Sunday March 28 2021

TO BE LIKE HIM

Part ThreeA Compassionate Heart

Last week we discovered that Jesus had a spiritual heart and that God makes it possible for us to have a spiritual heart as well. We also found that whether or not our new spiritual heart helps shape us to be like Him depends on whether or not we choose to plug into the power of the Holy Spirit and follow His guidance. This may seem challenging or even daunting to some of us, that’s okay. But I urge each of us with all sincerity to make the effort, knowing from my own personal experience and stories I have heard from others, that calling forth courage within to face the challenge is more than worthwhile. It may seem like work at times, but there will never be any occasion for regret rising up in our hearts, I promise.

The gospels have quite a bit to say about Jesus’ compassionate heart. We will look at a few examples. Matthew 8 AMPC tells us this story:

1 When Jesus came down from the mountain, great throngs followed Him.

And behold, a leper came up to Him and, prostrating himself, worshiped Him, saying, Lord, if You are willing, You are able to cleanse me by curing me.

And He reached out His hand and touched him, saying, I am willing; be cleansed by being cured. And instantly his leprosy was cured and cleansed.

And Jesus said to him, See that you tell nothing about this to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, for a testimony [to your healing] and as an evidence to the people.

In Jesus’ day, lepers were outcasts. They had no contact with other people, not even their families. They had no medication or treatment. Once they contracted leprosy, they had to live apart with no help or assistance. It was highly contagious. We don’t know how long this man had been a leper. It was risky and brave for him to seek Jesus out and approach him. He might have been stoned or killed by other people. The good thing is that this man heard how Jesus was healing all who came to Him, his faith was stirred and he believed Jesus could heal him if He was only willing. Please notice here that Jesus said, “I am willing.” Jesus is always willing to heal, save and deliver.  And then Jesus did the most amazing thing, “ He reached out His hand and touched him”. How incredible! How very compassionate. He reached out and touched this desperately lonely man who had been UNtouchable to everyone he loved for such a very long time. Not only did Jesus heal his body, but He reached out to heal the ache of his lonely heart and affirm him as a human being. Wow!

We have another story in Mark 5 NIV:

25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

In this account, we see a woman who had been outcast from her family for twelve long years. Why outcast? Because in Jesus’ day, according to the law (Leviticus 15:25-27), excessive blood flow made a woman ceremonially unclean. Any people or even furniture she touched was unclean as well. If other people touched anything that she had touched, they would be unclean as well. So she could not even prepare food for her family.

This woman was very alone. No one would have wanted to be around her. She couldn’t go out in public. She couldn’t be hugged by her family. Twelve years is a long time to be quarantined from all people. (Just think how we are managing in our situation with COVID-19.)

Not only was she considered unclean, but she probably felt it as well, having to deal with the logistics of trying to have clean clothes and linens for twelve years.

She had tried everything to get well. She had gone to many doctors over the years. She spent all that she had trying to be cured. According to William Barclay’s commentary, the Talmud gave at least eleven possible cures for her ailment. I’m sure that this poor woman had tried all of them. But, nothing worked and she even got worse. She was tired, worn out, and intensely lonely. But she never gave up.  

“When she heard people speak of the power of Christ, she believed and began to hope again for an ultimate cure. If she could just get to him. She had been in hiding so long that she felt she couldn’t just go up to him and talk to him. She was embarrassed and needed as private a cure as she could get. She devised a plan. If she could just touch his clothing for a second. She pushed her way through the crowd. A crowd that could turn on her if they realized that she was that woman, the one with the issue of blood. But she pushed through anyway. She was desperate. She got to touch his garment AND instantly the blood stopped, and she felt perfectly well. But she couldn’t remain anonymous as she wanted. Her feeling of triumph gave way to fear and trembling. What would He do to her? She fell down at His feet and humbly explained what she  had done. And his response wasn’t anger. It was delight at her extreme faith.”[1]

The fact that Jesus took time to acknowledge her and her suffering showed the great compassion of His heart.  Jesus was not afraid of the supposed uncleanness that her disease may bring (just as in the case of the leper). He was not repulsed because she touched his clothes even though everyone else would have recoiled. He recognized her need for help and compassion, and refused to add to her isolation and condemnation.  And He went above and beyond that, He wasn’t going to let her go home without letting everyone know that indeed she was healed and need no longer be an outcast in her own home and community. Jesus said to her, “Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”  This way all would know she was healed. She had suffered on many levels, physically, financially, and emotionally from all of the loneliness, isolation and condemnation. Jesus’ words healed her heart and made it possible for her to be completely restored to her home, family and community. Wow!

