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When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Matthew 14:14

The English definition of compassion is a ‘sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.’ While that is a noble gesture, the English word for compassion doesn’t come close to giving us the picture God intends for us to have of compassion ‘God’s way’.

The Greek word for compassion in Matthew 14 is the word splanchnizomai. Okay, it doesn’t really matter how it’s pronounced. What’s more important is what it means to you and me. The word translated in English means ‘from the gut’. It gives the idea that Jesus didn’t just have a ‘sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress.

When Jesus saw the leper he actually FELT his loneliness right down to his shoe laces…okay, sandal straps. Even so, it wasn’t just a kind gesture. He actually felt the despair of the young mom whose daughter was lying dead in the upper room. His eyes teared up as he climbed the stairs while mourners wailed in the background. He felt the fear that gripped the father as he watched his son go into yet another demon-powered seizure. He felt the darkness and confusion of the blind man who had never seen the faces of his mother or father or any of the other family members that cared for him on a daily basis.

One of the most meaningless statements a person can make to someone is, “I know exactly how you feel.” Have you ever had someone say that to you? Come on now, be honest. Just between you and me, didn’t you want to deck them? Didn’t every nerve in your body want to scream “NO YOU DON’T! HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY KNOW HOW I FEEL?” Maybe you’ve even decked a few people physically or emotionally. The words flew out before you could be ‘socially appropriate’.

Fact of the matter is. You were right. No one can climb inside your heart and feel what you are feeling. No one that is except Jesus. You may not always feel his presence, but he’s aware of every one of your thoughts, emotions and pain. His gut hurts when he feels the pain you are in. That’s compassion. That’s Jesus.

He doesn’t only feel your pain every bit as much as you do. He wants to heal you. He wants to build a relationship with you that enables you to sleep through the storms, to endure the trials and overcome the enemy. He’s never too tired. Never to angry with you. Never far away.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank you for the fact that you not only understand my pain, you feel it from the bottom of your gut. No one understands my pain. No one sees how much I’m hurting inside like you do. Help me to feel your presence in my life in a way I’ve never felt before. Forgive me for my part in the bad choices I’ve made. Empower me with your Spirit to grow in relationship with you. In your name I pray, Amen.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

What does the peace of Christ look like in your life? The Apostle Paul tells us, in his letter to the church in Colossae that we are to let that peace be the governing rule in all we say and do. Peace is to be the one defining characteristic of the body of Christ.

It’s important to remember that the body of Christ (what we refer to as the church) is not a building. The body of Christ is not a set of rules and doctrines designed to brainwash us into being clones of one another. The body of Christ is simply NOT church as we think of it today. The body of Christ is like any other body. It’s a living organism made up of many parts that look different, act differently, and perform different yet work in complete harmony with one another for the good of each other.

A body that is not at peace is a sick body. It is unable to function properly and fulfill its duties to one another. If you have ever hit your thumb with a hammer or stubbed your toe in the dark you know how great a body is affected when one part is not at peace. The same is true in the body of Christ. When we set up rules and regulations that exclude people or take us on a path away from the word of God we weaken the entire body.

Wherever Jesus went on earth, he brought peace. He did not bring peace in the way the religious community wanted peace. He did not bring peace politically. Jesus brought a peace that can not be acquired through religious dogma or sacrifice. He brought a peace that can not be dictated and controlled by government action. Jesus brought peace to the soul. He brought peace to the soul of the woman caught in adultery; to the parents of the demon-possessed boy; to the parents of the little dead girl.

The peace of Christ will dwell in us only when we come to a realization of who we are and grow in relationship with Him. His peace comes when we confess our anger, our guilt, our shame or bitterness. His peace comes when we admit to Him our doubt, our judgmental spirit, our pride. His peace comes when we leave the emptiness of religion and enter the freedom of relationship.

