The Template of Compassion

Scripture: Proverbs 29.7
The righteous care about justice for the poor,
but the wicked have no such concern.

It is a great consolation for me to remember that the Lord, to whom I had drawn near in humble and child-like faith, has suffered and died for me, and that He will look on me in love and compassion. — Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Reflection: The Template of Compassion
By Matt Tullos

Compassion: When we rise above our selfishness and enter into the heartbreak of others.

Jesus hangs on the cross bearing the bleak rebellion of every age. Who can measure the weight of such a burden? Who can scan the circumference of this transaction? This obelisk of sin that outweighed the mass of Jupiter leveled itself against His weakening limbs. And then on that darkening day, He speaks to the beloved ones of his life: “Woman behold thy son. Son, behold thy mother.”

This moment of compassion seems insignificant considering the immensity of humanity that would be forever changed. Jesus was a Savior but indeed He was still somebody’s boy. We hear Him tie up the loose ends of His next of kin. These details would not escape the attention of Jesus.

We look back at the compassion of Jesus as He stood at the grave of a close friend. Those around Lazarus tomb that day observed His grief.

Jesus wept. The community said, “See how he loved him!

Jesus knew the end of the story. He would call out and Lazarus would come forth, but He stepped into the moment. He stepped into the pain. He stepped into the plaintive wails of a grief-stricken family.

What are you mourning today? He is mourning with you.

He has compassion and is making accommodations on your behalf to get through this. You’ll get through it together. We often forget that even though there are pressing issues on every continent, he still has a heart for the small.

There are kings and presidents and war on every side, but Jesus still has the capacity to know your secret wounds and weep over the tombs of your cloistered dreams. He is a God of compassion. He took care of the people He loved. When we fail to remember this, we struggle.

Jesus’ eyes aren’t solely fixed on the White House, the Vatican or the United Nations. His eyes are in the marriage counselor’s office, at the funeral of a grandfather, and under the bed of an abused child who prays for the gift of peace.

He’s there, too.

The shape of the cross is the template of compassion. In order to die on the cross your arms must be open.

God of Wonder,
King of Glory,
Grant us the courage to look beyond our own pain and enter into the pain of another.
For in this act we receive a more glorious vision of the cross of our slain Savior, Jesus Christ.
In Whose Name we pray,

*From a series Matt Tullos wrote called 39 Words. A few of these posts are available in audio form via Soundcloud. — John

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
The Lord will make good his purpose for me; O Lord, your love endures for ever; do not abandon the works of your hands. — Psalm 138.8

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 29 (Listen – 2:44)
2 Thessalonians 3 (Listen – 2:16)

The Crux of Repentance

Scripture: 2 Thessalonians 2.13-14
But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection: The Crux of Repentance
By John Tillman

We acknowledge that Jesus said “It is finished.” But still we often want to “do our part.” We are like a patron in a five star restaurant being served a dish prepared by a master chef which we then we drown in ketchup.

The unmerited favor of Christ is an acquired taste. Most of us are gauche enough to like our grace flavored with a little bit of earning it.

But, don’t we have to do… something? What about repentance? What about sanctification? What about growing more like Christ?

Where the call of the gospel, the work of Christ, our belief in him, and the first steps of our sanctification meet is the crux of repentance.

If you believe, you must every day renounce, as dung and dross, your privileges, your obedience, your baptism, your sanctification, your duties, your graces, your tears, your meltings, your humblings, and nothing but Christ must be held up. — Thomas Wilcox

We often are so unwilling to renounce anything. So unwilling to part with anything. So unwilling to lay down anything.

If only our repentance looked more like that of the thief on the cross. His hands are open, holding nothing. He is naked, hiding nothing. He is humble, asking nothing. He simply believes.

Our hands are full of work and achievements. Our sins we dress in the finest of intentions. Our demands are not only for Heaven in the future, but tangible blessing now. We want one pie in the sky and one on earth too.

It is important to distinguish that acts of repentance are not a precursor or a down payment that secures our forgiveness. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit—no longer behind the veil of the temple but living in us—is our down payment from Christ.

Just as Christ completed his work on the cross for us, his Holy Spirit will complete a transforming work in us, if we let him.

May we repent as the thief and allow Christ to do his work. The man lived mere hours as a believer, but look what God has done with those hours.

If a dying Saviour saved the thief, my argument is, that he can do even more now that he liveth and reigneth. All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth; can anything at this present time surpass the power of his grace? — Charles Haddon Spurgeon

What may the Holy Spirit do in you?

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
I will lift up my hands to your commandments, and I will meditate on your statutes.” — Psalm 119.48

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 28 (Listen – 3:07)
2 Thessalonians 2 (Listen – 2:32)

Getting to the Heart

Scripture: Proverbs 27.19
As water reflects the face,
so one’s life reflects the heart.

Reflection: Getting to the Heart
The Park Forum

Our hearts, like fine instruments, need to be tuned. Proverbs warns, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” This may have been what Jesus was thinking of when he said, “…for out of the overflow of the heart, (the) mouth speaks.” Our heart sets the course for our life. If our heart is envious, entitled, impatient or pleasure-seeking, everything in our life will be marked by these traits.

Legalists suffer from myopic focus on behavior. If a person is angry, legalists demand the person control the outputs of anger. Don’t lash out. Pause before you react. In contrast, the target of the gospel is the heart — it address a person’s actions by moving directly to the root.

