Compassion

Students of the life of Christ are familiar with the references to His compassion toward the spiritually needy, the physically hungry, the two blind men, the leper, and the widow whose son had just died (Matthew 9:36-38; 14:13-14; 15:32-38; 20:30-34; Mark 1:40-41; Luke 7:12-17).

In addition, we have three of Jesus’ parables in which compassion plays a key role.

When the deeply indebted servant pled with his master for mercy, “the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt” (Matthew 18:21-35). When the Samaritan saw the wounded traveler, “he felt compassion . . .” (Luke 10:25-37). As the Prodigal returned home, “his father saw him and felt compassion . . .” (Luke 15:1-2, 11-32).

The divine compassion

In each story the compassionate character represents God or Christ. This is certainly consistent with what we know of the Father and His Son.

The expression of compassion

In each case the divine compassion does not remain a feeling but is expressed in loving action. The master cancels the debt. The Samaritan provides abundant help. The father runs and embraces his son and joyfully celebrates his return.

The opposite of compassion

In each case the compassion expressed in these parables stands in stark contrast to the lack of compassion evident in other characters in these stories. The forgiven servant shows no mercy to a fellow slave who owes him. The priest and Levite ignore the plight of the wounded traveler. The elder brother is angered by the grace shown to his wayward brother.

So what are we to learn?

While it’s wonderful to be on the receiving end of Christ’s compassion (and aren’t we all?), isn’t it also wonderful when we learn to feel compassion toward others and act accordingly?

In doing so we become “imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1).

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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What Are Ears For?

Closed ears

One advantage of a hearing aid, they say, is that you can turn it off. But even a person with excellent hearing can easily tune out an unwelcome message.

Jesus said, “For the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them” (Matthew 13:15).

Note the progression: hear→understand→return→be healed.

Healing is dependent on hearing—receptivity to God’s message of grace, life, hope and peace.  And some would close their ears to this?

Open ears

To His disciples Jesus said, “But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (Matthew 13:16).

Then He told them, “. . . many prophets and righteous men desired . . . to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (v. 17). Why didn’t they? They died long before Jesus came, and so did not get to hear what the apostles were hearing.

But they desired to, nonetheless (1 Peter 1:10-12).

By telling His disciples this, Jesus wanted them to realize just how privileged they were to hear God’s message.

Open or closed?

Jesus’ most often repeated statement is, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

The Bible records examples of both those who were eager to hear the gospel (Acts 8:30-39; 10:33; 13:42, 44; 17:10-12), and those who were not (Acts 13:44-46; 18:5-6; 19:8-9; 28:23-28).

Of these two kinds of people—those with open ears and those with closed—which are we?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Taking a Closer Look at the Rapture

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The bumper sticker read, “Get Right or Get Left.” In the upper left-hand corner of the sticker was a Bible reference: 1 Thessalonians 4:17. This passage says, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.”

A popular teaching

According to the premillennial doctrine of the Rapture, Christ will first come only for His own. The righteous dead will be raised and they, along with the righteous living, will be caught up to meet Christ in the air. The Latin translation of “caught up” in this passage is rapiemur, and it is from this word that the term Rapture comes.

Many believe that when Christ comes, those who are unprepared will be left wondering what happened to all those who suddenly vanished into thin air! In other words, the bumper sticker means: Get right with God, or you will miss the Rapture and be left here on earth.

What the Bible says

“Get Right or Get Left” may be clever, but it is scriptural? Certainly Jesus is coming to claim His own, but on that same occasion He will deal with the unrighteous. All the dead will be raised on the same day (John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15).

It’s been rightly observed that the same expression “in [or at] the last day” is used of both the resurrection of the righteous and the judgment of those who reject Christ (John 6:39-40; 12:48).

Some passages discuss the destiny of both the wicked and the righteous (e.g., Matthew 25:31-46), while other passages deal with only the one or the other. The text referred to on the bumper sticker focuses only on the blessedness of the righteous at Christ’s coming. Writing to the same church, Paul discusses the destiny of the wicked, as well as the righteous (1 Thessalonians 5:1-10; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

The Rapture has captured the interest of millions, especially as it is portrayed in highly dramatic novels and movies.

Let’s make sure what we believe about His coming is really what His word actually says.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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How to Personalize Your Bible

Perhaps you own a Bible with your name engraved in gold on the cover. Or maybe you received your Bible from a relative or friend who wrote a meaningful inscription to you on the flyleaf. Certainly this makes your Bible more personal than those of the same edition in boxes on the bookshelf at the store.

But there are even better ways to personalize a Bible.

We can mark it up.

Of course, scribbling in a book is disrespectful. But writing notes in a Bible for study purposes is actually a sign of great respect. It shows we care about discovering its treasures. It shows we are taking the Bible seriously and really want to learn more and more.

A Bible with a worn cover, loose pages, its words circled and underlined and its margins filled with notations from years of study—now that’s a personalized Bible! How many Bibles should a Christian wear out in a lifetime?

