Category Archives: Compassion

Seeking Approval From Ghosts

About a couple of years ago, I read the book, I’m Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers, by Tim Madigan. Mr. Madigan is a journalist who spent time interviewing the famed Mr. Rogers and found a friend in him. I highly recommend this book, if you want to read something that makes you reach for a tissue.

Within the book, through the friendship with Mr. Rogers, Tim was discovered a need for a certain level of approval. Mr. Rogers, being the kind of person he was, saw this and began to end his responses with, “IPOY”…which stands for, I’m proud of you.

Personally Speaking

My father was, by all accounts, a pretty decent guy.  He was pleasant, well liked and seemingly content most of the time.  There were issues, however, that kept him from being part of the household on a consistent basis.  So, from a young age, I remember my father either working long hours, or making a stop at a “local watering hole” before he came home. I don’t think he meant to be distant, but it did end up that way.

By the time I was nearly eleven, he had a massive stroke that left him in nursing care for the remainder of his life.  The man I barely knew had permanent short-term memory loss, so he needed 24 hour care.  He was not the same man, really.  In the long run, I never really got to know him.

Years later, as an adult, I unwittingly began seeking approval from others.  Men in authority, such as pastors or other leaders who would have been some level of paternal figure. It was not really a desperate thing, but it seemed to be a subconscious necessity.  It took me many years into my adulthood before I realized that I was seeking someone’s approval.

However, we are always approved.

Unconditionally, undeniably, unashamedly, unconditionally…with no regret, no reservations and without doubt…God approves of us.  No, not everything we do.

Everything we are.

His beloved children.  This is why Jesus went to anyone, from any walk of life, with any ailment, no matter their station in life, how they lived, smelled or looked…He would treat them with love and respect, placing a loving arm around them, covering what others would bring as exposed shame.

He never said He approved of what someone was doing, but He clearly showed He approved of the person.

He approves of you.

He approves of me.

Showing approval.

We still need approval, here on Earth.  We need to express and show approval.  You know, like when a little kids brings you his brilliant artwork.  Sure, it may look like mud-colored chaos on a piece of warped and water logged paper.  But, as a loving parent, you let them know how great their work is and hang it on the refrigerator for all to see.

One thing I have been trying to be diligent about…letting my two sons and son-in-law know that I am proud of them.  Yes, I let my girls know that, too.  But, I believe the impact of a Dad communicating this to his sons is important.  I don’t want them seeking approval from people who may wind up taking advantage of their efforts.

Once in a while, I will post something on my Facebook page about one or all of my boys, if not all of the kids.  I will explain how they are becoming fine adults, parents and citizens.  I have often closed these with “IPOY”.  When I talk with them, personally, I try to remember to let them know that I am always proud of them.

Story.

This is rather condensed, but I hope my point comes across.

An old friend was explaining to me about some stuff his son would write.  He told me his son has great insights.  However, from a theological standpoint, my friend had disagreements and let his son know what he felt was inaccurate.  Upon explaining this to me, he said that, perhaps, his son was seeking his Dad’s approval.  So, I just said that he should give his son his approval.

Not long later, he was reviewing another of his son’s articles.  He had some normal critique, but some of his critique was about to become rather, well, critical.  Under the advice of his wife, he left out those portions and his son’s response was very positive.  My friend actually sees a turnaround in his relationship with his son.

Dad’s approval for his sons means much. Mom’s approval for her girls means much. Parents approval for our children means much.  Grandparents approval for our grandchildren means much.  We may not agree with everything, we may have to correct or show the correct way.  But, we should always approve of them.

 

Approval comes from love.

Love says my desires are less important than others’ well being.  Love says my knowledge is less important than someone else’s effort.  Love says that my being right is less important than supporting someone going through a tough spot.  Love says that my agenda should be set aside for the betterment of someone else.

The ghost is gone.

There is no end to searching for approval from someone who is not there or who will never show proper approval.  For whatever reason, I finally came to realize that I was searching and how vain that search was.  God always approves of me and He is a proud father of all of us.

I now know He approves of me.  The ghost his gone.

We are His children and that is all there is to it.

If Jesus were to leave you a note, He might sign it…

IPOY

 

 

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Turning the Tables and Kicking Butts

Not a terribly sanctified title, I suppose.  If this is a problem…well…get over it.

In the ancient Jewish culture, the seriousness of sacrifices was like a life or death matter. This was what people did to seek forgiveness or gain or keep God’s approval.  The thing was, there was not a Temple on every corner.  People had to travel to Jerusalem in order to exercise sacrificial rites, often traveling long distances.  Well, this is relative…we have cars, trains and planes, now…they traveled by foot or beast.  Long, dusty travel.

