Perform ‘Actions’ Of Practical Compassion

Perform Actions Of Practical Compassion

Chapter Four

Perform Actions Of Practical Compassion
The Electric Spark 58 "Spectators Or Participants?" 65
Thanksgiving Attitudes Of My Heart 59 Whatcha Gonna Do? 67
What I Really Want For Christmas 61 Caring Enough To Act! 69
"Who Is My Neighbor?" 63 Discussion Questions 71

Isaiah 41:6-7; Acts 4:36; Acts 11:22-24

The Electric Spark

Captain Arthur Rostron was known as The Electric Spark, by those who served with him. He had the ability to make quick and proper decisions and to transmit his energy to those serving under him. History records that he did not smoke, drink or use profanity. When he prayed, he would tilt his cap, and move his lips in silent prayer. His ship, the Carpathia, was in the area when the Titanic ran into an iceberg. During the crises, the second officer observed Captain Rostron, in prayer. The decision was made! He turned the Carpathia around, and headed into the icy waters, endangering his own ship, as well as himself and his crew. Preparations were made to take as many survivors aboard as possible. He became the spark of encouragement needed during this great tragedy.

According to Doctor Luke, Barnabas was a New Testament ELECTRIC SPARK. If we knew nothing more about this man of God, we would know enough to realize he was to be admired and respected. There are scholars who suggest his name means, Son of Refreshment, or Encouragement. His life resembled the life of Christ, for Christ truly lived in and through him. What would our lives be like without the Barnabases, the Encouragers, the Electric Sparks who help us through the foreboding times?

History is of little value, without lessons learned. Who do we know that needs An Electric Spark of Encouragement? Perhaps a family member, a neighbor, a Sunday School teacher, or pastor. Are there missionaries who need a letter assuring them of our prayers? What about the widow or widower who lives far from family? Maybe a child who attends church without a family member.

Now at this time in my life, I find I am not able to preach and teach as I once did, but the opportunities of encouragement are boundless. A word, telephone call, letter, or just a smile and 'God Bless You' can touch someone's life and make them want to be an Electric Spark too.

"Dear God, lay some souls upon my heart, and help me to encourage them."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will strive to be a Barnabas, an Electric Spark to those I meet today.

– Lowell Weller –

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Genesis 4:1-26

Thanksgiving Attitudes Of My Heart

The announcement was made in church that the Thanksgiving offering would be given to a group of Native Americans that was having some real difficulties. The U.S. government had not officially recognized them as an Indian tribe.

Then the pastor's sermon was about Cain and Abel and the gifts they brought. In Genesis 4, we are told that after Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden, they had two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd. In process of time, Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. Cain brought an offering of what he had; Abel brought the best of what he had. The Lord accepted Abel and his offering. The Lord did not accept Cain and his offering.

Watch Cain's reaction: Cain was more than angry; he was highly incensed and his attitude showed on his face.

Now watch God's reaction: "Why are you wroth? And why is your countenance fallen?" God shows concern, like any parent would with an upset child. "If you do well, shall you not be accepted?" God gives Cain a second chance. "If you do not well, sin lies at the door." God confronts Cain's real problem. "And unto you shall be his desire, and you shall rule over him." God challenges Cain to be victorious, to change his attitude. This is a battle with the devil.

But Cain allowed his rage to roar in harbored resentment. Cain showed no respect for God, his parents, or his brother. Cain killed his brother, Abel. When God asked Cain, "Where is Abel, your brother?" Cain sinned again by lying, "I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?"

The story could have turned out differently if Cain had dealt with his thoughts and attitudes rather than letting them have revenge. The offerings both boys brought to God were Thanksgiving offerings; they were not demanded to bring them. Cain's gift was not accepted because of the attitude of his heart.

As I sat there listening to the sermon, I started considering my own attitudes about giving. How do I feel about the proposed Thanksgiving offering this year? I pondered.

"It's Thanksgiving time and I bring my gift of food out of duty; it's the thing to do.

But I think, can't the government provide for the poor man?

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Am I my brother's keeper? Looking within, I discover there's a bit of Cain in me.

It's Thanksgiving time and I bring my gift of food thankfully, glad I can share.

From the abundance of my cupboard. Reaching out to my poor brother,

I am my brother's keeper. Looking within, I discover there's a bit of Abel in me.

