justice and equality on their behalf."

Day 6: Saturday
Prompt 1: "Lord, as we rest and recharge, fill us with your peace and joy. May we find true rest in your presence and be rejuvenated in body, mind, and spirit."
Prompt 2: "Gracious God, we pray for those struggling with mental illness and emotional distress. Surround them with your comfort and healing, and guide them to the support and resources they need."

Day 7: Sunday
Prompt 1: "Heavenly Father, as we gather for worship today, may our hearts be truly open to encounter you in a powerful and transformative way. Draw us closer to you and ignite a passion for your kingdom purposes within us."
Prompt 2: "Lord, we pray for leaders in our churches and ministries. Grant them wisdom, humility, and servant hearts as they shepherd your people and lead by example."

Friday, March 1, 2024

Prophetic Revelation and the Gospel


1 Peter 1:10-12 (CSB)
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who prophesied about the grace that would come to you, searched and carefully investigated. They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when he testified in advance to the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you. These things have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — angels long to catch a glimpse of these things.

The main purpose that Peter had in writing this letter, that we call 1 Peter, was to encourage Christians who were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Not only were they scattered, but they also faced opposition. The opposition they experienced caused them to doubt and which led to them to consider giving up. This back ground is important to remember as we read this text, because it would shape the way the original recipients of this letter would have hear it. 

1 Peter was written to people who wondered if following Jesus was worth it.

In order to encourage these exiles, Peter reminded them that the Old Testament contained God’s promise to rescue to His people from the sin that corrupted God’s good creation. This promise, taught by the law and the prophets, caused God’s people to believe that one day the Messiah, the Anointed One, would come to carry out God’s promise . The faith of the Old Testament saints was anchored in the hope of redemption (even though they did not fully understand all the details of God's plan) this Messiah would bring. 

Their anticipation of God’s salvation was secured by their faith and their hearts longed to experience all that God had promised.

According to Peter, the Old Testament prophets diligently studied God’s promises and looked forward to the events their prophecies promised. Their prophecies, which were inspired by the Holy Spirit, pointed toward the coming of Jesus and the redemption he would bring to God’s people. However, they also understood that it was not yet time for God’s promises to be fulfilled, and that is why they longed to see what would happen.

This passage should remind us that salvation in Jesus is far more beautiful and  encompassing than we can imagine.  It is so marvelous that even the angels, who are in heaven with God, are amazed by God’s plan of salvation. 

The Gospel, the Good News that God’s Kingdom comes into this world through Jesus, captivates the attention of the angels to such an extent that they continue to study intently all of God’s promises and actions.  Their dedication highlights their desire to understand the depth of God's love and mercy that is revealed in Jesus Christ.

We are heirs of this Gospel, and if the angels continue to be amazed at God’s love and grace, we too should marvel at the beauty of the prophetic revelation fulfilled through Jesus. Let us join with the angels in heaven, praising God for the indescribable gift of salvation.

My prayer is that the mysteries of God's grace continue to inspire and transform us so we can reflect the heart of our Savior into the world.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Weekly Prayer Prompts: Drawing Closer to God


This week the prayer prompts designed to help you draw closer to God as you learn to rely on His love and guidance. Each day, I have provided you with a unique prayer prompt to guide your conversations with the Lord. I want to encourage you to take a few intentional moments each day to reflect, pray, and connect with God.

Monday: Surrendering Worries
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:7

1. Begin your prayer by acknowledging any worries or anxieties you're carrying.

2. Surrender these concerns to God, trusting in His love and care.

3. Pray for the peace that surpasses all understanding to fill your heart.

Tuesday: Gratitude for Blessings
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." - Psalm 106:1

1. Reflect on the blessings you've received in your life.

2. Express your gratitude to God for His goodness and provision.

3. Thank Him for specific blessings that have touched your heart recently.

Wednesday: Praying for Others
"Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." - James 5:16

1. Take time to pray for the needs of your family, friends, and community.

2. Lift up specific requests for healing, comfort, and guidance.

3. Ask God to work through your prayers to bring about positive change.

Thursday: Seeking God's Will
"Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." - Matthew 6:10

1. Quiet your heart and seek God's presence in your prayer.

2. Ask God to reveal His will for your life and guide your decisions.

3. Pray for the strength to align your desires with His purpose.

Friday: Confession and Forgiveness
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." - 1 John 1:9