Since they had to travel, carrying animals for sacrifice was inconvenient, if not out of the question. So, it was acceptable to buy animals when they got into town. Some may wonder why Jesus would barge in there and start turning over tables and whipping to drive out sellers.  Here is a recount, from John 2…

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”

Let me repeat…this was an acceptable practice.  So, why would Jesus make such a production?

Price gouging.

Profiting from people’s desperation.

They were charging many times more than the animals would sell for otherwise.  If there were sellers elsewhere in town, prices were competitive.  But, at the temple, last minute, the prices were outrageous.

I have heard this taught with the focus on these guys selling stuff at the Temple, as Jesus exclaimed how it was to be a “house of prayer”, as He was “cleansing” the Temple of these profiteers who were selling on God’s property…that is, stuff should not be sold at all on Temple grounds.  This has also been the reason many churches won’t even have rummage sales to raise funds.

I don’t think this is the whole idea, though.  I believe He was protecting the people from being used by men wanting to make some fast money off of peoples’ desperation.  If we watch what Jesus was doing throughout His time, here, He often stood between the Pharisees (and other Jewish leaders) and the people.  In this case, the people were being taken advantage of in the name of what they would give to the Lord.

It’s not unlike when a lumberyard sells 25 dollar plywood for one hundred dollars, or more, or when fuel prices triple, just before or after a hurricane.

As I see it, we still have this problem.  Maybe you see it, too. People are being ripped of and taken advantage of in their quest to gain approval they don’t need, in the first place.  It comes with words…the convincing, manipulative words of men who, in many cases, profit greatly from the desperation of people.

Again…this is as I see it.  I am sharing my observations.

Tithing

Now, if you tithe, I ask, don’t fire back at me for this.  I am not asking you to agree with me…I am merely sharing what I have learned, in brief.

The popular Malachi passage was not addressed to the masses, but to the priests.  This was speaking about produce, not money and it went into a storehouse for distribution, not the synagogue for support of it or the Temple. Also, the idea of the local church mystically becoming a storehouse is unfounded.

Prosperity Teachings

Another way are the prosperity teachings.  This is a boldly indecent doctrine, raking in mass amounts of money with the lie of a promise that the giver will be “blessed”.  Some congregations have an attendee base made up of many financially struggling people who gladly give with the idea that God will raise them from their humble circumstances. However, the only ones making a fortune are the ones teaching these counterfeit messages.  The message appeals to greed, desperation and peoples’ desire to please God (by tithing/giving).  A few even give their last bit of money for nothing, because they want to find favor with God.

Where the money goes

In the US, seventy percent of the average church budget goes for buildings and salaries. Not feeding people in need, not clothing for the poor, not missions, not housing…that stuff all squeezes out somewhere among the remaining 30 percent.

Meanwhile, pastors are made into professionals and paid executive salaries in many cases, and buildings are made to be inviting and comfortable if not luxurious.  Somehow, this does not add up to what we can read about being witnesses, serving or being a pastor/elder…or even the “Great Commission”.

Manipulating the desperate ones.

It’s not always about money.

The invitation to go to Heaven or the threat of Hell after a long message appealing to peoples’ emotions, is a manipulative tactic to convince people to make an altar call. These altar calls often breed emotional responses and are the least effective way to lead people to the Lord, anyway.  But, those who do this are happy as they watch the droves come down the aisles and proclaim the numbers of those  who “came forward”.

There is also the threat of God’s disapproval over stuff deemed wrong as another manipulative tactic to keep members in line.  I have heard people…pastors from the pulpit, too…say how God can be disappointed in someone.  Wow…where did they get that idea?  What part of the Bible did God ever say, “I am so disappointed in you.”?

It comes down to Law.

If it isn’t bad enough for people to lean on the Law, they make Law out of things that really have no scriptural support, whatsoever.  What makes matters worse, the people who deliver that garbage are famous, sought after teachers, who are educated and have studied the Bible quite thoroughly.  However, one would think that they never studied the ministry and words of Jesus, Himself.

Have we forgotten about Jesus?

It just seems that simple.  Many of us claim, “The Bible plainly says…”, or, “It is clear in scripture…”, yet totally miss the simple and obvious accounts of Jesus’ ministry.  Of all the claims and declarations we can make, we seem to overlook Who we claim to serve.

