Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Compassion in its Finest

      We don’t really know the reason people make the choices they do. We may only somewhat understand our own. At times we even make assumptions and jump to all kinds of conclusions about others decisions.  However, unless the person shares their feelings with us, we are only making a guess about them.

    The Scriptures tell us a story of an injured man on the side of the road and the response of three by-passers. The purpose of this parable was to teach what it takes to be a truly loving neighbor.  It drives home the point that in order to love the Lord we cannot physically see with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, we must love the neighbor we can see.

     Our story begins by telling us about a man ambushed and severely injured by a robber. He lies on the side of the road, possibly close to death.  The first two men, a priest and a Levite, pass by on the other side.  For whatever reason, they avoid getting involved in the situation. We can make guesses as to their reasons, but instead should put ourselves in a similar situation and honestly evaluate what we do.  Don’t we pass stopped cars or the filthy individuals holding signs and asking for money all the time?

     Jesus points out that the third man, who stops to help the injured man was first and foremost a man of compassion. The fact that he was a Samaritan adds more validity to his compassion as he crossed cultural differences to assist the hurt man.  We are told the Samaritan went above the call of duty by not only taking care of the immediate needs of this man but assuring the innkeeper his desire to foot the entire bill to see that this man received the necessary care for him to regain his health. 

     This parable reminds me of two particular incidents in my life in which the Lord placed caretakers in my life as a young lost girl.  The first was my first grade teacher and the second was my seventh grade teacher.

     As a seven year old I took a fall on the playground, skinning up my knee.  My teacher comforted my tears with a hug.  I had no idea at the time the reason I craved affection from her, but what would be considered modern day self-inflicted injury, I fell every day afterward.  I received the exact same response each time, comforting arms.  I believe compassion for a troubled little girl drove this woman’s response to me.

     By the time I reached seventh grade, my private struggle with suicidal thoughts consumed most of my waking hours.  I decided to take a risk and gave my English teacher a journal entry revealing my dark and dismal thoughts.  For the next two years she invested even some of her off hours trying to instill in me a sense of self-worth.  Unfortunately, it was void of the saving grace of Jesus, but it did keep me alive to find Jesus as my Savior in the middle of my sophomore year of high school.

     As I reflected on this parable and these teachers placed in my life, I realized their provision in my life from the Lord. Due to my insecurities, I had few companions my own age and carried many deep unresolved fears far into my adult life.  It took decades for me to fully comprehend how the Lord lived this parable out in my life with my own Good Samaritans.

     How about you?  Can you reflect on your life and see the way the Lord brought a person of deep compassion into your life?  Do you see the way they went beyond the call of duty to help you?  How did his or her response give value and meaning to that difficult time in your life?  When you were bleeding and needing someone to bind up your wounds, what did they do to care for your injuries?  Even if they are no longer a part of your life, praise Jesus for providing them for you when you needed them.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Always Dream

As a young boy the Lord gave Joseph dreams.  These dreams showed Joseph accomplishing great things and his father and brothers bowing before him.  Joseph enjoyed talking about his dreams and this infuriated his brothers.  Increasing the tension even more with his siblings, their father gifted Joseph with a multi-colored coat that he wore all the time.

One day, Joseph headed out to the fields in search of his brothers.  They couldn't miss his coming as they saw the brightness of his coat as he approached.  A deep root of anger and jealousy simmered in their hearts, and now an ideal situation had arisen for them to lash out and rid their lives of the one that vexed them.

As they ate and contemplated their exact plan of action, Joseph sat at the bottom of the dried out well.  Certainly he must have wondered if his dreams had actually come from the Lord now.  As his brothers decided to sell him off to some travelers instead of killing him, he still probably questioned the validity of his dreams.

However, Joseph made the best of his circumstances and no matter where he landed he found favor with those in authority over him.  Eventually he rose to a position of second in charge in the land of Egypt.  It was during a great famine in the land that his life crosses paths with his brothers again.  He instantly recognized them, but they remained clueless about his identity until they past the test Joseph placed before them to confirm whether their hearts had changed since their last encounter.

His brothers never really understood the heart of Joseph until the passing of their father.  They were still reeling in guilt and fear for their lives.  However, Joseph looked at them and with full trust in how the Lord worked in his life he said to his brothers, "What you meant for evil against me the Lord used for good for the preservation of many lives."

Whether we receive true visions or just a dream implanted within our hearts, we need to realize that Jesus fulfills the dreams submitted to honoring and glorifying the Lord.  Those dreams come in unexpected ways and most of the time in unexpected times.  Just like Joseph needed pride removed before his dreams came true, we too might need some heart preparation before our dreams come to pass.

For now, may we place all our dreams in our Savior's hand and trust the fulfillment of them to His timing and His way.  His plans will be best for everyone involved.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Zaccheus climbed a sycamore tree because the crowd was so large.  He wanted a glimpse of Jesus.  Did only curiosity motivate him?  There may have been something much bigger stirring in the heart of this man of small stature.

When Jesus approached the tree, He looked up at Zaccheus and called him down.  The Scriptures tell us he came down joyfully as Jesus had invited Himself over to dine with Zaccheus.

The crowds grumbled, of course, presuming Jesus was clueless about not only who Zaccheus was but his occupation.  Tax collectors carried with them reputations of deep dishonesty and Zaccheus was not only a tax collector, but the chief of the tax collectors. He probably swindled wages owed to those working under him too.

The next scene is the salvation and complete proof of a true transformation in Zaccheus.  He promised Jesus that he would return four times the amount he stole from people.  Zaccheus recognized his sin immediately, and Jesus honors the repentance in Zaccheus' heart by stating to everyone present that salvation had come to this home.  Jesus also reiterated the fact that His purpose was to save the lost.

How difficult life must have been for Zaccheus after he returned to work the next day as a changed man.  He was still a tax collector despised by the people.  What a humbling experience to now trace back every dishonest act against others and restore back to them what he stole.  Now he would strive to do honest work, but carry with him the reputation of being a tax collector with people still assuming he was dishonest.

How gracious are we to those transformed by their encounter with Jesus and have repented?  May we learn to open our eyes and love like Jesus those who strive to overcome their past by God's grace.