Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Source of our Compassion...

When you first glance at the title of this blog, you might think it rather obvious. As followers of Christ, the source of compassion for those in need is based in Jesus, who He is and what He did. Obvious. However, I ran across another source of our compassion while reading through the book of Deuteronomy.

In Deuteronomy, chapter 24, God is giving through Moses the laws of taking into consideration people in need. He is giving the rules for right living to the Israelites when they encounter a brother of fellow person who is needy. He talks about loans. He talks about (and condemns) oppressing the daily laborers and poor. He then gives practical instructions as to how Israel is to provide for the disadvantaged living among them.

"When you reap the harvest in your field, and you forget a sheaf in the field, do not go back to get it. It is to be left for the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you knock down the fruit from your olive tree, you must not go over the branches again. What remains will be for the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you must not glean what is left. What remains will be for the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow..." (Deuteronomy 24:19-21).

This is what we call the law of the gleanings or "leaving" the gleanings. These were the areas of unharvested or second-harvest crops that were to be left for those who had no fields or resources of their own. These were the offering to God that were to go as care for the, "foreigner, fatherless and the widow."

What jumped out at me was the next verse, Deuteronomy 24:22, which says...

"Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt. Therefore I am commanding you to do this."

Israel's status as slaves should remind them to care for the helpless. When they looked at the hopeless and the hurting in their land, they were to remember that those people were them, but for the grace of God. When they were tempted to become self-sufficient and self-dependant, they were to remember that only a few generations ago, they were slaves and impoverished, living in a distant land.

Why do we care for the poor and needy? Why do we strive to make Christ known to the perishing? For sure, it is because of the compassion of Christ in us. But it is also the simple fact that there, but for the grace of God, go you and I.

Remember...that God has done a mighty act of grace and compassion in our lives. It helps us look at others in a whole new light.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

To the God Who Carries Us...

"The Lord your God who goes before you will fight for you, just as  you saw Him do for you in Egypt. And you saw in the wilderness how the Lord your God carried you as a man carries his son all along the way you traveled until you reached this place." (Deuteronomy 1:30-31)

Every day is covered with God's blessings. Every moment He is the God who carries us. He carries us like a loving father who carries his son along the way.

I can remember several times walking through the backwoods of the rural Philippines when our children were small. Many times, Regina and I would hike several miles to help teach some lesson in agriculture or health care practices. Most of the time we were walking through grown up trails, over mountains, through rivers, to share a Bible study and start a church.

During those years we would often take our small children along. They would get weary along the way. As parents do, we would pick them up and carry them. Sometimes on our hips. Sometimes on our shoulders. Sometimes they weren't weary. They just couldn't keep up. Or we decided, without their consultation, that the way was too hard and we would pick them up...carry them.

You could see their countenance change immediately from walking in the hot, humid tropical climate to riding on mom or dad. Their burden just got lighter and they began conversations about the plants, animals, the clouds...pretty much anything, because the burden of the journey had been removed from them.

The truth about me is that there is never a time that God is not carrying me. I tend to only think of Him doing it during the difficult times. In fact, sometimes I complain asking why He doesn't carry me better. But actually, He is always the God who carries us.

How childish of us not to recognize His carrying provisions every day and every moment. How immature to only look to Him to carry us when things are seemingly not going our way. Moses reminded the Israelites that,...

"The Lord your God has been with you this past 40 years, and you have lacked nothing." (Deuteronomy 2:7b)

Not only was God going to go before them, lead them into the promised land and drive out their enemies before they even got there, but they should not forget, as a testimony to God, that He had constantly been carrying them ever since they left Egypt.

So, I thank God. He is a God that carries me...every day...every moment. Not just in the hard times but in the ordinary times as well.

I should never let that thankfulness become common place or worse, forgotten.

Thank you Lord, for carrying a father carries his son...

Monday, July 22, 2013

God Builds His People...

When Israel, under the leadership of Moses, comes to the edge of the promised land, they begin to waver, quiver and eventually turn their back on God's promise. They are afraid to claim the land. They have seen the giants and decided that it would have been better for them to have stayed in bondage in Egypt. This sets off a series of what seems to be unfortunate events but in reality is God's perfect plan for them as a people.

* Ten of the 12 men who spied out the land and brought back a report were struck down by the Lord. It was the 10 who brought back the negative report.

* God deems to send a plague among Israel to destroy them but Moses stands in the gap, repeats God's Name back to Him (as He had revealed to Moses on the mountain) and God pardons the people.

* A cousin-priest of Moses and Aaron (Korah) incites a rebellion and as a result, almost 15,000 people die.

But the greatest consequence of Israel's refusal to follow God into His promised land is that the children of Israel are sent back out into the wilderness for 40 more years.

A lot of things happen in the 40 year wilderness wanderings. The rebellious generation dies off. The people are given another chance to learn total dependence on God for their food, water, clothing, safety, etc. They also learn how to wage war battling the Midianites and Moabites. But most important, they are transformed from the "children" of Israel to the "nation" of Israel.