I heard about a woman who asked a preacher to write notes in her Bible like the ones he had in his. Valuable as those notes might be, they are not the product of the diligent studies of the one who requested the preacher’s notes.

We can live it out.

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves . . . . one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22, 25).

Having a Bible is good—if we study it. Studying the Bible is good—if we obey it.

Could there be a better way to personalize our Bible than to shape our lives each day by its teachings?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Man Who Would Not Listen

In spite of . . . .

Zedekiah is one of the many lesser-knowns in the Bible, though he was the last king of the southern kingdom of Judah at the time of Jerusalem’s fall to Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B. C.

Zedekiah had at least two positive influences in his life that should have prompted him to make wiser choices. His father Josiah was one of the most godly kings Judah ever had. And Jeremiah, God’s prophet, tried repeatedly to persuade Zedekiah to obey God.

In spite of his father’s example and Jeremiah’s warnings, Zedekiah was determined to go his own way. Paying dearly for his foolish choices, he lost his home, his throne, and his freedom. At age 32 the last thing Zedekiah saw before being blinded was the slaying of his sons before his eyes. He died a prisoner in a foreign land (Jeremiah 52:7-11).

If only . . . .

And all this tragedy could have been averted if only had he been willing to obey.

His life is summed up in these sad words: “He did evil in the sight of the LORD his God; he did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet who spoke for the LORD . . . . he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD God of Israel” (2 Chronicles 36:12-13).

The following certainly describes Zedekiah: “A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy” (Proverbs 29:1).

What he wanted but didn’t get

The following is a telling passage: “But neither he [Zedekiah] nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the LORD which He spoke through Jeremiah the prophet. Yet King Zedekiah sent . . . to Jeremiah the prophet saying, ‘Please pray to the LORD our God on our behalf” (Jeremiah 37:2-3).

Zedekiah wanted God’s protection but not His direction.

We can’t have it both ways.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Basis of Unity

Beautifully united

Of the infant church it is written that they were “continuing with one mind in the temple” (Acts 2:46).

How is this degree of unity possible? Was it their mutual love for Christ and for one another? No doubt love was a major factor in their unity. But that’s not all.

Four verses earlier it says, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

They were of “one mind” because they all believed the same thing. They all adhered to the apostles’ teaching.

This teaching was not something the apostles had originated—they had received it from Christ, who in turn had received it from God (John 15:13; 17:8). It was an authoritative message, a standard for all ages to come.

Common ground

Paul encouraged the church at Rome “to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5-6).

Note especially the phrase “according to Christ Jesus.” If Christian A and Christian B are both in accord with Christ, then Christian A and Christian B are in accord with each other. Christ links them together. He is their common denominator. He is the basis of their fellowship.

But how can we be in accord with Christ unless we adhere to His teachings (Matthew 7:24-27; 28:19; Luke 6:46; John 14:15)?

If Christian A or B were to drift away from Christ’s teaching, then the unity A and B had enjoyed with one another would be compromised.

The New Testament urges Christians to hold to the teaching they had received (Romans 16:17-18; Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Timothy 1:13).

Which doctrine?

It has been asserted, “Doctrine divides, but Christ unites.” Yes, Christ does unite, but doctrine simply means teaching. Christ gave us His teaching (doctrine). That true teaching does not divide. It is false doctrine that causes division.

Christ’s true doctrine as revealed in the New Testament can and should serve as common ground for all of us.

If Christ’s doctrine so beautifully unified believers in the first century, why not today?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Roots of Violence

One day as I was taking my morning walk near the lake on campus I was witness to a fight. I stood and watched but made no attempt to break it up. Was I wrong?

The two contenders, by the way, were ducks. I don’t know much about bird behavior, but probably this little fracas was normal, perhaps even necessary. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a fight, although with all the wing-flapping and shoving, it certainly looked like one.

Such things in the natural world may be perfectly normal, but what about conflicts between those who have been made in the image of God?

Downward spiral

The world God destroyed in Noah’s day was “filled with violence” (Genesis 6:5, 11-13). Our own world is growing increasingly volatile.

Domestic violence, school fights, bombings, gang warfare, mass shootings—on and on it goes. These continue to rip and tear at the fabric of society. Should we find this disturbing? Or is it just the way it is?

Surely the dark motives underlying human strife are not factors in the world of nature. Can you imagine ducks nursing grudges or feeling hatred or plotting revenge?

Murder, Jesus tells us, begins in the heart (Matthew 15:19). Violence in its various forms is fueled by such factors as pride, prejudice, anger, hatred, envy, greed, and resentment. None of it is admirable; all of it is ugly—all the way from the hidden motive to the bloody deed.

The ultimate solution

“For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us…” (Titus 3:3-5).

Those who follow Christ’s example and teachings not only avoid divisiveness (Titus 3:9-11), but are actively engaged in doing good (Titus 3:8, 14).

Oh, what a difference the gospel makes! Former enemies have become friends. Service replaces strife. Peace reigns in the place of discord.

If only the world understood.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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