A Lord of Compassion

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:35-40

We serve a Lord of compassion. Jesus was compassionate to everyone he met, except for the people who were being unkind or judgmental of others. Those he challenged to do better. We are expected to treat others as we would be treated, and to show compassion to those in greater need than our own, be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. What we do for those, we do unto the Lord.

Compassion is defined as: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. synonyms: sympathy, care, concern, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity.

Last week I went to Little Caesar’s to pick up a cheese pizza for the kids playing in the pool at my house. A Hot ‘N Ready cheese pizza is only $5.41 with tax. It was Friday night at almost 8:00 so the place was packed. If you don’t know, Little Caesar’s is just a small lobby with a big kitchen. Everything is to go. It’s a working class joint.

The kids working were slammed and stressed. The 20 people packed in the lobby were people just getting off a hard day of work at places like Goodwill, Walmart, Auto Bell. I could tell everyone was tired and impatient. Most were looking at their phones and noticeably irritable. They all wanted to get their inexpensive pizzas and get home to their families to enjoy their Friday night after a grueling work week.

I just stood there in the crowd smiling at people and trying to make light conversation. I had been there at least 10 minutes and there were several people who had ordered ahead of me. Some were pleasant to me, some were not.

Then, in walked a very frail looking man, I’d say in his 60s, who made his way to the counter and asked for the manager. He quietly and humbly interrupted the busy manager to ask if there was any way he could get a discount on a pizza because he and his wife were very hungry and all they had was some change.

The manager politely said he was too busy at the moment serving the customers who were waiting, but that he would see what he could do once the rush died down.

The man began to ask individuals in the lobby if they could spare a couple dollars. He was shaky and very thin and he kept pointing to his wife standing outside. Every person turned him away, and every person tried to put their head down and did their best to look busy on their phone and waved him off. Some at least looked at him to tell him “No.”

He finally got to me. I knew it was coming, and I had been thinking of what I would do. Was this man an addict? Was that really his wife? I was ashamed that I even let those questions run through my head. I thought, what WOULD Jesus do if he were here? It doesn’t matter what this man’s story really is. He is in need, and I have another $5.50 in my pocket right now. Money’s tight, but I have more than this man has, and I am called to share when I am able. Plus, there is an audience watching to see what I do.

“Excuse me ma’am, do you have just a couple dollars to help me and my wife get a pizza? We are so hungry and the manager said he’d work a discount if I wait. That’s my wife right out there. We just need a meal.”

I looked him in the eye. Everyone in the lobby was watching me. This was my chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus. “Sir,” I said, “I just happen to have $5.50 in my pocket and the pizza is $5.41. I would be honored to help you get a pizza.”

Everyone watched as I handed him the money and he limped to get in line behind two others who were about to order. He finally ordered and got the 9 cents back. He walked to me and reached in his pocket to get an assortment of pennies, dimes and nickels to put with the 9 cents of change. He handed it to me with tears in his eyes and said, “THANK YOU. I worked for 25 years driving a truck and had to have a knee surgery and it took all we had. I still can’t walk well and I cannot find a job that will take care of me and my wife. This pizza will be so good. God bless you for your kindness ma’am.”

I continued talking with him as we waited. My pizza came up next. He shook my hand again and thanked me. I said, “It is a pleasure sir, and God bless you.” I smiled and waved to everyone as I left. “Have a great night everyone!” All those irritable people waved and smiled at me as I walked out the door.

Perhaps that very small act of kindness had put everyone’s frustrating wait for pizza into perspective. Perhaps it spurred some of them on to be kinder to others that night. All I know is that God gave me an opportunity to be a light, and I am glad I took it.

I cried when I got to my car. I thanked God for the opportunity He had given me and I prayed for that man and his wife, the employees, and all the patrons I had encountered that night. I don’t know any of their stories, but I do know that God showed Himself in that lobby here in East Charlotte last Friday night. He is good, all the time, and He asks us to be an extension of His love to all we meet. Opportunities abound – we just have to be aware and willing!

To Love


“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27

Doesn’t that sound simple? To Love. This is all God has called us to do. Love him, and love others, but why are we making it so difficult?