Let’s get back to Jesus. Who He is. What He said and how He treated people while He was among men.  With that, we will see the old doctrines we have been following and pushing are not all they are cracked up to be.

For that matter, many of these old dogmas are just plain cracked.

Back to the Beginning.

It has always been about Jesus.  From the beginning, through the middle, now and on to Eternity.  Follow Him.  When we do that, we will begin to see how to live, serve and love His people and Him, as He has first loved us.

 

 

 

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Do Not Support PBA

My wife watches our youngest granddaughter 4 days a week.  The little one is 10 months old and enjoys watching Mother Goose Club.

Over. And over. And over, again.

What the heck, she’s adorable and it is all about her, anyway.

What does this have to do with this “PBA” mentioned in the title?

I will tell you with the story of the Three Little Kittens.  Hearing the several renditions of this old nursery rhyme made both me and my wife consider something about the story.

You know these kittens…the ones who lost their mittens.  The story has to do with PBA. What is this “PBA”?  I will get to that.  Now, let’s remind ourselves of the old story.

Basics of Three Little Kittens

It goes like this…they lost their mittens, mother calls them ‘naughty kittens’ and they are notthreekittens allowed any pie.  I am not sure what kind of pie…looked like some kind of fruit, to me. My cats don’t care for fruit. As for mittens – cats have no thumbs. Maybe they were really baby tube socks.

I digress.

Then, the little kittens find their mittens and their very pleased mother gives them pie. Problem here, is, they wore the mittens while eating the pie.  They, thus, soiled said mittens, which rendered them as ‘naughty kittens’, once again.

Can’t threaten them with no pie…too late for that.

This has a big problem, though…Mom served them the pie. Did she not notice the mittens?  Well, whatever.

The little creeps decided they would wash their mittens.  This pleased Mother Dear, once again.  With that, she noted she smelled a rat nearby.  Okay, now kids.  Don’t wear your mittens while mauling that rat.  It will only start all over again.

By this point, you are wondering what this PBA is all about.  Enough with these ignorant kittens.

PBA is Performance Based Approval.  

Often, people are approved or disapproved based on their performance.  Performance Based Approval is a serious issue within the Church.  How we act, what we say, what we do or don’t do, what we wear, how we talk, etc., etc.  There is more about pleasing others than there is in knowing that the Father is pleased with us.

The Father always approves of us.  While I am pretty sure He is not so thrilled when we act contrary to His design or desire for us, He approves of us.

Parents…don’t you approve of your kids?  Sure, they can be loud, disobedient, wall-coloring, sass-mouthed, fight-picking, booger-eating vermin.  But, really…you totally approve of them.  Not the booger part, just them.  How much more does the Father approve of all of us?

In the Church, people are graded.  How much they serve, what they do, how loudly they praise or how often they raise hands during worship.  How we conduct ourselves determines whether we can head up a ministry or even serve in one, or in some churches, where we get to sit.  Sure, there are things that we need to be wise about concerning certain issues.  But, too many are put into some sort of confines of man-made rules.

Look who Jesus chose as His twelve.  Judas was overly concerned about money, Peter was headstrong and had issues with Gentiles, James and John wanted to one-up each other and there was certainly a good share of argumentative questioning and doubt to go around.  Jesus also ministered to countless people who had nothing to do with Him after they were healed, taught or fed.

He approved of every single one.

Really?  Yes, He did.

Maybe we just need to get over ourselves or get off of our high horses.

God’s approval is not based on our performance.  Why do we demand certain performance in order to approve of anyone?

What this breeds, most often, is behavior modification.  People will act and talk in certain ways around their fellow Christians, whom they want to be approved by.  They can’t be themselves, they can’t have a bad day, they can’t have a hole in their jeans which are frowned upon for wearing in the first place.  They have to sing with a certain amount of apparent excitement, talk like life is one big victory, be sure to give tithes and offerings, have near perfect children, perfect hair and never be late to service.

All to win approval.

No.  This is too much pressure for people.

Love and grace have no performance demands for approval.  Say “No!”, to Performance Based Approval.

In this case, I do not support PBA.

 

One Warm Day

She looked out on the street and could feel the heat of the early afternoon sun as it poured through the window.  It was time to go get water.  The other women were back from the well.  She felt comfortable making the trip, in spite of the heat.

She didn’t mind the other women, really.  She didn’t dislike any of them.  It was just the comments since the last divorce.  Most of the comments were meant well…

“Oh, its a shame things went so badly for you, dear.”

