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“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?” Philippians 2:1

Slide1I was at a meat market one time and watched as one of the butchers in the back was pounding away on a piece of meat. He wasn’t just touching it. He had a huge mallet and was obviously putting every ounce of energy into every swing. Once he finished, the piece of beef looked battered and beaten. “That,” he said looking up and catching my watchful eye, “Will be one tender steak.”

Later, as I sat down to dinner, I realized he was right. It was, perhaps, the most tender and tasty piece of steak I’d ever eaten.

Later, I sat down to read from the book of Philippians. This book has always amazed me because the Apostle Paul wrote it in perhaps the most difficult circumstances one could imagine. Philippians 2:1 jumped off the page as I read it. “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?”

What caught my eye was the question, “Are your hearts tender and compassionate.” In order to enjoy the steak I’d just eaten it needed to be beaten and bruised. I wondered, “Is the heart the same? Is the best way to get a tender heart is for it to be battered and bruised beyond recognition? Is that the best way for us to become truly palatable to those around us?

Further reflection tells me yes. When we are faced with trials and struggles, whether they are the result of our own stupid actions of the vengeful actions of others we have two options. When we come under attack we can either become bitter or tender.

When we come into a relationship with Christ, we must first come to grips with our own failure and the realization that our own strength offers no hope. That’s brokenness. When we come to this realization we can have a better grasp of the pain others are going through. Our own brokenness leads to tenderness.

We can not effectively comfort others until we ourselves have been comforted by the healing salve of Jesus love. Until we lose hope we can not be encouraged by the hope he offers. Until we realize our utter dependence on one another we can not sense the power of the Holy Spirit and its bond in our lives.

A broken heart is a tender heart. A tender heart is one that is attractive to others just as a tough cut of meat becomes a delicious meal. Jesus allows us to be broken because He knows we will never be tasteful until that happens.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, help us to become tender and not bitter as a result of the trials we go through on a daily basis by strengthening us through your Holy Spirit. Amen.

You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your care you watched over my life. Job 10:12

Ever said to yourself, “I wish God would just send me an email or text message and tell me what to do!”?

Some of our texts would go something like this: “So, how can I tell my mom and dad I’m [pregnant; gay; dropping out of school]” or “Where should I apply for a job?” or “What is going to happen with this relationship? Should I pursue it, or leave it alone?” or “I’m going to the doctor in an hour, can you heal me before I go? If not, what’s the report going to say about my cancer?” or “The bank just called, God. The house is being foreclosed on. Can you tell me what to do next?”

The list goes on and on of the questions that come across our minds. Questions about how we should act/react, searching for guidance, advice, direction, and information on how to trust God more, or make him more a part of your life. The God we believe in is not only loving, gracious and merciful, he’s mysterious. Sometimes our pursuit of him and of the best way to travel this journey we call life seems to find one detour and/or dead end after another.

Look at the life of Job. A man steeped in wisdom and understanding. A worshipper of the true God. A man of great wealth and generosity to the community and his family. Yet in spite of all the good things he had going for him, financial, physical and relational attack landed him in a pile of ashes and scraping open sores with a broken bowl. Even Job’s so-called friends could offer no comfort or no answers.

Yet in the midst of his agony Job gives this stirring testimony of God’s presence and love in his life. He says [my paraphrase] “I wish you’d talk to me and tell me why all this stuff is happening to me. I’ve lost my kids, I’ve lost my wealth, my wife has lost faith in you and me, and these great friends of mine keep telling me to suck it up because if I hadn’t sinned this wouldn’t be happening. I know better God. I’ve seen in my walk with you that you are a great and compassionate God who has watched over me all my life.”

That’s real faith! Faith says that even though God seems a million miles away from me and my situation, I know I can trust Him to see me through. You see, no one who has ever sought grace and forgiveness has ever been denied. No one who has called out to Jesus in true repentance and faith has been ignored.

Remember Lazarus who lay on his death bed, looking down the street for his friend Jesus to come. He knew healing was in reach but it never came…until after he died. Think of the woman caught in adultery. Guilty? Yes. Ready to be stoned? You bet. But one by one her accusers left because of Jesus. Think of the thief on the cross. Moments from death and eternity in hell, yet in his last gasp he calls on Jesus and is ushered into eternal life with the Messiah.

Need a message from God? Look to his son Jesus for compassion and strength. Remind yourself of the great promises he gave you in his love letter we call the Bible. In your deepest need don’t forget that he is with you and waits to deliver you from whatever is keeping you from seeing his face.

PRAYER: Father God. Even though I believe in you and your Son Jesus, I confess that I often wonder where you are in the struggles of my life. Forgive me for the doubt. Remind me of the great promises you’ve given. Empower me to live in the grace only you can give. In Jesus name, Amen.

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February 2023
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