We let our differences get in the way. We let our opinions get in the way. We let our selfish selves get in the way. If we want to live a life like Jesus we need to look at his model for us. 

Jesus engaged and interacted and sat with those who were “different” from everyone else. He listened to them and gave them his undivided attention. He loved them in a way no one else would. He didn’t let their differences get in the way. He is the Son of God for goodness sake and he came down to our human level to be with us and love and serve us. Why are we not doing this today? 

If you call yourself a Christian, why are you casting judgment on others? If you call yourself a Christ follower, why are you not loving your neighbor? 

He called us to love. That’s it! It’s simple and yet for us we overcomplicate it. 

I am learning what it means to love. To see those who are different than me, who have a different belief than me, who have a difference of opinion than me and sit to gain understanding of who they are and why they believe the things they do. It is not my place to cast judgement. I surely don’t have all the answers, none of us do. So we need to change our judgement to gaining understanding for the person in front of us. 

I have a constant prayer that I will see people the way God sees them. I want to see his children the way he does!

We are all unique and beautiful in our own way. Learn about the uniqueness of your neighbor. They were made in the image of God just like you were. Don’t you forget that!

Think of a person who is different than you and that you have possibly cast judgement on and rode them off. Reach out to them. Tell them you want to learn more about them and just sit and listen. Don’t offer advice. Don’t state your opinion. Just be with them and show them love the way Jesus does by giving them your undivided attention. 

If we all do this, honestly, the world would be a better place! If you call yourself a Christian and a follower of Jesus, do as he did. Love him and love your neighbor. It’s that simple. Get yourself and your selfish motives out of the way and be Jesus to the person in front of you. 

 

I’m waiting, God. Where are you?

My church is currently revisiting the book of Psalms, with a different pastor preaching each Sunday. It is so refreshing! Isn’t that the beauty of God’s Word? It is alive and each time we read it, we gain new insight and a fresh perspective on how to apply it to our lives.

Recently, pastor Michael spoke on Psalm 13 – God in our waiting. He reminded us that we all are in a place of waiting at some point in our lives. What do we do when we don’t know where God is, we don’t know what God is doing, or our life looks nothing like we thought it would?

What then?

I remember years ago when I had been severely hurt by someone I thought was a friend. It was painful. It was confusing. And quite frankly, it was depressing.

What did I do?

First, in my tears I turned to the Psalms. The Psalms of lament comforted me somehow. Knowing there were others who had endured such pain and made it to the other side reassured me that I would, too. Seeing that God is okay with me asking WHY? was comforting.

Then, God asked me to pray for that former friend. I began to go on prayer walks every day. As I rounded the corner by her house I made sure to cover her in prayer. God had me do this for a full year. I don’t know the effect it had on her, but I can see now that this was the key to healing my broken heart.

Finally, I lifted up praise to God. Even if I didn’t know what would come of this break in our friendship, I knew God was still good and in praising Him, I allowed the Holy Spirit to take over my mind – renew my mind and change my heart. Do you know what? It’s impossible to feel sorry for yourself when you have abandoned yourself to worship. IMPOSSIBLE.

Without even knowing it, I was following the example that is laid out in Psalm 13 –

So, what should we do?

First, we LAMENT

1How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Then, we PETITION, or PRAY

3Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

Finally, we PRAISE

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

Yes. He has been good to me.

Even if.

Even though.

God is still good.

Amen.

(If you’d like to hear the sermon mentioned above, you can click here to find it.)

Lessons in Understanding

Written by Gladys Johnson

The voice of the questioner seemed to come from over my shoulder as I was kneeling in prayer asking for the will of the Lord at a troubling time in our pastoral ministry. In fact, I was kneeling behind the pulpit. 

I answered the voice, “My vision.” 

The voice said in a sticky, sweet way, “Give it up, and you can go free.”

I stood to my feet. “Of course,” I said, “that’s all I have to do.”

I was a lady minister, called to the ministry at the age of 14 years. Looking back, I don’t think anyone, including my parents, pastors, or youth leaders, took my calling too seriously.

My husband, Lloyd, and I began to date at 17 years of age. Awfully young, but these were pre-war depression days. He was a young man who had to work because of family problems, and his mother had died when he was 9 years of age, leaving him and his sister to be cared for by the father who was not equal to the task.