“You know, if you had just made better choices…”

Then there were those that cut a little deeper…

“How many more men before you settle down.”

“What man would want a woman like that?”

Enough was enough.  It was better to endure the heat of the day, rather than put up with all the comments, whether direct or indirect.  Sometimes, there were looks, too.  She felt bad enough over her situation without the comments, even if some were meant with good intentions.

waterjarOff she went, jars ready to be filled.  It was about a mile, or so, up to the well her family had drawn from for generations.  As she walked, her mind wandered from one thought to another, as happens with any of us as we walk alone.  She pondered her life, she thought of the good friends she had, she wondered if God really cared for her and even wondered if those old jars would last just one more trip.

When she got to the well, she set down her jars, removed the cover and lowered the pail to dip for her first load of water.  As she raised the pail, she noticed someone walking in her direction.  At first, she didn’t think much of it…probably just another man coming to demand water. But, as the man drew closer, she noticed something different.

He dressed differently.  “Oh, no!  He’s a rabbi!  A Jew!  I have to hurry up and get out of here.  They hate Samaritans.”, she anxiously thought.

She began to hastily lower the pail to get the next scoop of water.  “He’s getting closer.  I’d better hurry.” But, no sooner could she formulate that thought, he was even closer.  He was close enough to talk to her…

“May I have some water, too?”, he asked.

He asked?  She thought. Usually, if a Jew lowers himself enough to say anything to a Samaritan, much less a woman, he snaps an order as if he were talking to a dog.  The fact that this rabbi is even in Samaria is unusual in itself.

With a suspicious tone while folding her arms in a guarded fashion, she answered him. “You are a Jew.  I am Samaritan.  We have nothing to do with each other.  Why are you asking me for a drink?”

He smiled, a warm, friendly smile.  It was the kind of smile a father would have looking at his beloved children.  She had no idea what to think of this guy.

He answered her, “You don’t know what God wants to give you, and you don’t know who is asking you for a drink. If you did, you would ask me for the water that gives life.”

She looked at him with suspicious, squinting eyes.  But, she had a reply.   “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket, and the well is deep. Where are you going to get this life-giving water? Our ancestor Jacob dug this well for us, and his family and animals got water from it. Are you greater than Jacob?”

She had no idea if this man was for real or just another mean-spirited Jewish leader about to give her a hard time.  Was he setting her up for a big put down?  He had more to say.

“Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again.  But no one who drinks the water I give will ever be thirsty again. The water I give is like a flowing fountain that gives eternal life.”

Eternal life?  This intrigued her. She used her sleeve to wipe some sweat from her face as she pondered her next statement.  She brightened up a bit and told Him, ““Sir, please give me a drink of that water! Then I won’t get thirsty and have to come to this well again.”

The man smiled a warm, understanding smile.  He looked at her and gently asked her to go get her husband.

Oh, great.

This was a topic that did not sit well with her.  She hated explaining her situation. She especially hated the derisive remarks and judgmental statements.  So, rather than admit anything, she simply said, “I don’t have a husband.”

She figured she dodged that one.  No giving excuses.  No explaining the previous marriages.  But, this man was special…he seemed to know things.  He told her something a stranger would not know.

“You’re telling the truth. You don’t have a husband. You have already been married five times, and the man you are now living with isn’t your husband.”

Her mind went racing.  How did he know that?   Did someone tell him about me?  But, he seems to know.  Let’s see if he is the real deal.

She stood straight up and spoke confidently.  “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet.  My ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say Jerusalem is the only place to worship.”

She figured he would just give another pat answer about Jerusalem, as she would expect a rabbi to give.  His answer was not what she expected.

“A time is coming, and it is already here! Even now the true worshipers are being led by the Spirit to worship the Father according to the truth. These are the ones the Father is seeking to worship him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth.”

She was impressed, to say the least.  But, a little discouraged at the same time.  Like so many, she desired to see a savior.  She wanted to know the Messiah, because she knew the Messiah would have all the answers.  Then, she told the man, “When Messiah comes, He will let us know all things.”

He looked her directly in the eye and told her something that turned her life upside down.

“I am that one, and I am speaking to you now.”

At first, she couldn’t formulate any words.  She just stared at him for a few moments. Then, her eyes got wide and she began to get excited.

“Wait…what?  You?  Really?  Well, yes!  Yes, I think it is you!  Who else would know know what you know?  It’s you!  It’s really you!  I gotta tell somebody!  I gotta tell everybody! You’re Him!  He’s you!  Stay here…I’ll be back.  Don’t move!  They have to meet you.  They all have to meet you!  Let me grab my water jars…oh, heck…they’ll wait.  I will be right back!”