1. Reflect on any areas where you've fallen short or made mistakes.

2. Confess these sins to God, seeking His forgiveness and cleansing.

3. Meditate on the depth of God's grace and thank Him for His mercy.

Saturday: Gratitude for Creation
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." - Psalm 19:1

1. Spend time outdoors or visualize the beauty of creation.

2. Offer a prayer of gratitude for the wonders of the natural world.

3. Pray that Christians will take seriously the stewardship and care of the earth.

Sunday: Renewal of Faith
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

1. Reflect on your journey of faith and growth in Christ.

2. Pray for a fresh outpouring of God's Spirit to renew your heart.

3. Ask for strength to continue following God's path with renewed commitment.

 My prayer for you this week is for this experience of prayer will be a source of inspiration and spiritual growth for you. Remember that prayer is a conversation with God, and He delights in hearing your heart's desires and concerns. As you use these prompts, open your heart to God's guidance as you become more confident with your relationship with Him.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Step Away From The Lies


The first step toward God is a step away from the lies of the world. It is a renunciation of the lies we have been told about ourselves and our neighbors and our universe.
Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p. 29

Have you ever stopped to think about the world we live in?

This world is filled with tons of messages that seek to shape who we are, what we believe, and how we see ourselves and others. Our constant exposure to media in all of its variety to the enticing whispers of advertisements, makes it feel like we're caught in a web of deceit.

And you know what?

These lies not only twist our perception of reality, but they also mess with our hearts. The messages we receive from the world of make us feel inadequate in our effort to follow Jesus and disconnected to God.

Let's not lose hope!

Peterson's wisdom, from his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, reminds us of the way forward. We need to take that intentional and bold step away from the deceptive narratives that surround us.

Yes, it starts with a choice. Picture it as turning away from the unhealthy and cancer causing food that have held you consumed for too long.

The Bible, provides many examples of people who have embraced this pivotal step.

One person is the prophet Isaiah, whose profound encounter with God is recounted in chapter 6 of the book that bears his name.

The vision Isaiah witnessed unfolded before him—a scene of God seated in Heaven on a throne, enveloped by spiritual beings. The sheer awesomeness of this revelation overwhelmed Isaiah, prompting him to exclaim:
“Woe is me for I am ruined
because I am a man of unclean lips
and live among a people of unclean lips,
and because my eyes have seen the King,
the LORD of Armies.” (Isaiah 6:5, CSB)
Isaiah's response was profound in its authenticity. He confronted the truth about his own sin and acknowledged the shortcomings of all of Israel.

Rather than succumbing to despair, Isaiah took that crucial step towards God. He openly admitted his transgressions and laid them bare before God. In response, an angel purified his lips with a burning coal from the altar, declared:
Now that this has touched your lips,
your iniquity is removed
and your sin is atoned for. (Isaiah 6:7, CSB)
Isaiah's story reveals a fundamental truth: that first step toward God starts with breaking free from the world's lies.

It means throwing away those distorted beliefs we have about ourselves, our neighbors, the world we live in, and even God Himself. I won't lie—this process will probably involve facing uncomfortable truths about ourselves.

Like anything worth doing, this process is hard, but the result is worth it. That is why Eugene Peterson called this journey a long obedience in the same direction. It's the journey that involves repentance, change, obedience that moves us to forgive, serve, and love.

As we walk this path of faith, we need to draw inspiration from the trailblazers who've gone before us. We need to be like Isaiah and all those other heroes of faith who have chosen to step away from the shadows of deception. We need to let go of the chains and weights of deceptions that have held us back and embrace the truth that will ultimately set us free.

In this process it is crucial to remember: with every step we take, we're not alone.

The Holy Spirit walks beside us, using Scripture, our prayers, and the Church to guide us closer to the heart of God.

With this in mind let's step forward with unwavering obedience and trust, knowing that this journey is leading us to a deeper relationship with the One who loves us beyond measure.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Weekly Prayer Prompts: Be Grateful

Prayer is God’s gift to His people so we can connect with Him, seek His guidance, and find comfort in His presence. Each week, I will provide you with prayer prompts to help you to be more intentional with your prayer time as you seek to follow Jesus. Set aside some quiet time, find a comfortable place, and let these prompts assist you in your prayer time

Monday: Gratitude and Praise
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." - Psalm 100:4

1. Begin your prayer by listing five things you're grateful for today.
2. Reflect on God's goodness in your life and offer Him sincere praise.
3. Thank God for specific blessings you might have taken for granted.