I would like to mention a few other stories, that we can read during the week: Jesus delivers a boy who had severe seizures since he was a child – Mark 9:14-29;  Jesus heals a man who had been a cripple for 38 years and waited by the pool of Bethesda – John 5:1-15;  Jesus heals a man who had been blind from birth – John 9:1-12; Jesus sets the man demonized by ‘legion’ free – Mark 5:1-20; at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus is moved deeply by the grief of Mary and Martha and He weeps with them – John 11:33-35. All of these stories reveal that Jesus’ heart was deeply moved by the suffering of others. And He chose to do all He could to alleviate that suffering.

The compassion of Jesus reflects that of our heavenly Father. Psalm 86:15 NIV describes our Heavenly Father this way: “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”  The Hebrew word for ‘compassion’ is ‘rukhum’ whose root is ‘rekhem’ which means womb, giving us the meaning: tender feelings for the vulnerable within the womb (or recently delivered from the womb). It also means to be deeply moved and since it can also be a verb, it is a word that involves action, specifically God’s actions in response to being deeply moved.

The Lord firms up this image of Himself for us in Isaiah 49:15 EHV: “Can a woman forget her nursing child and not show mercy to the son from her womb? Even if these women could forget, I will never forget you.” How wonderful and truly amazing!

“Several times in God’s Word, we see the image of God protecting the Israelites in the shadow of His wings, like a mother bird protecting her hatchlings. For example, Psalm 57:1 says, “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wing until the disaster has passed.”

“God’s compassion is infinite and eternal. In fact, his compassions are new every morning. They never fail (Lamentations 3:22-23). God comforts his people with compassion.

“Over and over, our Lord Jesus Christ felt compassion for people, healing them and comforting them. He saw the large crowd as sheep without a shepherd and he came to give them purpose and shelter.” . . . . In His sacrifice on the cross, “we see the greatest example of compassion in the Bible!”[2]

The Lord is calling us to be like Him. Not suggesting that we die on a cross but that we allow our hearts to be deeply moved by the suffering of others. 1 John 3:17 NIV says, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” This means that when compassion floods our hearts for another (and if we are able and have opportunity), we need to express it not only in words or speech but in actions (Ephesians 4:32, 1 Peter 3:8, James 1:27). In recent decades in our modern world, unfortunately increased crime and violence has discouraged many of us from getting involved with people who need help. We have been conditioned to harden our hearts and turn a blind eye. We do need to be careful and wise, but as we do so let us also listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit while making a conscious choice to keep our hearts tender that we may be like Him as we encounter hurting and/or suffering people in our daily lives.

Part FourA Listening Heart

Jesus often said: “he who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15 ESV and many others) I will include the AMPC because it will help to increase our understanding: “He who has ears to hear, let him be listening and let him consider and perceive and comprehend by hearing.”

Jesus uses the parable of the Sower and the four soils (Mark 4:1-20) not only to encourage our evangelical efforts but also to reveal that people naturally “hear” differently: some have proud hard hearts, so hear nothing; some lead shallow lives, so the words have fleeting impact; some possess anxious minds, so there is no room to take the words in; some are calm or seeking, so the words are able to penetrate. We all have ears, but we don’t all listen.

The Bible says a lot about the importance of hearing:

Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. – Deuteronomy 6:4 KJV

Happy are those who listen to me (the wisdom of God). – Proverbs 8:34a CEV

The shepherd walks right up . . . and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it. – John 10:3-5 MSG

Jesus clearly was a person who listened. He listened to others as we saw in Part Three and responded with compassion. And He listened attentively and with purpose to the Father:

  • Jesus prayed to the Father: The Gospels tell us that Jesus’ habit was to rise early in the morning, go to a solitary place and pray – Mark 1:35. He often withdrew to lonely places to pray – Luke 5:16. Jesus took time to listen to the Father while He prayed: before choosing His disciples he prayed all night – Luke 6:12; one day, after Jesus retreated to the mountain to pray, He ended up performing two miracles. He fed 5,000 men with the five barley loaves and two fish, and later, Jesus walked on the water to join his Apostles in a boat on the lake – John 6:1-21. Jesus prayed alone or with His disciples. He also prayed for His disciples, His prayers were heartfelt and demonstrated empathy and a genuine love for God – John 17. Jesus prayed short prayers (Matthew 6:9-13) and sometimes He prayed long prayers (all night long) – Luke 6:12.
  • Jesus took time to know the Word of God: This is firstly evident when Jesus was 12 years old and discussed the scriptures with the priests in the temple – Luke 2:42-47. In the wilderness He used The Holy Scriptures to repel the attacks of the devil. He was able to do this because He was familiar with or had memorized the scriptures (they were in His heart). In the synagogue, when handed the book of Isaiah, He chose the passage from Isaiah 61:1-2 (as recorded in Luke 4:16-21) knowing that He in that moment was fulfilling the prophecy He was reading. Jesus often quoted from the scriptures when people asked Him questions or he was preaching. There are many examples, but here is one: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’” (Matthew 5:38) And then He goes on to teach a better way to live.

Most of us have heard quite a bit of teaching about prayer and we can always learn more but for this message I want to focus on the most important thing that we need to do when we pray: we need to listen. God is always willing to speak to us, just as Jesus is always willing to heal. But we need to give Him the opportunity. Yes, we need to worship as we pray – it brings us into His presence. Yes, we need to offer our petitions, we are invited to ask and to pray without ceasing. But we also need to pause and be still (get quiet and peaceful) as we wait for the Lord to speak to us. Sometimes this might mean letting go of everything, wiping the slate of our hearts and minds clean to allow the Lord to deposit His thoughts and His words upon the slate. And when we hear from Him, by a word, or by an image, or by a Bible verse, or by a song that appears on the slate, it would help us to jot it down and ponder it throughout the day. Hallelujah!

Jesus sought the Father’s guidance before He acted (John 5:19). As adults we are taught independence and how to make our own decisions in life, but they turn out so much better when we carefully consider the facts of the situation, and seek God’s guidance first, before we make any decision about it. We need God’s grace and His strength, to see us through the challenges and difficulties we face in life.  Without God’s grace, our best laid plans could fall apart if it wasn’t His will to begin with.  It is better to start laying our plans, in accordance with His will, right from the start, just like Jesus did.

When we pray is not important – it can be morning, afternoon or evening. But it is valuable to try to get alone so there are no distractions. It is much easier to get quiet before the Lord in a quiet place in order to listen well (with both ears).

Whenever we read the Bible, God will also speak to us if we are willing to listen and our ears are open. Just as in prayer it is good to approach Bible study and reading with a clean slate, putting preconceived ideas or doubts aside. There is great value in reading a few verses at a time, and there is also great value in doing a couple of hours of intense study. But when we are seeking God for wisdom or answers to a question, or simply for looking for today’s ‘manna’, it’s good to read as the Holy Spirit leads (so start with prayer) and then stop when we sense a particular verse ‘jump off the page into our hearts’. Again, jot it down, and ponder it throughout the day, or over several days. I have often encountered something that the Lord wanted to deeply embed in my heart, and that means I ponder it for many days and possibly dig in to find out more about the truth that God wants to teach me. Dig in? Yes dig in, there is great reward in becoming a ‘miner’ of the Word of God. The Word of God is referred to as being:

  • more precious than pure gold (Psalm 19:10a),
  • sweeter than honey ( Psalm 19:10b),
  • as precious as the apple of our eye (Proverbs 7:2),
  • more treasured than daily bread (Job 23:12),
  • like great treasure that causes rejoicing in the heart (Psalm 119:162)

The Bible is like a patch of ground with gold in it. We can walk along and kick a few rocks on the surface and hope we’ll find gold or we can be serious about mining the gold, stake a claim and enjoy the wonderful  results.  

Paul often refers to mystery when he talks about the Word of God or doctrine or truth, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because we need the Holy Spirit in order to understand (as already discussed), and secondly, the truths are not always laid out in lumps, but must be mined, we may find a little here, a little there, and still more in another place. It may take years of Bible study for us to begin to tie some things together so that we can understand the deeper mysteries of God and His ways. We have a suggestion of this in the following verse:  “Here is how He teaches. Do this and do that. There is a rule for this and a rule for that. Learn a little here and learn a little there” –  Isaiah 28:10 CEV.

