|Thursday, August 17, 2023|
I saw a strange sight.
While waiting for the train, a shabby-looking man fiddled with the parking meter behind me. His bunched-up pants were way too big for his skinny waist.
I was confused by how his fingers mashed the parking meter panel with such intensity. As if he'd somehow been cheated out of change (or was hoping to find some?).
Then I looked down and noticed the guy had no shoes—only filthy socks, well-worn. They had been white in another world, but long ago, they'd morphed into a muddy gray.
As the train approached, I wondered what this guy would do. Curiously, he ran toward the passenger car closest to the engine—which was not in use. He pounded on the door, then darted forward after receiving no response.
At this point, I had to board or risk missing the train. So, I never saw the end of this little drama. I wonder. Did the guy manage to board wearing nothing but frayed socks? How did he expect to dodge paying the conductor? Or did he have the fare?
May I share with you my first reactions?
I had tons of questions—but zero compassion. None. I felt uneasiness. I even felt fear. But I felt nothing remotely related to compassion. And that is so unlike Jesus.
When Jesus encountered two blind men on the Jericho road, Matthew 20:24 notes He was "moved with compassion" and restored their sight. When a leper approached Christ, Mark 1:41 tells us Jesus was "moved with compassion," so He said to the man, "Be cleansed." When Jesus passed by the widow of Nain, He "felt compassion for her" (Luke 7:13). Stepping out of a boat on the Sea of Galilee, Matthew 14:14 tells us Jesus “saw a large crowd and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.”
When Jesus looked at people—sick people, oppressed people, hurting people—he felt compassion. Every time. This was His first reaction.
Where is my compassion?
Where is yours?
|Our True Selves
|Thursday, August 10, 2023|
Nassau, Bahamas—the fifth busiest cruise port in the world.
At Port Nassau, they can dock six massive cruise ships simultaneously. And nearly 100 ships do so monthly, bringing some 20,000 cruise passengers who tour Nassau daily.
My wife and I are just back from an anniversary trip to the Bahamas (no cruise—just a few days in the sun). There, we observed Port Nassau passengers immediately ushered to a pristinely manicured neighborhood.
The "Straw Market" is a collection of upscale shops and eateries with more diamond stores than any street I've ever walked. And this is the only version of Nassau that many cruise passengers ever get.
But just blocks away from the glitz and glamour of the Straw Market is a much more realistic view of the Bahamas: cratered sidewalks, grimy buildings, noisy trucks, and a lot less sparkle.
Our visit to both “halves” of Nassau reminded me of the way many Christians posture. We project a carefully manicured image of happiness and success. We’re all smiles—when we sense the spotlight on us. With our coiffed hair and cute kids, we’re killing it on Instagram. And nobody at church appears more together than us.
But the real us—the non-staged us—is not near as sparkly, which is odd—because God sees right past it all.
“Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Are you projecting an image—or letting people see the real Jesus inside the real you?
|Who Do You Love More?
|Thursday, August 03, 2023|
Tree sap. Dust. Grime.
They transformed our once-beige storage unit into a grimy gray. But I was sure the power washer would bring a quick restoration.
Begrudgingly, the filth gave way, but at a snail's pace. The cleaning process was so slow I decided to entertain my wife by "drawing" the outline of a big heart on the lid of the storage unit using the jet stream of water.
Because four-year-olds rarely miss anything, that drawing did not escape little Emma, who inquired of my wife, "Who put that heart on there?"
“Is it because he loves me?”
“Yes, it is.”
But Emma was not done. She asked, “Is it because he loves you?”
Diana teasingly said, “Who do you think he loves more?”
With a twinkle in her eye, Emma answered, “Jesus!”
Question: Do you love Jesus? If so, how much? More than your boyfriend or girlfriend, or spouse? More than your possessions and position in this world?
The Bible commands, "Do not love the world—or anything in the world." But my experience is that it's shockingly easy to love the world.
There’s no point in comforting ourselves by saying, “I’m sure I love Jesus more than the world.” Because the bar is much higher than that. The command, you’ll recall, is “Do not love the world.” Period. Zero. Nada. Nothing.
It is not acceptable to love the Lord with some of our hearts or even most of our hearts. Jesus spells it out in Matthew 23:37. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
Jesus wants all my heart.
All your heart.
How much of it does He have?
|Sin is the Enemy!
|Thursday, July 27, 2023|
As Christians, we’re angry.
We’re angry about a lot of things. But we’re wise to test our anger against the standards of Scripture.
Have you noticed that many Christians seem to be excelling at yelling yet shriveled in compassion for those opposing them?
Jesus said, “Love your enemies. Do good to those who persecute you.” But how often do we give people around us the idea that we hate them—not just their ungodly ideas?
Do unbelievers around us know us for our frowns and fists—clenched in anger? Or are they comforted (perhaps even confused) by the kind ways we care for them, even as we oppose their ideas?
When Jesus was dragged away in chains from the garden of Gethsemane, He did not hate one single sword-bearing brute in the mob. He loved them! He said of the soldiers who pounded the nails into His hands and feet, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” No doubt Christ hated the pain and the sin that created it, but He loved those sinners.
News Flash: It is not in our future to be respected and loved, and affirmed by the world. It didn’t happen for Jesus and surely won’t for us, either.
This does not mean Christians should smile wanly and become roadkill. This does not mean we should remain silent as ungodly laws and immoral ideas are debated in the public square.
Those who oppose what is godly ought to feel our (biblical) vehemence—but never our venom. Much more than that, they must know we love them.
Tricky business, eh? No wonder Jesus said, “Without me, you can do nothing!”
|Proud--Like a Fly
|Thursday, July 20, 2023|
Imagine a pile of dead files shaped like an Angel Food cake. Disgusting, right?
That’s what our fly trap looks like. It’s a green mesh cylinder with an inverted cone featuring an opening the size of a nickel. Attracted by smelly bait, the flies crawl into that hole, one by one. All day. Every day.
Once inside the fabric cylinder, they flitter about. Eventually, they lose interest and want to leave the party. But they don’t. Instead, they flutter against the trap walls, figuring there must be an exit "out there." Or they zoom up to the top of the fabric. They seem determined that the way up is the way out.
Ironically, nothing prevents them from coming down and crawling out of that narrow opening. But almost none escape. Instead, worn out from flights that lead to nowhere, their dead bodies pile up by the hundreds and thousands.
Like those flies, we humans buzz with excitement at the idea of moving up:
So, we engage in flights of fancy that ultimately lead nowhere: self-fulfillment and self-actualization.
But Jesus showed us a different way. Philippians 2 tells us, “He humbled Himself” (went down) and “became obedient unto death" (further down), “even the death of the cross” (can’t get any lower).
The way up is not the way out.
The way out is down.
That’s the Jesus way!
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