It's Thanksgiving time and I bring my thoughts and attitudes,

Dear Lord, and lay them at your feet.

Cover them with your love; Channel them through the mind of Christ.

You look deep within me, there's a bit of Cain, there's a bit of Abel.

I am my brother's keeper."

"Father, forgive me for thinking only of myself. Help me to examine my thoughts and attitudes whenever I give a gift."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: The attitudes borne of the thoughts rule the actions.

– Laura Drewer –


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Luke 15:1-32; 1 John 1:9

What I Really Want For Christmas

It was the first time in four years that the Blevins family had been together for Thanksgiving. There are ten now with the two in-laws, Mom and Dad, and the six children. Everyone sat around enjoying the pumpkin pie and coffee.

Mother said, "While we are all together, let's go around the table and say what each one would like to have for Christmas."

Each person named a gift he or she would like to receive. Then it was Ned's turn, but he just slouched in his chair with his head down. "Well, Ned, what would you like?" asked Joy.

Quietly Ned said, "What I really want for Christmas is a clear head. I need help. I have to get out of the drug scene." Ned had just recently returned from the Army and had found four other guys to live with. He had gotten caught up in their lifestyle.

His mother looked into his eyes and asked, "Ned, do you believe that God can help you?"

"Yes, I know He can because I know I can't help myself. I thought I just wanted friends but now I know I was wrong to try drugs. I've had a headache for months. I can't think clearly anymore."

"Everyone, come and let's pray together," said father. They all reached out and touched Ned, encircling him with love. Father prayed, asking God to touch his son, forgive his sin, and restore his health. Then Ned prayed, confessing his sin and asking God to cleanse him and restore his fellowship.

Ned's sisters cried and sat on his lap, hugging him. The brothers asked, "How can we help you? What can we do?" Ned said, "I want to move, to get away from where I am living now." So they rose up and went immediately. The waterbed was emptied, clothes and belongings were carried to the cars.

"I've never moved so fast in all my life." smiled the youth. "I didn't really want to return home, but I'm glad I did. I feel safe again."

The next few days were difficult as Ned suffered from withdrawal; he sweat one moment, had chills the next. Fitfully, he slept. His head throbbed and ached. Slowly his body returned to normal, his vision cleared, he could once again think clearly.

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Then he paced the floor; he drank coffee. "I need a job, I'm restless", he said.

He volunteered at The Salvation Army Christmas Center. He interviewed scores of people: the homeless, the hungry, the immigrant. He heard stories of unemployment, abuse, and helplessness. He sent each person away with a cheerful "Merry Christmas, and God bless you." While helping others, Ned found the true gift of Christmas.

"Father, thank you for receiving us just as we are. Thank you for the love and peace you give us when we confess our sins and come home to you."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will help my brother rather than criticizing him.

– Laura Drewer –


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Luke 10:25-37

"Who Is My Neighbor?"

Jesus demonstrated that many people have the following philosophy in life: "What's thine is mine." The world is full of self-centered people who have the basic idea that everything belongs to me, and it's mine for the taking. It's ME first! This is pictured in the response of the robbers who had no regard for the impersonal others they encountered. They simply saw them as persons to be exploited. Christians are continually bombarded with the philosophy that they should go after every ounce of gusto the world offers.

The second attitude that is expressed in this story is this: "What's mine is mine." The interesting fact is that there were very religious persons who observed the half dead man and, no doubt, were somewhat moved in their hearts about the plight of the man. However, they were so disgusted that this kind of thing could happen in our civilized world. They might have even said a little prayer for the man like this: "Lord, please send someone to help this man;" or "Lord, put it on someone's heart to bring him some clothes and medical attention." But, somehow it never quite dawned on them that they were responsible. They had the same attitude that millions still have today: "What's mine is mine."

But what does God say about that attitude and response? God's response is this: "You are not your own; you are bought with a price." We are only stewards of what God has allowed us to have. God said to the rich man: "This night shall thy soul be required of thee, then who shall all these things be?" His problem which cost him his eternal soul was the attitude: "What's mine is mine."

There is also a third response here, and that third response was expressed by a very unlikely individual. The response was simply this: "What's mine is thine." Here was a man who had no heritage, no good name, no good reputation, but his heart was that of a true Christian. His attitude was a responsible attitude that made him take some pretty radical measures. What caused him to be that way? It was simply a basic philosophy that can only be attained through full surrender of ourselves to the purposes of Jesus Christ. We, too, need to come to the point where our philosophy is: "What's mine is thine."