Off she ran, back to the village to gather as many people as she could.  She told everyone she could, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! Could he be the Messiah?”

Yes, dear woman.  He is.  As a matter of fact, you don’t know this, but He told His disciples that He had to go to Samaria.  Apparently, He had an appointment…with you. He had an appointment with your people, too.  You just saw love in a Person.

Love in a Person.

Jesus.

As His followers, we should show that same love.  The story of the Woman at the Well is one of the prime examples of how to treat a stranger, a sinner and a woman.  Jesus did not go to her with any more agenda than to introduce Himself to her and her people.

 

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Compassion in Action

Luke 13:10-17

10 One Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in a Jewish meeting place, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by an evil spirit for eighteen years. She was completely bent over and could not straighten up. 12 When Jesus saw the woman, he called her over and said, “You are now well.” 13 He placed his hands on her, and right away she stood up straight and praised God.

14 The man in charge of the meeting place was angry because Jesus had healed someone on the Sabbath. So he said to the people, “Each week has six days when we can work. Come and be healed on one of those days, but not on the Sabbath.”

15 The Lord replied, “Are you trying to fool someone? Won’t any one of you untie your ox or donkey and lead it out to drink on a Sabbath? 16 This woman belongs to the family of Abraham, but Satan has kept her bound for eighteen years. Isn’t it right to set her free on the Sabbath?” 17 Jesus’ words made his enemies ashamed. But everyone else in the crowd was happy about the wonderful things he was doing.

This passage is familiar, particularly with the emphasis that Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath.  As I see it, this was the first part of the indictment.  It speaks to the rigidity the leaders held and enforced concerning the Law.

The Law was never meant to override the needs of people.  Jesus made this point clear, when He said, “Won’t any of you untie your ox or donkey and lead it out to drink on a Sabbath?”

It’s like, let’s be real…you are able to take care of your animals on the Sabbath, but a woman gets healed and you have a fit because she was healed on the Sabbath.

Really?

They seemed to forget about all those provisional things for people that were also clearly mentioned in the scriptures.  It was the Pharisees who decided all that extra stuff.  They had over two thousand rules in order to obey the Law and much of it was not based on scripture.

Wow.  Sounds a lot like what we hear from much of the Church, these days.

Right after He basically tells them that they treat livestock better than people, He points out two things.  First, He says, “This woman belongs to the family of Abraham…”.  In other words, “Boys, she is one of your own.”  He was showing them that they can’t even take care of one of their own (much less, anyone else) because of their sense of the Law.

He continued, “…but Satan has kept her bound for eighteen years.  Isn’t it right to set her free on the Sabbath?”

womansetfreeSet. Her. Free.

For eighteen years she suffered this affliction.  It bound her.  She was limited. Uncomfortable. Likely, in some pain, too.  She was not free.  Jesus set her free.

Imagine, being her.  No running.  No leisurely strolls. In pain. Being considered as “less than”, or at least, feeling that way.  For 18 years.

No one really knows what caused her problem.  This is probably the reason she was said to have been “crippled by an evil spirit”.  Was it stress?  Depression?  Hopelessness?  All of those?  It may have been an injury, but my speculation is that her malady was due to an attack on her soul.  The father of lies got to her.

Jesus saw the woman and called her over.  She was just there, bent over and probably uncomfortable.  He was not about to wait for her to ask.  As usual, He had compassion. He saw her in her misery, unable to stand straight.  He calls her over, places His hands on her as He says, “You are now well.”

This had some impact.  The “enemies” were ashamed because…

  • Jesus showed the compassion that they would not
  • Jesus pointed out they had eighteen years to show some compassion
  • He pointed out that they would take better care of their animals on the Sabbath than they did people.

1 John 3:17 (NLT)  If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion–how can God’s love be in that person?

Let’s forget the financial reference here, for a minute.  Let’s consider the point.  If there is something we have or are able to do and we overlook or bypass someone who has a need we can fill, we might lack compassion.

Compassion.  To “suffer with”.  Empathy.  When religious dictates rule over the needs of people, empathy and compassion go right out the window.  This was never God’s intention or plan and Jesus demonstrated compassion.

I don’t know about you, but I would like to move forward with compassion.  If I have the ability to do something and come across someone that has a need, I want to be one of those who extends a hand of compassion and love.

When people reach out a hand…are we willing to reach and pull them up?