Hearts of Flesh

Empathy

This week, we have explored the ways in which empathy informs and shapes our call as Christians to love one another.  We’ve learned how empathy is sitting with and understanding another’s perspective.  We’ve looked at how empathy allows us to love others in ways that uniquely speak to their circumstances.  We’ve even seen how we have a high priest in Christ who’s empathy has brought us salvation.

 

Today, I would like to end our time together by encouraging each one of us to live our lives more empathetically in light of our readings.  In a society that often seems more and more connected, we can increasingly find ourselves alone.  At its very root, empathy stands against such isolation by opening our own hearts to those around us.

 

This is hard.  This is dangerous.  It’s a path that has even led to the cross.  But when we refuse or close our eyes to the full humanity of those around us, we begin to break the very ties that make us human.  Because out of everything that God has made, only loneliness was not good.

 

To be human – the way that humanity is meant to be – is to be in community, relationship, and connection with all those around us.  Who is our neighbor? Everyone.  Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes.  Who should I love? Even my enemies.

 

The work of God, from the emancipation of the Israelites to the salvation of the resurrection, is a story of an ever widening circle of people that are called to love and care for one another in the glory of God.  That cause has not changed even today.

 

We are called to love and care and expand the boundaries of our own comfort so that the unlovable will be cared for and the lonely will no longer be alone.

 

Empathy is the tool that protects our hearts from becoming stone.

 

As we part ways today, my prayer for each of us is that we are transformed and empowered to carry hearts of flesh that can love beyond human comprehension.

-Graysen Pack

Advertisements

For Others

Tuesday

I Corinthians 10-24

1 Corinthians 10:24 Try to do what is good for others, not just what is good for yourselves.

One of the hardest parts of relationships for me is not trying to just fix things.  It’s a pretty stereotypical “guy” thing, but it’s something that I think everyone deals with at some point or another.


Yesterday, one of the things we said about empathy is that it isn’t about trying to fix things.  Putting a silver lining around something or just trying to get to a solution isn’t empathy at all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg).

So, what’s the problem trying to be solved in this video? The title pretty much gives it away – it’s not about the nail (really!).  See, removing the nail might make her head feel better, but it does nothing to solve the deeper problem – her partner isn’t connecting with her experience.  He’s distant and disconnected from what’s going on in her life.  Together they may be able to address the nail, but that only comes after they’ve built an empathic connection for each other’s situation.

That moment towards the end where he says that her situation must be really hard.  That’s a bit of empathy shining through.  And what happens?  They strengthen their relationship and she feels understood and accepted.

There are some things in life that we can change (like pulling a nail out of our heads), but there are just as many that we have no control over whatsoever.  Empathy gives us a way to find healing and love even when our nails can’t be removed.

Just as Paul urged us yesterday, again he urges the Corinthians (and us) to act in love with empathy; seeking to do what is good for others.  Being able to step forward in empathy to share in another’s burdens allows us to address the deepest concerns of life by showing others that they are not alone.

Today, may you feel the presence of all those who bear your burdens with you, and may you extend that grace to others as well.

 -Graysen Pack
 

Union with Christ

Philippians 3

IMG-0279

The last few days we’ve been talking about unity in the body. Today I want to spend some time discussing unity (or union) with the head of the body. Our connection with Jesus affects every relationship in our lives. If we are to achieve unity in our local church, we must maintain union with our Lord.

 

Union with Christ has two important aspects. The first is knowing him. This does not mean to know who he is or to know some things about him. It is to understand what he went through and why he endured it. It is to realize that without him we are hopeless. It means communicating with him. It means recognizing that our own efforts count as nothing towards our salvation and that only through him can we be saved and that this is a good thing. Paul says that everything he could boast about in himself is garbage compared to the worth of knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8), and in John 17:3 Jesus says that eternal life is to know the only true God and His son. Knowing Christ is essential for salvation and for being united with him.

 

The second aspect of our union with Christ is being like him. Earlier in Philippians, Paul tells readers to have the same mind as Christ (2:5).  Just as Jesus lived to serve the will of God, we should. Just as he was willing to give up his life for others, we should. He lived perfectly and we should strive to do the same. In Galatians 2:20 (ESV) Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Union with Christ is about emptying ourselves of the muck that comes from our sinful nature and replacing it with the holiness that comes from Christ—out with the old, in with the new.