God will likely provide many opportunities even today for us to express our love and care for others with whom we come in contact. If we live out this philosophy of "What's mine is thine," we will reap many benefits and assist many individuals.

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"Dear Lord, make me aware of those around me who need my help. Give me the courage and the grace to give the best I have to assist others even today! Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: When God calls, I intend to be prepared to give the very best that I have to the neediest of our world.

– Edward Rickman –


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Hebrews 12:1-4

"Spectators Or Participants?"

The "spectator syndrome" has had a very negative effect on our world in this century. James Garlowe in recent years stated that the Church has become like a major sporting event where there are only 22 men on the field who desperately need rest and 100,000 people in the stands who desperately need exercise.

Those who watch televised sporting events make up audiences of millions of people. Among those millions are thousands of "arm chair" quarterbacks, goalies, pitchers, and other players, who know better how to play the sport than anyone on the field. In fact, they can get angry and scream at the participants and give all kinds of advice without ever leaving the comfort of their chair. In addition, the game becomes the point of discussion in millions of conversations for days following the event.

But despite all of the emotional and verbal energy expended by millions of people, they are still just spectators.

In our leisure, we and millions of others will sit and watch one to five people make fools of themselves in front of a TV camera and we call it entertainment. While those 1-5 people make millions of dollars, we are simply spectators content to be entertained.

The writer to the Hebrews gives us a rather shocking perspective. As Christians we are not to be spectators – we ARE the participants. Christianity is not a spectator-oriented activity. There are no exceptions!

God's agenda is for every person to be involved in the race of the Christian life.

For many people, to live the truth of this scripture will require some major adjustments in their lives. First of all, we'll need to set some new priorities. The scriptural admonition is that we need to lay aside many, actually "ALL", of the things that hinder us and weight us down so that we can be viable participants.

Secondly, we need to make some proper preparations. Again the scripture instructs that we must "lay aside," or be cleansed from the nature of sin which is the heart condition that leads to the sins of our lives. We can never be viable participants in God's great plan until He makes us clean.

Thirdly, we need the proper participation. The scripture commands that we "run with patience or perseverance the race that is marked out for us." There is no provision for spectators – only participants.

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"Dear Lord, I want my life to count for you. Help me to commit myself to be a committed participant in your Kingdom work today!"

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: To be a spectator requires no discipline, no commitment, no accountability, and no performance. Being a participant in God's plan requires all of these things.

– Edward Rickman –


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James 2:14-26

Whatcha Gonna Do?

Do you ever watch the popular TV show, Cops? Some people enjoy it because it lets them see, in raw form, violent or defective lifestyles radically different than their own. Other people like it because, as a friend said, "I like to see the bad guys get what's coming to them for a change."

How about that theme song? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you? Bad guys, bad guys. Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6).

Jesus had a brother who was not a believer until after the resurrection. Eventually that brother, James, had to answer the whatcha-gonna-do question for himself. He answered wisely, and went on to be an influential leader in the early church. In a letter that was widely circulated in his day he gives very specific directives that can help us answer the same question.

(1) Faith is not only essential, he tells us, but it is also practical. "He who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind;" a person who, trying to walk in two directions at the same time stumbles and falls (1: 6-8). James must have been listening when Jesus taught, "No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other." (Luke 16:13).

Faith is powerful: "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective," James writes, using Elijah's prayers that resulted in a three-and-a-half-year drought, followed by his prayer that led to rain, as examples of the power of prayer (5:16-18).

(2) Deeds are equally essential, James writes, because without them faith is not powerful. "Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" he says (2:17). Actually, doing increases faith. Pointing back to Abraham's faith, James says, "You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did" (2:22).

And, just as belief (faith) is practical, so also is the practice of the faith (deeds). "The man (or woman) who looks intently into the perfect law that

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gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does" (1:25).

"Father God, I confess to you now that I have been short in both faith and doing. My sins of omission are indeed great. Greater still are your love and mercy, for which I offer my simple, inadequate thanks. Your work in my life, and around all of my circumstances has been so mighty, my response so pitifully weak. Your patience with me has been so enduring, while my attention has flown from one trivial thing to another like a restless fly. My faith has been wobbly, my deed skimpy. Guide me into greater faith and more significant service, for your greater glory because you alone are worthy. Amen."