I came from a large, loving family, but poor. I knew I had a call from God on my life, but had no idea how to fulfill that calling. Lloyd and I were in love. But God was not through dealing with me. One Sunday morning, as we sat together in our church in Portland, Oregon, the pastor began a Missionary sermon, and told the story of a young lady who had given her life to ministry in China. Before he told the entire story, my heart told me the lady’s name would be Gladys (Gladys Aylyard). I began to cry. Lloyd and I left the service early, got into his car, and drove a few blocks away. Lloyd stopped the car and asked me why I was so upset. I told him about my calling to the ministry.

“I know all about that,” he said, “and I will never stand in the way of you fulfilling your calling.”

On the strength of that statement, we married when we were both 19. We were happy. But God did exact that promise from Lloyd in years ahead. 

When I stood to my feet after hearing the suggestion that I give up my vision, I felt a certain finality. When I began preaching, I felt no opposition to a woman in ministry, for this was the way I grew up. My pastor and his wife both preached. This was now the late 70’s. We were in the strong Jesus movement, which allowed for no women in the pulpit. I felt that opposition many times. It seemed to me now that all I had to do was give up my vision, and I could be free. It sounded so good to me, even though I knew that voice came from Satan himself. For a full week, I wrestled with the suggestion. Then, one day in my home, I began to repent for entertaining a suggestion from Satan. I thought about Jesus in the wilderness, and how He met Satan’s suggestion with the power of scripture. As I prayed, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “And how did Jesus come out of the wilderness?”

“Full of the Holy Spirit,” I replied. And received a fresh overflow of His Spirit and determination to go on.

I had heard the voice of Satan before. Again, I was kneeling behind the pulpit in prayer, a favorite spot of mine. A voice said to me, “I’m going to empty this church just like I did the Baptists.”

We had purchased the church from a Baptist group a few years before, and they had sold because the body of the church had gotten down to 9 members, due to unfortunate circumstances. They had dealt very fairly and kindly with us.

My first thought was, “Oh, those poor people. They never knew what hit them.” And I said out loud, “You’re a liar, Satan…get out.”

We had experienced a wonderful move of the Holy Spirit in the church, with many healings; body, soul, and spirit, and the Lord had knit together a body of believers who loved each other greatly.

Satan was over-confident, and bragged too much. He openly displayed his tactics. I stood on Luke 10:19

“Behold, I give you power to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

(At the end of this writing from my Grandma she wrote this,

“In this book I would like to share with you some of the lessons the Lord taught me in our pastoral ministry.”

She wanted to write a book, but never finished. Now I am living out her legacy by writing a book myself with some of her stories and some of my own.)

(Baby Nikki with Sweet Grandma)

It is Finished.

We are just a week out from Easter when we joyfully celebrated the resurrection of Jesus, and I sometimes think we’ve forgotten already.

Forgotten why he came.

Forgotten why he died.

Forgotten that he rose from the dead.

It is finished.

We don’t have to carry our burdens into our daily life.

It is finished.

Jesus took our pain on himself and left it nailed to the cross.

Why do we keep taking it back from him? We needlessly carry so much extra weight, when Jesus is asking us to lay it down.

Surrender it to him.

What do you need to lay down?

On Good Friday, I took part in a remembrance of Jesus’ death on the cross. As part of that service, we were encouraged to write down whatever we were struggling to let go of and nail it to the cross.

Disappointment.

Pain.

Unmet expectations.

Need to control a situation.

All surrendered and physically nailed to the cross.

What a sound that was! With each hammer strike, we remembered just why he came. With each surrender, came a new lightness, a new joy, a new intention to let God take those burdens and heal our broken places.

What will it take for you to let him heal your broken places and take the burden from you? Are you hanging on so tightly you don’t know how to let go? If you need to, physically write them down and nail them to a cross or any piece of wood to go through the motions of surrender.

It is finished.

Jesus died so you could be free. Living in anything less than the freedom of surrender is a tragedy.

What do you need to nail to the cross? Let Jesus finish this for you.

It is finished.