The defining characteristic of a body in which the peace of Christ rules is being thankful. A heart at peace with Christ is a heart that in the midst of any tragedy can be thankful. Not thankful for the pain or the loss, but thankful that Jesus loves and forgives us and promises to walk with us along the path of life.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, Son of God, Savior and Lord of the world. I confess to you that there are many times I exchange your peace in my life with rules and regulations that keep me from experiencing all the joy I can have in relationship with you. I get angry. I let my past or the brutal, stupid attacks of others get in my way. I retaliate rather than let you protect me. I judge other people. Empower me with your Holy Spirit to live in peace because of the relationship I have with you. In Your holy name I pray, Amen.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

At every funeral there are two, maybe three groups of people. The similarity of all these groups is sadness, with the most tears usually reserved for those who are closest to the one in the casket. Generally speaking you won’t notice a difference in any of the people on the outside. It’s what is on the inside that counts.

The defining characteristic of each person in the group, as well as the person in the casket isn’t about the things we can see with our senses. The defining characteristic for all of them is what is in the heart.

For those who are Christ-followers, those who have made a personal commitment to follow Him, those who have asked Him to forgive them of their sins, the grief is immense. But if the person who belonged to the body inside the casket is a Christ-follower as well, then they know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, as sure as they see the trees in the cemetery, that one day they will be reunited.

There’s a second group of people. Death scares them. Might also say it scares the hell out of them, but it doesn’t. Death, according to the human mind-set is the end. They see no hope beyond the grave, no healing beyond the casket, no life outside this world.

In order to appease their fear they’ve made up all sorts of stories to soothe themselves. Stories like, ‘there’s no hell, a loving God would never send someone to hell’; or ’There is no god. What we see is what we get. Death is the end all of end alls. (no wonder these people feel hopeless); or there is the ‘There are other ways to heaven besides Jesus. I know some good people who are (name your own religion). All sorts of stories. All sorts of excuses and explanations. Yet nothing that fills the void.

The third group of people is much like the second, yet they may struggle with the biggest problem of all, the problem of doubt. Some of these people have gone to church all their lives. They’ve been baptized and confirmed and gone to Bible College. They teach Sunday school and give generously to charities. Some are pastors or church leaders doing marvelous things to help others. Yet deep inside there’s the constant, nagging question of ‘what if?’

Funerals aren’t about the dead. They are a reality check for the living. They are more intense because in them we see the pain we ourselves suffer. The feelings are more intense at a funeral, but on a much lesser scale we feel the same pain when a relationship fails, we see ourselves getting older and our dreams for life growing fainter, we see friends leave us and the things we once held dear fade away with changing society.

Jesus didn’t come to give us comfort and protection from earthly pain; He came to give us peace in the midst of it. The peace the world gives will one day pass away. What lives on will be our faith in Christ, our hope in eternity with Him and those we love, and love. The love of God that nothing can separate us from. Nothing.

If you were sitting at the funeral of a dearly loved Christ-follower today, which group would you be in? Would you weep and cry because you miss this dear friend, but know you will be reunited someday? Would you wonder (or hope) that someday you will see them again? Will you suffer the anguish of your soul because you have no hope?

It’s easy to be in group one. Jesus longs to forgive you of your past and side by side with you along this journey we call life. He’s waiting for you now.

PRAYER: Dear God. I’ve heard about You. I confess I don’t know if I believe in You or not. But death scares me. Not knowing what lies beyond the grave haunts me, but my past haunts me more. I have nothing to offer you. I have no excuse. I only ask that you forgive me of my sin in the name of Jesus. Fill my life with the peace that you promised me so that whether I live or die I know my place is with you for eternity. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

(In honor of my Uncle Al (1928-2010) a man of faith, integrity, love for his family, generosity and a love for his Savior. Someday I will see you again.)

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (NLT)

Because I believe in the God of Genesis and believe that everything He makes is good,

I am resolved to have a good day.

Because I believe that nothing, absolutely nothing that happens today has not passed through the screening of His perfect will,

I am resolved to have a good day.

Today, if I am misunderstood, I know that my Heavenly Father knows the truth about me and my motives. Therefore,

I am resolved to have a good day.

Today, if I suffer from the consequences of my own poor choices I know that I will not walk alone because even then His hand of love and compassion. Therefore,

I am resolved to have a good day.

Today, if I suffer from the abusive hand of evil people, I know that my Father will comfort me and heal me with the healing salve of his love. Therefore,

I am resolved to have a good day.

Today, if I rebel and find myself in a situation I never thought I’d be in I know I can confess my sin to Him and will be forgiven. Therefore,

I am resolved to have a good day.