 

“Therefore, if anyone is in [union] Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (1 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)

 

In this life, we will never achieve perfect union with Jesus. We will not fully know him or be totally like him until we can be with him—without the presence of sin. Paul recognized this and writes that despite his shortcoming he would “press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14, NRSV). We, too, should press on towards the goal to have union with Jesus. It won’t be perfect, but it will go a long way in furthering our own spiritual development and the unity of the Church.

– Joel Fletcher

Answer the Call

Mark 3

Mark 3-13

About seven years ago, one of my very closest friends was pregnant. She and her husband already had one daughter who was birthed at home and they had decided that their second child would also be born at home. She asked if I would babysit the older daughter during the delivery. Of course, I said yes.

 

I got a call one morning from my friend and she explained that she was experiencing contractions and that I should be ready to come over in a few hours when the contractions got closer together. Ok, no big deal, I thought. I’ll run a few errands, take care of some other stuff and I’ll simply wait for the call. About four or five hours later, she calls and says, it’s time to come over. Sweet! I was excited!

 

I got to her home and her husband wasn’t there yet, he was still at work. The midwives weren’t there yet, they were stuck in traffic. Oh boy! What had I gotten myself into???

 

I helped her prepare the bed for the delivery and get some other things situated. Thankfully, her husband eventually arrived and the two of them went up the stairs while I stayed downstairs with their little girl. Finally, the midwives busted through the front door and I told them where to go. I decided to take the little girl outside to her playset and within 20 minutes, their second daughter was born.

 

After a bit of time, my friend’s husband, came down stairs and invited me upstairs to introduce me to the newest member of their family.

 

It was only after I had left to go to my own home that I realized what I could have ended up doing if the husband and midwives hadn’t shown up in time. And so, I was so incredibly honored that my friend had asked me to be part of her delivery day. But I never would have been asked to be there in the first place if I hadn’t developed the close relationship with my friend a few years before.

 

In Mark 3, we read about Jesus inviting his closest followers to become His apostles. Simon, James and John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas had all first responded to Jesus’ call of becoming His disciples. They learned from Jesus. They witnessed miracles being performed. They left all that they had to be obedient.

 

Now Jesus was asking for more. He was getting ready to send them out and become fishers of men. A task that wasn’t asked of everyone. This was an important task, one that demanded, not just knowledge and readiness, but a dedication to persist through great trials and tribulations. These men probably had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they said “yes”. But to them, because of the relationship that they had developed with Jesus, the promotion He was offering was the natural thing to agree to.

 

Here’s the thing. Jesus wants our relationship with Him to be so close, so intimate, so natural, that when He asks us to do something, to go somewhere, to minister to some person, that we don’t have a second thought about it. In fact, when we realize His desire for us to do something, it’s an honor and privilege to serve Him in whatever task He’s given us.

 

I was not prepared to deliver a child into this world, but I would have been willing if the need arose. Likewise, I may not know exactly what Jesus is going to ask of me today, tomorrow or the next, but I am willing to do whatever He asks of me. Are you?

 

-Bethany Ligon

 

Social Media Warning: Stripping on a Winter’s Day

Proverbs 25 – Thursday

“Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.”   Proverbs 25:20

Prov 25-20

Any of us could be forgiven if, by looking at our latest social media feed, we were surrounded by people full of joy living their best life today.  It’s easy to see how perfect our friend’s lives appear when viewed one photo, tweet, or snap at a time.  It’s a perfect and tailored vision of what their lives are.

 

It isn’t uncommon for me to find myself not refreshed by spending a few (many) minutes on my latest Instagram feed, but actually more tired, weary, and heavy.  In fact, recent studies have shown that spending more time on social media platforms actually increases the likelihood of depression.  I know that I’m not the first one to say this, but holding our own lives – with all its boring, sad, weird bits – against the lives we see portrayed every day in these feeds is a pretty easy way to see yourself into a sadder state.  