Spiritual Battle

We cannot underestimate Satan. I recently experienced what it was like going into battle without armor. There was a particular time a couple of my friends had some very heavy things they were working through and I wanted to be there for them. I wanted to often my support and care and fight with them through their struggle. I didn’t want to take on the burden, but be a sounding board and someone to offer advice from an outside perspective and pray with them and for them. This is exactly what I was doing. However, after two days of fighting I felt off. I felt a heaviness upon me and I was on the verge of tears. I didn’t know what was going on with me. I knew my friends possibly may feel this way because this was their struggle, not mine, so what was going on with me? I felt as though I had been hit by a truck! I was exhausted! I don’t remember the last time I was this exhausted without physical activity involved.

I was fighting a battle unprepared. I came to realize I walked into this battle without armor on; without protection for myself. I was praying for protection for my friends, but I didn’t have anyone praying protection over me. And as I was praying for others, I stepped onto the battlefield and was exposed to the flaming arrows of Satan. This is like going snowboarding without any of the proper gear – jacket, pants, goggles, gloves, helmet, board, boots. I would never go on the mountain without any of these items, which is how I need to view each day as we battle against Satan.

I learned a valuable lesson that day, never start a day without putting on the armor of God because you never know what your day will bring and you must always be prepared. As my alarm goes off each morning, I pray and put on the armor of God before I even get out of my bed.  Pray, because prayer is a spiritual weapon against Satan. There is nothing he can do against prayer. It’s powerful and it ushers in the presence of God which he cannot defeat. Pray for others, but don’t forget to pray protection for yourself.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God.” Ephesians 6:10-17

JUST KIDDING!

This year Easter is on April 1st….the traditional April Fool’s Day.

Some of my friends say that is blasphemous, but our calendar puts the Christian celebration of Christ’s resurrection according to three days after the Jewish Passover.

The tradition of April Fool’s Day has endured for over 400 years. The true origins of April Fool’s Day are uncertain, but one theory is that it began in 1582 when France adopted the Gregorian calendar. Before then, New Year’s Day fell on the end of March, not January 1st. Those who continued to celebrate the old New Year (at the beginning of April) were called “fools” by their peers. In 1700, English pranksters began popularizing this annual tradition of April Fool’s Day by playing practical jokes on each other. And so it goes on still to this day.

When Christ died on that Roman cross and shed His blood to cover our sins it certainly wasn’t a joke. And, God’s plan for the covering of our sins is not a prank. God wasn’t teasing humanity with a “maybe my Son Jesus could suffer, bleed and die for the penalty of mankind’s sins against Me.” It’s not a J/K scenario that Jesus actually arose from the dead and is living with His Father in Heaven!

And, you know what?  Jesus is coming one day when His Father says “Go get my children!”  And on that day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD of all…no one will be able to say “I thought you were kidding.”

Something to think about………..

The fool has said in his heart, there is no God.”  Psalm 14:1

On a happier note…have a blessed Easter Day celebration that Christ is risen!!!

How far is too far? How close is close enough?

For over a a year now I have been witnessing to a 90-year-old woman who can’t seem to decide to be a follower of Christ.  She keeps saying “I’ll try.”

My heart is drawn to her.  She is covered in prayer by friends she has acquired at this faith-based retirement community.

This past week I asked her some pointed questions, such as: “Have you decided to accept Jesus as your personal Savior?”  The answer was “No.”  “Do you believe Jesus Christ shed His blood and died on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins?”  “Oh yes!”, was her answer.   “Do you believe Jesus arose from the dead after three days and still lives in Heaven today?”  “Oh yes!”, she said.  “Do you believe He’s coming again?”  “Well, I’m not sure about that.”, she said.

My heart was rejoicing as I told her….”Then you believe according to the Word of God in Acts 16:31.  “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved….”

I encouraged her with Scripture and the account of Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples who did not believe Jesus was alive, who, after touching the nail scars in Jesus’ hands, and the wound in His side, cried out “My Lord and My God.”  John 20:28

Also in the scriptures; the account of a father asking Jesus to heal his son, if He could. (Mark 9:24) When Jesus said “If you can?  Everything is possible for him who believes.”  Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Isn’t it God’s great compassion and grace to give us proof in His Word that He knows our heart?  He knows our frail humanity!