For example, is a person angry: (1) because he feels superior and sees others as a nuisance, (2) because he lusts for success and lashes out when things get shaky, or (3) because something happened in the past and he now responds disproportionally under the same circumstances.

In the first case, the root of the anger is entitlement — and the root is likely fleshing itself out as he belittles people who work in service positions or spends large amounts of money on things that refine his image. Multiple sins often draw life from the same root.

In the second case, the root is the idol of success. The person might use peers to scrape his way to the top — taking credit for other people’s work and shifting blame for failures. He could also be ignoring relationships that don’t seem to benefit his bottom line.

In the later case, the root of his anger is likely either guilt or bitterness. If the person is full of guilt, he may not have forgiven himself or walked through the necessary steps to seek forgiveness from those he has hurt. If he is bitter it’s possible he is delaying the journey to forgive someone who has hurt him.

When we get to the root issues of the heart we begin discussing motivations rather than just actions. Focusing solely on actions is like a doctor handing throat lozenges to a coughing patient who is really suffering from pneumonia.

In some ways it’s more comfortable to deal exclusively with actions rather than addressing heart issues. After all, if it’s simply an action that’s our core problem, we can often provide the solution on our own — willing ourselves into change.

Seeing God’s grace as the primary means of change doesn’t mean we stop working on our will. True change happens when a person responds with all of their heart, all of their soul, all of their mind and all of their strength. In his book, The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship, Dallas Willard clarifies, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it’s opposed to earning.”

In this, we seek to live dedicated lives of faith empowered by the Holy Spirit. After all, what person can change their own heart? Tell two people in love to stop their hearts from loving. Tell an envious person to have a content soul. It can’t happen. When the gospel drives at our heart it takes us beyond our own sufficiency to our need for a Savior—someone who can change our heart.

Prayer: The Call to Prayer
I will lift up my hands to your commandments, and I will meditate on your statutes.” — Psalm 119.48

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Proverbs 27 (Listen – 2:43)
2 Thessalonians 1 (Listen – 1:52)

The Fountain of Christ

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. — 1 Timothy 1.15

“The opposite of sin is not virtue but faith,” Søren Kierkegaard famously observed. In many ways the philosopher echoed the voice of the New Testament. Contrary to the prideful response to sin—which sees brokenness as the problem of other people—the saints wrote of sin as a fundamental struggle into which they too had been swept up. Kierkegaard continued:

It is so easy to let a sinful thought sneak into the heart. No seducer was ever so adept as is a sinful thought! It is so easy… until at the end, when you must pay dearly for this first step that cost nothing at all. Very often sin enters into a person as a flatterer; but when the person has become the slave of sin, it is the most terrible sla­very.

In his letter to the Romans Paul revealed, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Far from defeated, the apostle viewed personal pride and brokenness—in light of Christ’s salvation—as vehicles for sanctification. Kierkegaard explained:

In the case of temptation the right thing to do may be to fight it by avoiding it. In the case of spiritual trial, however, one must go through it. Temptation should be avoided? Try not to see or hear what tempts you? Temptation is best fought by running away? But this does not work with thoughts that try the spirit, for they pursue you. If it is spiritual trial, go straight toward it, trusting in God and Christ. When you are weak, he is strong.

Honesty toward pride and brokenness not only fosters humility, it also prevents the sinful placement of faith in good works. “Of all the brilliant sins, affected virtues are the worst,” Kierkegaard warns, concluding:

As long as there are many springs from which to draw water, anxiety about possible water failure does not arise. But when there is only one source! And so it is when Christ has become a person’s one and only spring that spiritual trials begin. Spiritual trial is the expression of a concentration upon Christ as the only source. This is why most people have no spiritual trials.

Today’s Reading
Proverbs 29 (Listen – 2:44)
2 Thessalonians 3 (Listen – 2:16)


How Technology Can Erode Community :: Weekend Reading List

The average person checks their phone 85 times a day. That’s 26% more often than the average amount of notifications (63.5) people receive daily. This type of perpetual connection has rewired conversation. “We are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens,” remarks Sherry Turkle.

In The Flight From Conversation, Turkle acknowledges, “We are tempted to think that our little ‘sips’ of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation.“ Turkle, a researcher at M.I.T., continues:

Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.

Personal screens rewrite the world—holding users, in a glowing spotlight, as both the most powerful and important subject. C.S. Lewis, though he could not have specifically addressed smartphones or social networking, foreshadows some of what’s happening today when he writes, “Man surrenders object after object, and finally himself, to Nature in return for power,” in The Abolition of Man.

Lewis speaks of modern technology as an extension of science, and science as an extension of magic, or man’s way of gaining independence from God. He explains:

There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the wisdom of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique.

Though technology will serve in ever-increasing roles in daily faith, we cannot look to it as a replacement of the flesh, tears, laughter, sacrifice, forgiveness, and beauty of the face-to-face community of the Church. This may be more difficult than we imagine, Turkle concludes:

We expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship. Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies: that we will always be heard; that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; and that we never have to be alone.

Weekend Reading List

Today’s Reading
Proverbs 26 (Listen – 2:37)
1 Thessalonians 5 (Listen – 2:37)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 27 (Listen – 2:43) 2 Thessalonians 1 (Listen – 1:52)
Proverbs 28 (Listen – 3:07) 2 Thessalonians 2 (Listen – 2:32)