 

The thing is, we have a hard time stopping.  We delete our Facebook, shut down our Twitter, and delete Snapchat from our phone.  But before long, it’s right back again.

 

I want to talk about this, because I think that this verb from Proverbs speaks as deeply to how we treat ourselves as to how we treat others.

 

The more obvious way to read this verse is to see it as a directive to treat others and their pain with the respect it deserves.  If someone’s in pain, don’t try to gloss over it.  If they’re hurting, quit trying to just make them laugh.  Quit telling me to smile.


And I can easily point out a ton of examples of how we see this same message echoed throughout scripture. The best thing that Job’s friends do isn’t to try to tell him how to fix it all, but to sit with him in the ashes and mourn with him.  Paul tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.  God sent Christ to meet us exactly where we are.  

 

The Christian message is one of meeting people in their pain and sharing its load with them.  Just like the song says, lean on me when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend.  I’ll help you carry on… (you’re welcome for getting that stuck in your head).  


But I want to focus on how we can each steal garments away from ourselves and pour vinegar on our own wounds.  Although we can and do find all sorts of crutches in our life, few of them have the alluring power that social media has inspired over the past decade.  Why?  Because unlike many addictions, social media – when misused – can give us the fleeting sensation of being connected with others without any of the benefits of actually engaging in relationship with them.  

 

Because social media also has the ability to be a transformative tool for actual social engagement.  It can help us find a community of friends who will help us bear that load (to help us carry on…get it???).  I don’t want you to mistake this as a tirade against social media usage, but rather as a call to reflect on how we should keep it in its proper orientation.  Where digital connections enhance and strengthen the bonds you’ve built IRL (in real life), it can provide a way to stay connected in meaningful ways like never before.  But if it has become an addiction that keeps us from engaging in the richness of the world around us, then we may find ourselves stripping off our own clothing on a winter’s day.

 

We need to not only treat others emotional trauma with the kind of respect and “sitting-with-ness” it deserves.  But, we need to be attentive to our own emotional needs so that we can feed ourselves with relationships and community that doesn’t just feel engaging, but actually is.  

 

-Graysen Pack

Who is God in Your Life?

Monday

By Rebecca Dauksas

Today North America will be in the direct path of a total solar eclipse, which happens when the Moon completely covers the Sun. In the U.S., the path of the total eclipse will extend from Oregon to South Carolina.  The scriptures are filled with illustrations of the contrast between darkness and light. Proverbs chapter 4 verses 18 & 19 states, “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.”

How blessed we are to have God’s scriptures to train us in righteousness! They light our way by giving us insight and understanding. For instance, Proverbs 17 is filled with advice on how our conduct can help us manage healthy relationships.  Notice that verse one states, “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.” We might say, “We would rather enjoy a dry piece of toast with peace and quiet than a delicious 7-course meal with anger, arguments and conflict.”  This statement made me think about how good it is when we can enjoy being a part of a peaceful household.  It might also help us consider how we treat our family members. Do we try to get along with our family? Do we stir up conflict and start arguments?  Making our relationship with God our first priority can help us see God’s wisdom in every relationship.

prov 17 9

Proverbs 17:9 states, “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” When we apply this verse to existing healthy relationships, we see that if we want to foster love, when we are sometimes offended, we should forgive and move on. Which agrees with what we are told about love in the New Testament book of 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter.  “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”  Of course, there are offenses that have to be brought into the open and dealt with, but in this case imagine that a friend or loved one says something that is unkind.  Our tendency may be to tell others, “You won’t believe what she said to me!”  Instead, we can choose to foster love by not gossiping about those unkind words. We can decide that we will not continue to bring it up when our tempers flare. We can choose to overlook it and let it go.

Notice the relationships mentioned in Chapter 17-parent, child, friend, brother, etc.

The way we relate to others gives us the opportunity to show who God is in our lives.

Scripture: Our Corrective Lens – Proverbs 12

reading-glasses-in-use

Today brings our weeks study of Proverbs 6-12 to a close.  Chapter 12 is a continuation of the antithetical Proverbs and there are some real beauties in here and they range through quite a spectrum of wise and unwise behaviors.