Even though my elderly friend has not prayed the “sinners prayer”, or “gone forward to the altar” at church, she must be on her way to a full realization of who Jesus Christ is, and who He is to her. Even the thief on one of the crosses next to Jesus cried out to Him, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus answered him, “I tell you THE TRUTH, TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE.”  That man believed in his heart at that moment and didn’t have time to pray a sinners prayer, or go forward to an altar , or even be baptized in water….Jesus accepted him just as he was!

My point is…it is not for me to judge how far away her soul is from salvation, or how close is close enough.   God knows every individual heart and motive.  “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”  Philippians 2:12

My part in her salvation is to pray for her, encourage her and disciple her in the Word so that she fully understands that salvation cannot be earned, it is a free gift, accepted by childlike faith; no need to try harder!

As she comes to the last years of her life on this earth, I pray peace over her; that she will know, without a doubt, that she belongs to Jesus Christ, her Savior for eternity.

I claim this scripture for her that my Mom prayed over me…”Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 1:6

If the Door is Open, Walk Through It

I am drawn to doors.

I notice them when I look at a home.

I photograph them when I am on vacation.

I envision in my mind the most lovely doors whenever there is a reference to them in someone’s speech. Sometimes they are polished and perfect.

Other times they are a bit rough, but beautiful in their own way.

The Bible uses DOORs as a reference, too. I counted 235 this morning. Of course, most of those are referring to a physical door. Building the temple. You can’t come in, the door is shut. etc.

But many are talking about doorways into our soul or opportunities.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.   (Revelation 3:20 NKJV)

If you are like me, this is the image that came to mind when you read that verse –

Yes, doors are everywhere in scripture. Where are the doors in your life? Are you facing doors of opportunity? Do you see many doors to choose from and have to make a decision?

I’ve always thought this was such a difficult process – then just the other day I heard one of my favorite Bible teachers, Havilah Cunnington, say this:

I think we spend too much time in doorways and we never walk through the door.” 

I was agreeing, yes, YES!

She went on to say that God is really good at shutting doors to places where we are not supposed to go. If the door is just too hard to open, pass it up. (And I would add, DO NOT, as the old song goes, “look for a window.” No! That room is off limits.)

But if a door is open to you and you are standing in the doorway, pondering, crying, wondering, whether you should walk through it. The answer is YES. Remember, God is really good at shutting doors to things you are not supposed to be involved with. Ask Him to show you.

Your opportunity is on the other side of that open door. Take that step of faith and believe that God will direct your next steps.

Photo by Arno Smit on Unsplash

JUST DEAL WITH IT!

This sounds like something dismissive or rude that someone might say! BUT, this is the favorite “tag line” of a very special 94 year old woman! She insists that this is the best advice she can leave for her family and friends. At her age, we can be sure she has experienced all the ups and downs life can bring, and with that she is rooted in deep wisdom!

Job 12:12 says,  “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?”

She says, “Life will always bring unexpected challenges. There will be many things that are completely out of your control. What you can control is how you DEAL WITH IT!”

I am one of those people who love a good surprise when I’m on a trip, or casually hanging out with friends. However, I am still learning to gracefully deal with life’s everyday surprises that knock my plans off track. I admittedly am not consistent when dealing with such surprises! I like a plan, and I like it to stick. With age, I am becoming more flexible (albeit perhaps at a slower rate than my family and friends would like – ha).

Everyday glitches in life are just a part of it. The real challenge is properly handling the big life course altering things that happen. The unexpected things. The death of a close loved one. The end of a relationship you expected to last forever. A car accident. A devastating diagnosis. So many situations can waltz right in to our lives. In a moment, life can completely change course.

It is in these challenging times that we are faced with a choice to cower and let life defeat us, or rise up and DEAL WITH IT. Of course, on our own we may not have the strength. BUT, with God’s help and the ones we love, we can push through the greatest challenges life can throw at us.

Whatever it is that you are facing today, be sure, this too shall pass. You CAN deal with it with God’s help. He promises never to forsake us. He is with us through it all.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Psalm 34:17-18 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

2 Cor. 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”