Time and Compassion

So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot…When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. Mark 6:32-34

Jesus had taken His disciples aside to teach them and to find out exactly they had been doing (v30). As the disciples traveled in a boat, many followed them on foot.

Picture this scene. Jesus is teaching in a boat on the way to a quiet place, a place where they could be alone and regroup. His disciples are jabbering a mile a minute, probably trying to “one-up” each other in their stories. He and the others see the crowds on the shore rushing to their probable landing place. His followers undoubtedly are watching Jesus closely to see what He would do when He landed. After all, he made the suggestion that they get away (v31) and now that their peace and quiet would be interrupted, what would He do? This moment is as much for the disciples as it is for the people who followed Him.

So what did He do? He had compassion on them and began teaching them. He would eventually feed them from the loaves and fishes.

Don’t miss the significance of that. Even when Jesus had been busy teaching and counseling His own disciples, He made time to minister to others who came to Him.

Their needs were similar to ours. And it’s evident that He’ll have time for us when we come to Him.

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The Love of God

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me
The Bible tells me so.

We learned the simple song as kids. We smile as its nostalgia. The years and worries and cares and fears and hurts have changed us. God hasn’t changed.

We sometimes forget that God loves us. We forget that God does what is best for His children. We forget that the God of all Creation is on our side and ready to help at the mention of His name. Yes, we certainly forget about the love of God when we’re in the midst of this thing called life.

Fortunately–fortunately–God doesn’t forget that He loves us.

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De-legislating Fruit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23

A very popular phrase used by people who do not appreciate moral truth is “you can’t legislate morality.” You’ve heard it but what does it mean? The phrase is used against people who have moral problems with issues of the day: abortion, death penalty, abstinence among teens, right to die, sexual promiscuity, etc. While it is not the space or time to debate the merits of that phrase, it is very clear that you can’t write a law that forces people to love someone or be patient with someone or to be gentle. Laws do not produce those character traits. Instead, the Spirit of God must impress those upon us.

Paul grappled with the Law and the Spirit throughout the book of Romans. He admitted that he doesn’t always do what he wanted because his flesh told him he needed to do something else (chapter 7). But the crowning verse in Chapter 7: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The bottom line is this: on our own we are weak and helpless. Sin can easily overpower us. But fortunately we have a solution. More than that, we have a Savior, one who knows what temptation is like (Hebrews 4:15). He knows the struggles that we face. He knows our need because, as incredible as it seems, He was one of us – yet was without sin.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16).

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Out of Control Self-Control

But the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

Groan. Nobody enjoys self-control. We just like to do what we want, when we want. Whether it’s our out-of-control eating, our wayward tongue, our selfish temper, our destructive lusts, our bad habits, our limitless spending, or how we entertain ourselves, we don’t like self-control. And we know it.

But the beautiful thing about God is that if we want He’ll point out things that we should have more control over and give us the strength and the power to accomplish it. “For the grace of God …teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright, and Godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:12). If we want. He won’t force the issue. He may nudge a bit (until you’ve said, “no” many times) but He won’t force it.

So, what is it? What is the one thing (not 5 or 10 or 20 things, but one) that you need more control over? What is it? Not only does God teach us to live self-controlled lives but He gives us the power: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him…” (2 Peter 1:3).

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But the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. Galatians 5:22-23

Being gentle does not come easily for me. I struggle against it. I tend to blurt something out because it needs to be said but often it comes across blunt and uncaring. Even as I write this I’m thinking, “yeah, so what? Why is this even an issue? You lay the subjects out on the table and let the chips fall where they may. It’s not as if you’re lying when you tell people.” True. But my gruffness is often misinterpreted as mean and uncaring.

Case in point. This week I was meeting with a high ranking government official for work. She was speaking but I interrupted her (without realizing it at the time) because I had a point I needed to make. It didn’t take me long to realize what I had done (mainly because I happened to glimpse at the horrified looks on the faces of my co-workers in the room).

Part of it, I suppose, is how we were reared and who we hang around with now. (Ask a close friend some time if you come across as gentle and caring in your speech and actions, and you might be surprised at the answer). But it certainly doesn’t mean we can’t change. In fact, if we are this way, we need to change, for if others view us as mean and uncaring, what does that tell them about who we serve?

Here I go again, it’s not about us, is it?

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