The timespan between the exodus from Egypt (under Moses) to the entering of the promised land (under Joshua) is a relatively short 40 years. However, the stark contrast between those who came out of Egypt and those who entered Canaan is remarkable. In Exodus to Deuteronomy, we see a grumbling, rebellious and even whining people. "We should have stayed in Egypt", "the real promised land is what we left", "we looked like grasshoppers in our own eyes", etc. By the time Joshua leads the people to combat the impenetrable city of Jericho, we find a finely tuned, single-eyed, warrior nation. What a transformation! It took a few years to build this people into a nation under God but they emerge as a people of God who puts fear into the hearts of all who hear about them!

I often wonder if I am living life in the promises of God or in the fear of the giants? I wonder if I am battling in the promised land and claiming God's abundant life in Christ for me or being sent back into the wilderness because God has more training for me? I rest assured knowing that both places can be good if I am keeping my eyes on the One who has called me and set me apart for His task. I just pray that I am up to the calling and task that He has set before me today.

Lord, build you people today...and begin with me.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"Kairos" Living in a "Kronos" World...

I am finding that the older I get, the more I understand what it means to wait on the Lord. I am not saying that I am any better at doing that than I was ten years ago. It's that I just grasp the concept a little better. Perhaps living a few years back here in the United States has helped me in this area. I am constantly amazed at the fast pace of things such as life in general, information exchange, etc. Even traffic with people rushing from home to the grocery store as if the life of their family depended on them getting that gallon of milk within 5 minutes...

When the children of Israel had come out of 400+ years of bondage in Egypt, they began a journey, a pilgrimage if you will, towards the promised land. They were too numerous to count and it was a great feat on Moses part just to bring some sort of order to the whole chaos of millions of men, women, children, goats, possessions, etc., picking up everything they had every few days and moving on to the next place.

The key was that they were not only following God but also learning to follow Him and totally depend on Him for their every need. They were being molded into a people who not only knew Him but belonged to Him wholly. Their food was provided. God gave them water. Even their clothes and sandals were miraculously preserved and did not wear out because of God's great provision for them.

Even the timing of when they travelled or when they camped was up to God. And it was up to them to follow and be obedient or not follow and be disobedient. The writer of the book of Numbers says...

"Whether it was two days, a month, or longer, the Israelites camped and did not set out as long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle. But when it was lifted, they set out. They camped at the Lord's command, and they set out at the Lord's command. They carried out the Lord's requirement according to His command through Moses." (Numbers 9:22-23)

They didn't get ahead of God and they didn't fall behind. They followed His leading. When the fire and the cloud moved, they moved. When it settled, they settled.

My human inclination and reasoning would say that surely there was a more direct route and way to the promised land. If we got together, devised a plan and then implemented it with the various tribes, we probably could have gotten the Israelites from Goshen to Canaan in a fraction of the time. Right?

What I am learning is that there is the "kronos" time in the world that we as humans live (yea, dwell) in. It is what we break down into 365 days for our year, 52 weeks, 7 days per week, 24 hours in a day,....We even quantify it by rationalizing "time is money", "make hay while the sun shines", "a day late, a dollar short", etc.

Yet there is another view of time and it is the "kairos" time. It is the God-view of time that has more to do with perfect timing and less to do with how we as humans structure or apportion time. It is God's timing. It is His perfect way of bringing everything into its own season and fruition according to His plan, His purpose and His priorities. In His "kairos" time, He knows when everything will happen. He is actually orchestrating the very time. "With the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day..." (2 Peter 3:8) He knows the day His Son Jesus will return. He has determined that date already. He knows when evil and Satan will be conquered. It's a done deal. And it is hard for us to see and even believe these things because we are people living under the "kronos" of time and not His "kairos" reality.

I know that I should slow down and wait for the timing of God. I have seen over and over in my life that my best laid plans and actions are always infinitesimally successful and impactful when compared to the plans and the way of God.

Lord, may I follow Your cloud as you You lead by day and Your fire as You lead by night. May I see Your "kairos" moments in the midst of my short-sighted "kronos" world view. Whether it is two days, a month or longer, may I follow Your leading as You reveal it to me...


Monday, July 15, 2013

Be Holy Like God...

Over and over in the first few books of the Bible, the writer encourages the nation of Israel with the following phrase...

"Be holy because I (God) am holy."

This comes frequently on the heels of some law such as laws of cleanliness, relationships or worship. It is an exhortation to the nation of Israel to remember that if they truly are to belong to God, they must become like Him.

We are given the same exhortation in the New Testament as well (1 Peter 1:16). So, the implication is that a true test of following God is that we are in essence becoming like Him. By extension, the tendency is that if we are following Him, He is in the process of making us pure, set apart for Himself.