Tuesday: Seeking Forgiveness
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." - 1 John 1:9

1. Spend time in self-reflection, acknowledging any areas where you've fallen short.
2. Ask God for forgiveness and strength to overcome your shortcomings.
3. Pray for the wisdom to make amends with those you might have hurt.

Wednesday: Intercession for Others
"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people." - 1 Timothy 2:1

1. Create a list of people who need your prayers—family, friends, colleagues, global issues, etc.
2. Lift up each person or situation in prayer, asking for God's guidance, healing, and comfort.
3. Pray for those who may be struggling with faith, that they may find strength in God.

Thursday: Surrendering Control
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." - Proverbs 3:5

1. Reflect on areas of your life where you're holding onto control.
2. Pray for the faith to surrender those areas to God's will.
3. Ask for God's guidance in making decisions and seeking His plan.

Friday: Strength in Difficult Times
"I can do all things through him who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:13

1. Think about a current challenge you're facing and bring it to God in prayer.
2. Ask for strength, courage, and resilience to navigate through the difficulty.
3. Trust in God's promise that He is with you every step of the way.

Saturday: Growing in Faith
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." - Matthew 7:7

1. Pray for a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.
2. Ask for a thirst for His Word and a hunger to know Him better.
3. Seek opportunities to serve and grow within your faith community.

Sunday: Communion with God
"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words." - Matthew 6:7

1. Pray for a deeper, more intimate relationship with God.
2. Ask for a thirst for His Word and a hunger to know Him better.
3. Seek opportunities to serve and grow within your faith community. 

I hope these prayer prompts are helpful as seek to be more consistent in your prayer life. Remember, prayer is a personal and heartfelt conversation with God. Use these prompts as a starting point, but you need to give room to let the Holy Spirit guide your thoughts and words. May your journey of faith be strengthened as you seek God's presence through prayer. 

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Sunday Prayer: Longing for God’s Presence


Dear Heavenly Father,

I come to You with a heart that's longing for something more. Just like a deer seeks water, my soul thirsts for Your presence. In the midst of life's busyness, I find myself wanting to be close to You.

You are the beginning and the end, the One who created the universe, yet You're also right here with me. It's overwhelming to think that You care about my worries and cares. The mountains, the oceans, all the beauty around me, they remind me of Your greatness, but what I truly desire is to walk through this life with You.

I admit that there are times when my worries and doubts get the best of me. Please forgive me for those moments. Help me refocus my heart and renew my devotion to You. Your presence is what my heart craves, and I want to seek You above all else.

When life gets tough, when darkness creeps in, I want to remember that I don't need to be afraid. You're my comfort, my guide, always providing for me. Your presence is the light that drives away my fears.

I want my life to be a reflection of Your love. May my words, my thoughts, and my actions all bring glory to Your name. I want to live in a way that shows the world I am a citizen of Your kingdom.

Lord, You are my Rock, my Refuge, my Savior, and my God. I ask that You let me experience the joy of experiencing Your presence every day. Let Your light shine on me, and may my heart find eternal joy in You.

In Jesus' name, I pray,


Friday, August 18, 2023

The Path of Surrender

"A life of absolute surrender has its difficulties. I do not deny that. Yes, it has something for more than difficulties: it is a life that with men is absolutely impossible. But by the grace of God, by the power of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, it is a life to which we are destined, and a life that is possible for us, praise God! Let us believe that God will maintain it." 

Andrew Murray, Humility and Absolute Surrender; p. 72

Surrendering our lives to God is not easy, but it is the only way we can become the people God created us to be. Andrew Murray, a South African writer and pastor (1828-1917) taught about this theme of surrender quite often. He recognized that surrendering was not a natural thing to do, and therefore it would not be easy, but that it was an essential part of our discipleship.

In Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." 

Here Jesus taught that surrendering to God requires denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following him.

Living a life of surrender means that we hand over the control of our lives, our plans, and our desires to God. To surrender our lives means acknowledging that God knows what is best for us, even when God’s will goes against our desires. Total surrender to God requires a level of humility that is hard to achieve in a world that values self-reliance, self-promotion, and personal achievements above almost everything else.

Surrendering to God will also require us to go against the cultural expectations of society, to make choices that are unpopular, and to have morals and values that seem odd the people around us. This can lead us to face criticism, rejection, and even persecution for our faith. 

When we surrender we will also need to give up some of the activities and pleasures that we once thought were essential to our happiness because they do not align with God’s will.

Despite the challenges, living a life surrendered to God is not impossible. As we walk this path of faith, we will need to trust that God will sustain us and guide us every step of the way. 