When we look at the heart of Jesus, we see that He knew and understood the Holy Scriptures well. He was respectful and acknowledged that the Words were Life and Truth. The person who wrote Psalm 119 reveals a wonderful attitude toward the written Word of God that I believe Jesus shared:

“Let your love, God, shape my life
    with salvation, exactly as you promised;
Then I’ll be able to stand up to mockery
    because I trusted your Word.
Don’t ever deprive me of truth, not ever—
    your commandments are what I depend on.
Oh, I’ll guard with my life what you’ve revealed to me,
    guard it now, guard it ever;
And I’ll stride freely through wide open spaces
    as I look for your truth and your wisdom;
Then I’ll tell the world what I find,
    speak out boldly in public, unembarrassed.
I cherish your commandments—oh, how I love them!—
    relishing every fragment of your counsel.” – Psalm 119:41-48 MSG

Let us be willing to take on this attitude. Let us be willing to have ears to hear. Let us be willing to create opportunities as we pray and read or study His Word to listen to the Lord, just as Jesus did. Let us choose to be like Him. Max Lucado says: “Let God have you, and let God love you.”[3] And without a doubt we will begin to hear the “music” of the Lord as He rejoices (spinning around exuberantly, with jumping and leaping – like a dance) over us with singing:

I have loved you with an everlasting love.

Jeremiah 31:3b NIV

 

The Lord your God is in your midst, He is a mighty God,

a hero who will save you;

he will rejoice over you with gladness, taking great delight in you;

he will quiet you with his love;

and rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 EHV, ESV (combined by me)

 

Amen.

 

 

Pastoral Prayer – this week I would like to include Seven Personal Prayers that each of us can use this week as we seek to be like Him.

 

Day One

“Lord Jesus, I thank You for caring for me, tending my hurts with Your inexhaustible compassion. As we begin this new week together, renew my mind and my heart. Help me to share Your unfailing compassion with all people, especially those with whom I live and work. In Your Mighty Name I pray, Amen.”[4]

 

To You O Lord, I lift my soul, in You I trust, O my God. (Psalm 25:1 NIV) My hope is in You Lord, I will never be put to shame. (Psalm 25:2a NIV) Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and faithfulness and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You [You only and altogether] do I wait [expectantly] all the day long. Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercy and loving-kindness; for they have been ever from of old. (Psalm 25:4-6)  Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should go, for to You I entrust my life. (Psalm 143:8) In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Day Two

Lord, thank You for all you do for me. Thank You for hearing my prayers and providing for the basic needs in my life. Truly, I am blessed and I know that I do  not deserve these blessings, but it’s because You are God and You love me. With a humble heart, I thank You.

That is why I am coming to You in prayer today. This lesson has challenged me to be aware that I have much compared to so many people. I know that some don’t have a roof over their heads. I know that some are seeking out jobs and are living in fear of losing everything. I know that some are disadvantaged and/or disabled. I realize that many are lonely and may be feeling desperate. Many are widows and orphans. 

Yet sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own life that I forget about these people and dismiss them. Jesus loved and cared about these people. You are asking me to be like Him and do the same.  Help me Lord, soften my heart to those that You bring into my life. Make a way and give me an opportunity to put my compassion into action. I realize that I cannot help every person I meet, but I am trusting You to lead me and guide me and show me clearly whom to help, how and when.

And Father help me to act with a good heart attitude that shows the light and love of Jesus, that He might glorified. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Day Three

“Lord, I desire so much to be compassionate. I want to be aware of those in need. I want to have the means to help. Let me give to those who are not as privileged as I am. Give me the confidence in my actions so that I can give back. Let me be open to my imagination so that the creativity I may need can flow easily and not be suppressed by doubt. Let me be what others need, Lord. This is all I ask. Use me as a vessel of compassion to a world in need.”[5]

The gospel tells us that when we feed the hungry, care for the sick, visit the prisoner, welcome the stranger, we are not only carrying a little of the burden for one another, we are doing so for You. Especially in these uncertain times Lord, help us see people as You do, listen to them and love them with Your love. Show us the places You are calling us to share in the suffering of the world so that we may be the hands of Christ at work today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Day Four