The Israelites, as they were becoming the community of Israel, were a nation called out to be set apart to show the world what a God-following nation was supposed to look like. It is the reason for the giving of the laws. It is the reason that God called them and set them apart. Not because of who they were but for the sake of making His glory known among the nations. They were to be different from the Jebusites, Hittites, Perrizites, etc. They were to be a "holy" people living by, for and in God's law.

Today, more than ever, we as followers of Jesus Christ need to be a set apart people. We need to be "holy" in an impure and fallen world. We must strive to become Christ in our chaotic cultures and we must, at the same time, yield to God and His Spirit and allow Him to transform and conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus.

The world today cries out for a true, set apart people of God. I believe that all of creation leans forward in expectation to see that true community of believers, those belonging to God, who are set apart and holy in a marred world. The eager anticipation is that there will be and is a community set apart, living according to God's plan, destined to fulfill the imagery of becoming like Christ. In a society and world today that seems to lack any sort of moral compass or direction, the world longs for a true north community, under God, honoring His laws and His principles.

So, be holy...

For the glory of God the Father...

For your/our mutual benefit...

For a testimony to all the nations...

(Micah 4:5) "Though all the peoples each walk in the name of their gods, we will walk in the name of Yahweh our God forever and ever..." 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Choosing Not By Appearance...

In Genesis 13, there is a short story where Abraham and his nephew, Lot, are living in the same general area in the Negev but the population of their families and herds become so great, a separation is necessitated. The land they are jointly living on becomes unable to support them. Quarreling was breaking out between their herdsmen over water and grass resources. So, Abraham proposes a solution: they would split up and go separate ways in the land.

Abraham offers Lot the first choice of the land. If Lot were to choose to the left, Abraham would go right.

Lot looked out over the land. He saw the mountains in one direction and the well-watered, Jordan valley in the other. The Jordan Valley looked enticing - like the Lord's garden and the Land of Egypt - so he chose the entire valley for himself.

Lot chose, what appeared on the surface, the better land. It had cities. It had water. The land was flat and easily traversed. However, living in this valley were some of the wickedest people alive at that time. He chose the attractive but sinful.

Abraham, on the other hand, chose not a land. He actually decided to take what came. In reality, his choice was not land or a place but his choice was to be obedient to God. Lot chose a great looking place. Abraham chose God.

The real promise and reward is never in a thing, a place or a possession. No matter what the world has to offer. No matter what seems to us to satisfy. Nothing can ever take the place of choosing God. In the Old Testament, God's true blessing to Israel was not the promised land. It was God Himself. He called them, set them apart and created them to be a special people for Himself. Their true reward was Him, not His gifts and provisions.

I am often tempted to choose the blessings instead of the Blesser. I often choose the things seen rather than the things unseen. I am often tempted to choose the material and not the Maker.

May we, like Abraham, have eyes of faith and choose the thing that really matters - God and our obedience to Him. You see, Abraham believed the Lord and the Lord credited it to him as righteousness.

May we choose today not based on appearance but on faith in the One True thing that really matters...

Monday, July 1, 2013

God's Special Relationship with Man...

I am back in Genesis again beginning my second reading through the Bible for 2013. I am always (yes, always) amazed at the gems that I find every time I re-read God's Word. Today, I was inspired by a small verse in chapter 5 of Genesis which spoke to my heart in saying...

(Genesis 5:1b-2) "On the day that God created man, He made them in the likeness of God; He created them male and female. When they were created, He blessed them and called them man."

What a special relationship God has bestowed us with! A relationship that originates in Him, draws us close to Him and even offers an eternal audience with Him. The short verse basically says that our relationship is special because...

1. We were created by Him. We are the creature. He is the creator. He has formed us and knows us better than we even know ourselves.

2. We were created in His likeness, His image. All of us are a reflection of the Divine. All have a divine spark, something that makes us worth God's love and care over all other parts of His creation. He didn't make animals or plants in His image. He chose us to bear that blessing.

3. He also created us male and female. Gender is God's plan and God's design no matter what current culture says. I am probably called old-fashioned, out of touch and even backwards by many people today because of my views of gender - they tend to be Biblical. It doesn't bother me. I choose to believe the roles that God created for us.

4. We are also blessed by God. Be fruitful and multiply. Rule over (care for) the rest of creation. We are blessed by being made in His image and He providing a way for us to have a relationship with Himself now and forever. It is so amazing that even the angels are a bit confused.

5. Finally, and don't miss this, we are named by God. "He called them man". Man gave name to the animals. God gave name to man. How special is this?

When I see and reflect on the special place in God's heart for man, it challenges me to never look at anyone as an ordinary person. The poor are not "the poor", they are God-created beings made in His own image. The hopeless are not "the hopeless". They are people created for a special relationship with God. The rich are not "the powerful". They are just like everyone else: created by God, for God and only fulfilled when they are in God.

Small verse; big implications...