To do this we need to stay connected to God through prayer, reading the Bible, meditating on the truth of Scripture, reorienting our lives through worship, and spending time with other Christians. What this means is that surrendering to God is a daily decision, a constant giving up of ourselves to His will.

So today, let us make the decision to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow Jesus. It is crucial for us to remember to trust in His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit as we live a life of surrender to God.

Prayer: Dear God, help us to surrender ourselves completely to You. Give us the strength to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. Help us to trust in Your grace and the power of the Holy Spirit as we walk this path of surrender. Amen.

Friday, May 12, 2023

A Bleeding Heart


Jesus not only taught about the importance of love, compassion, and forgiveness, but it is also how he lived. He spent time helping others and showing compassion to those who needed healing, help, and hope. Jesus’s mission of compassion was an important part of how he ushered God’s Kingdom into the world, because it was a visible demonstration of what life in the Kingdom was like.

 Throughout the Gospels, we read about examples of how Jesus showed compassion to people, especially to people on the outside of community. It is interesting to note that most of the Jesus’ healings allowed people to return to being part of community life. Their healings moved them from being on the outside of the community to the inside of community. 

One of the best examples of this reality is seen in John 8:2-11. In this passage we read about a woman caught in adultery.  The religious leaders brought this woman to Jesus, after catching her in the act of adultery (apparently the man vanished into thin air). They asked Jesus what should be done with her. After all, the Law demanded that a person (both the man and the woman) in her situation should be stoned to death. 

Jesus, wanting people to rethink how the Law should be applied, said, “The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7, CSB) Jesus' words not only revealed his compassion for a woman who was unfairly treated, but these words also highlighted the hypocrisy of the religious leaders who were quick to judge and condemn others without acknowledging their sin.

Another example of Jesus' compassion is found in the healing of the leper found in Mark 1. Leprosy in the first century was a feared disease since it was untreatable and made a person unclean. Since lepers were viewed as unclean they were forced to live in physical and social isolation. 

In Mark 1:40-45, we read how Jesus cleansed this man with leprosy by touching him, despite the social taboo of touching a leper. Jesus not only showed compassion for the man's physical suffering, but Jesus also restored his social standing by cleansing him of leprosy, which allowed the man to return to the community. 

Another example of Jesus showing compassion to those who were outcasts or and marginalized by society is found in Luke 7:36-50. In this passage Jesus is invited to dinner by a Pharisee named Simon. At dinner a woman known for her sinful life came in uninvited. She made a spectacle of herself as she cried and kissed Jesus’ feet. Simon was disgusted by her presence, but Jesus praised her and forgave her sins. This story reveals Jesus’ compassionate and gracious character as he makes room in the Kingdom for those the religious culture had rejected. Jesus makes room for the outcasts by offering them hope and forgiveness.

Without a doubt, Jesus' life was marked by compassion for others. He reached out to those who were suffering, whether physically, emotionally, or socially, and offered them hope and healing. Jesus' compassion for people provides us with an example to follow.

Given that reality, it makes me wonder about the motivation behind statements like this.

I think this a good example of being so committed to a theological and political worldview that it distorts the true image God and true character of Jesus. As I just demonstrated, reading of the Gospels reveals this as an incorrect understanding of Jesus and his mission.

The Bible clearly teaches that God saved us because of His love (John 3:16). Pity, mercy, and compassion all flow out of love. God saves us because He loves us. This is crucial because it is love that forms the foundation for how we are to live.

John wrote:
1 John 3:16-17 (NLT)
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person?

Sacrificial love is the opposite of promoting your own glory. It is doing what is best for the person in need, regardless of the cost to you.

Paul emphasizes this very point in Philippians 2.
Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT)
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

We are to be humble, because Jesus was humble. It was the humility of Jesus that led him to set aside his divine rights and sacrifice himself for us. Yes, the passage goes on to say that Jesus will be raised to the place of highest honor, but that was not what motivated him. His motivation was love and that required humility and sacrifice.

The write of Hebrews wrote:
Hebrews 1:3 (NLT)
The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

In Jesus we see both the glory of God and the character of God, and what we discover is that at the very heart of who God is is love. We can’t separate God’s glory from love, and therefore, compassion is at the very heart of salvation.

The Spiritually Mature Life: Having the Fruit

On Sunday, April 7, 2024, I started a new sermon series at Bethlehem Church called A Spiritually Mature Life. This sermon series is focused ...