“Dear Heavenly Father, Your Word says I can bring my problems to You in prayer and that Your peace will guard my heart and my mind (Philippians 4:7). I struggle with this, Lord. I try to stay focused on You when I pray, but so often my mind wanders back to those problems I’ve already prayed about. The cares of the day distract my thoughts. Focusing my mind on You is a difficult task, so I am asking for Your help. God, I want to hear Your voice. Help me push away distracting thoughts and set my mind on You. Thank You for giving me authority as Your child to “take thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). I pray today for the strength and wisdom to continue taking each wayward thought captive and refocusing my mind on You in prayer.”[6]

Your Word says I will seek You and find you when I seek You with all my heart (Jeremiah 29:13). I long to hear Your voice, Lord. Help me find the quiet place where I can focus on You. I know You will meet me there. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

Day Five

“Dear Heavenly Father, I understand an important step in hearing from You is discerning what I read in Scripture. I confess that sometimes I don’t understand what I am reading. But You provide confirmation and instruction through related verses, commentaries, and biblical teachings that will help me when I struggle to find the meaning. Lord, You say I can ask for wisdom and that You will give it to me (James 1:5).”[7]

Thank You for the Holy Spirit Lord, without Him I cannot make progress in my understanding of anything I read in my Bible or other teachings or commentaries. “I ask for wisdom today to understand the Bible and how it applies to my life. I pray for the teachers and preachers You have equipped to share Your Word with others, that I will learn from them with both humility and discernment. And above all, I pray what I learn will open my heart to hearing from You. Thank You for speaking to me through Scripture. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”[8]

Day Six

“Dear Heavenly Father, So often my time spent in prayer becomes a one-sided conversation. I talk and talk, not giving You a chance to speak. I realize that I haven’t intentionally taken time to listen to You, Lord. I confess my need for real change when it comes to my listening skills. Your Word says we should be “quick to listen” (James 1:19). I want to learn to listen well as I pray. Father, please help me become a better listener. I commit to setting aside time during prayer to just be still and listen. I pray as I embrace those quiet moments, I will hear from You in a fresh new way. I also believe through actively listening to You, I will be able to become a better listener for others. Thank You for reminding me to be still and simply listen. In Jesus’ name.

“I confess there have been times when I thought I knew best. I trusted my own wants and desires over Your will. I have even been guilty of taking my problems to You in prayer but expecting You to answer a certain way or at a specific time. And when You didn’t answer according to my expectations, I became discouraged. Forgive me Lord, for not trusting You in all things.

“As I prepare to hear from You, I will let go of my expectations and allow You to work according to Your will and Your ways. Your Word says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9). I want Your will to be done, not mine. Let my wants align with Your will, Lord. I know I won’t be able to hear from You if I am focused on my own desired outcome or timing. I release my expectations and thank You for speaking into my life—in Your way, at Your time, and for Your purpose. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”[9]  To God be the Glory!

Day Seven

“Dear Heavenly Father, It’s easy to get caught up in the craziness of daily life and forget about Your loving presence. You are here with me, but distractions take my attention away from the Holy Spirit, who offers peace and calm in the midst of the chaos. Lord, in those times when my to-do list seems a mile long, help me stay aware of Your presence. I know You will never leave me nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6).

I know I can stay connected with You by offering short, simple prayers anytime. Words like, “Lord I need You” or “I give You praise” will simply redirect my thoughts toward You and help me be aware of Your leading. Lord, guide me along Your path. When I have You, I don’t need anything else. Thank You for the gift of being with me at all times. In Jesus’ name, Amen.[10]

&&&

Kristine Brown is a communicator at heart, sharing inspiration that highlights God’s powerful Word and redemptive grace. You’ll find encouragement to help you “become more than yourself through God’s Word” at her website, kristinebrown.netKristine is the author of the book, Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan, and the devotional version for teen girls, Over It. Trading Comparison for the True Me.

[1] Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible

[2] Borrowed from www.compassion.com

[3] Max Lucado, Just Like Jesus p. 55

[4] Kelli Mahoney, updated March 7, 2019 borrowed from www.learnreligions.com

[5] Ibid

[6] Kristine Brown, borrowed from www.kristinebrown.net

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

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