Today, if I am harassed because of my beliefs or mocked for my stand for Jesus, I will be comforted by the fact that Jesus Himself was also mistreated. Therefore,

I am resolved to have a good day.

I may not always agree with the things that come my way. My prayers will not always be answered in the way I hoped. Tragedy will come. Pain will happen. I will be rejected by my friends. I will lose loved ones. But because my faith rests in the God of Genesis, the creator/sustainer of the universe, who loves me beyond measure,

I am resolved to have a good day.

PRAYER: Father God, I don’t know what is ahead for me today. I may suffer loss, or victory. I may suffer pain or experience healing. I may be afraid or courageous. Whatever comes my way I ask that you would empower me to live my life in the realization that nothing can happen to me unless your loving hand allows it. I may not agree or understand but I trust you. Therefore I am resolved that since you made this day, it will be a good day. Amen.

After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10

The story of Job is rich with lessons for each of us as we travel this journey called life. Here’s a man who ‘did everything right’ yet lost everything he had for no apparent reason to him. He’d lost his children, all of his wealth and the intimacy of a relationship with his wife. As he sat in emotional and physical agony his so-called friends show up and give him all sorts of answers as to why things happened the way they did.

All of their wisdom really could be boiled down to this: “Job, you messed up. You are a miserable sinner that God is punishing for your pride and arrogance. Why not just confess your sin. Everyone knows that tragedy only come because of our sin.”

They were wrong of course. We have the advantage of reading the entire script for the drama and seeing all that was going on backstage. Job was an innocent man. His trials were really the result of satanic attack. God himself was testified to His innocence and holiness backstage of the drama where only heavenly beings could hear.

Job is rich with lessons for our journey of life. God is in ultimate control of all that goes on in our lives. He allows things to happen. Painful things. Tragic things. Things that bring agony for a time. While He doesn’t explain Himself, we can know from the story of Job that although the agony is horrific, it isn’t always because of our sin and it is temporary. Even if it is sickness it is temporary because as Christ-followers were aren’t home yet. Our home is a place absent of sickness, pain, tears and death.

There’s another lesson we can learn from Job. It’s a lesson about prayer. After all his friends offered up their meaningless wisdom, God appeared to the three of them. Job was vindicated and his friends chastised.

After God was seen for who He was, the Bible tells us that Job prayed for his friends. There is no indication that he was healed of his pain or restored until he prayed for them. Imagine the scene. Job is still sitting in a pile of ashes. The piece of pottery he used to scrap his boils was laying nearby. All those involved were awestruck by the very presence of God. Then, in the midst of Job’s pain he prayed for his friends!

When we are in pain and agony we may hold that pain in because we wrongfully see pain as a sign of weakness. We may ask our friends to pray for us. But Job prayed for his friends even though he, himself had yet to be healed.

As we travel this journey called life there are many setbacks and hurdles along the way. Things that will hurt us to the point where we question if we can continue on. You could be suffering from the consequences of your own sin or poor decisions. You could be bearing the physical and/or emotional bruises of abuse. There could be no known reason for why you are in the place you are.

In the midst of your pain, don’t forget the pain of others. Job’s friends were wrong. They were judgmental, critical and compassionless. We all run across those people during our lives. People we’ve trusted laughed with and loved. Yet when times grew bad they turned on us. Follow the example of Job and pray for others in the midst of your pain.

Sometimes, in order to do this you will need to forgive others for their insensitivity. Sometimes you will need to overlook the fact that they are just plain wrong. Only you and your God know your heart. Never lose sight of the fact that while they can’t see your heart, you can’t see their heart and/or motives either.

After Job prayed, God blessed him. This wasn’t a small blessing. Job had all his wealth and more restored to him. I believe that one of the reasons he was restored so completely is because of his humble willingness to pray for those who mistreated him. This can only be done through the strength of God. Don’t let the pain of your own life cause you to overlook the pain of others.

PRAYER: Father God, I don’t understand why I have to endure some of this pain that you have placed along my path. I am so tired of so-called experts who offer all sorts of advice while overlooking my own pain or understanding my agony. Help me to forgive them and pray for them. Give me words of encouragement I can offer them even though they can’t return the favor. Thank you for being in complete control of all I do and am. Help me to trust you in the darkness. Amen.

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