It leads off with a really good set of contrasts: “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.”  It doesn’t get much plainer than this:  A wise person willingly accepts discipline, but if you hate to be corrected by another you are stupid.

ted williams

Everybody makes mistakes.  I’m a big baseball fan.  I’ve always enjoyed playing and watching baseball.  The amazing thing about baseball is that the BEST baseball players fail between 60 and 70% of the time.  That’s right!  The best hitters usually have batting averages around .300, sometimes .350 and very rarely (like Ted Williams was the last one who did it and that was more than 70 years ago) someone will bat .400.  But even if you’re the greatest hitter of all time, you still FAIL to hit the ball 6 out of 10 times.  What is it that sets great hitters apart from the rest of us?  They learn from their mistakes.  They study film of their mistakes.  And they listen to their coaches who help them to correct what would appear to us to be very minor mistakes.  You get to be a great hitter by accepting correction, from learning from your mistakes.  That requires a lot of humility.

The same is true in the rest of our lives.  We all make mistakes.  Often we catch our own mistakes and take steps to correct them.  But sometimes we don’t even see our own mistakes.  Sometimes someone else sees our mistake and offers a word of correction.  A wise person willingly listens to correction and attempts to change their behavior… a foolish person refuses to receive or learn from the correction of others and so they fail to improve their actions.

The whole foundation of the gospel message in the Bible is a openness to correction and a willingness to change.  Jesus himself began his ministry by calling people to “repent, and believe the good news.”  To repent means to change your direction.

As you read through the Bible, God will use His word to bring to your mind and heart his corrective word.  You will see areas where you need to change.  You’ll see a passage like “Diligent hands will rule but laziness ends in forced labor.”  You might read that passage and realize, deep down, that this is an issue in your life.  You might blame other people for some of your problems, you might make excuses for why you do or don’t do certain things, but the fact is, you might actually be lazy.  I’m not saying you are lazy because, well, I don’t even know you.  You might be a diligent, hard working person and that’s great.  But then again, you might be lazy.  Your laziness may cause you to procrastinate and put off doing things that you need to do but don’t enjoy.  Your laziness may be costing you good grades in school, or a promotion at work.  Your laziness may because causing conflict in your marriage as your spouse resents that they have to work harder to make up for your laziness.  Your laziness might be keeping you from going to Church on Sundays or serving in a ministry at your Church where you might be very gifted and very helpful.  I don’t know if you’re lazy or not, but you need to at least take a hard look and ask yourself “does this Proverb apply to me?”  If you’re not sure, ask someone important in your life who really knows you and isn’t afraid to speak truth into your life and ask them “Do you every observe laziness in me?”  And if they say, yes, then you might want to consider that you may be lazy and you might want to become more aware of ways that laziness manifests itself in your daily life.  And you might begin asking God to help you change, understanding that it won’t happen overnight.

all scripture is God-breathed

But know this, no positive change can happen in any area of your life until you are ready to receive correction.  God’s Word, the Bible is powerful.  In one place the Bible refers to itself as a double-edged sword.  It’s able to dig deep inside of you.  It is able to help you change if you allow it to do it’s work in your life.  II Timothy 3:16 says it very well: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (New Living Translation).

Almost exactly a year ago I had surgery to remove cancer from my body.  I let a surgeon cut through my skin and muscle to get to where the cancer was and very carefully cut it out.  Why?  Because I don’t want to die from cancer any sooner than necessary.  As I think about it today,  I gave that surgeon an awesome responsibility.  And to be honest, before the surgery I was afraid.  Who is this man with a knife that I’m entrusting with my body, my life?  I’m glad I did it, because here I am a year later and I’m still alive and I have a whole lot less cancer in my body then I did then and I’ve got a whole lot better chance of living longer now because I trusted him to perform surgery on my life.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of Wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”. (Proverbs 9:10).  I trust my awesome God to use His word to go to work removing all the bad stuff in my life and bringing me to wholeness and salvation.  God does this through his word and through Jesus Christ, who was pierced for our transgressions.  It takes some cutting and some bleeding to bring us life, and to bring us eternal life.  I trust God my awesome God, do you?

~ Jeff Fletcher