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Jesus had enough faith in me that he was willing to die for me. This being so, I will put my faith in him into action in this day.

– Richard Walters –


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James 2:12-20

Caring Enough To Act!

One day, when I was a freshman in high school, I saw a kid from my class who was walking home from school. His name was Kyle. It looked like he was carrying all of his books. I thought to myself, "Why would anyone bring home all his books on a Friday? He must really be a nerd." I had quite a weekend planned (parties, etc.), so I shrugged my shoulders and went on.

As I was walking, I saw a bunch of kids running toward him. They ran at him, knocking all his books out of his arms and tripping him so he landed in the dirt. His glasses went flying, and I saw them land in the grass about ten feet from him. He looked up and I saw this terrible sadness in his eyes. My heart went out to him. So, I jogged over to him and, as he crawled around looking for his glasses, I saw a tear in his eye. As I handed him his glasses, I said, "Those guys are jerks. They really should get lives." He looked at me and said, "Hey thanks!" There was a big smile on his face. It was one of those smiles that showed real gratitude. I helped him pick up his books. I asked him if he wanted to play football on Saturday with me and my friends. He said yes. We hung out together all weekend and the more I got to know Kyle, the more I liked him. And my friends thought the same of him.

Over the next four years, Kyle and I became best friends. When we were seniors, we began to think about college. Kyle decided on Georgetown, and I was going to Duke. I knew that we would always be friends, that the miles would never be a problem. He was going to be a doctor, and I was going for business on a football scholarship. Kyle was valedictorian of our class. Graduation day, I saw Kyle. He looked great. He was one of those guys that really found himself during high school. He had more dates than I did and all the girls loved him! I could see that he was nervous about his speech. So, I smacked him on the back and said, "Hey, big guy, you'll be great!" He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. "Thanks," he said. As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began. "Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach… but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them. I am going to tell you a story." I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend. He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home. He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile. He then said, "Thankfully, I was saved. My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable." I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us about this weakest moment. I saw his Mom

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and Dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile. Never underestimate the power of your actions. With one small gesture you can change a person's life. For better or for worse!

– Author Unknown –

"Lord, be pleased to love someone through me today. Open my eyes that I may behold the downcast look in someone's countenance today. Loving Heavenly Father, break my heart with the same things that break your heart, and give me both desire and power to bind up some broken heart on life's pilgrimage today! Thank you! Amen." (written by Ron Christian)

AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: It is my desire to be self-forgetful and to befriend some lonely and hurting person today! (written by Ron Christian)


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Discussion Questions

  1. Do you know any fellow Christian whose words and actions demonstrate that he is an 'Encourager' – i.e., a 'spark of encouragement' to many persons around him, during tragedies or crisis or emergencies, similar to Barnabas in the New Testament? (Note Acts 11:22-24) Would you like it to be said of you, by your closest friends, after the time of your death, that you were a 'Son of Consolation' , a 'Rallying Point for Faith', a 'Fountain of Perpetual Encouragement', a 'Constant Edifier', and 'Electric Spark'?

  2. What can you do to be an "Electric Spark of Encouragement" to someone (like a weary pastor, or an unheralded Sunday School teacher, or a discouraged missionary, or an invalid elderly person, or a neglected child, or a confused teenager)?

  3. Tell what is meant by the statement: "There is a bit of Cain and a bit of Abel in the heart and attitude of many Christians." When you are tempted to hold grudges against 'your brother' (as Cain held against Abel), and are tempted indifferently to say 'Am I my brother's keeper', what can you do to 'stem the tide' of jealousy in your heart and to embrace your 'brother' in love and with compassion?

  4. Put a check beside the statement which best describes your own personal reaction (response) to a friend or a relative who has 'hit the bottom' morally or socially or spiritually:

    1. ___ A sense of pity.
    2. ___ A sense of repulsion.
    3. ___ A sense of anger.
    4. ___ A sense of alarm.
    5. ___ A sense of contempt.
    6. ___ A sense of 'secret satisfaction'.
    7. ___ A sense of sorrow.
    8. ___ A sense of compassion.
    9. ___ A sense of love.
    10. ___ A sense of hope.
  5. How did Jesus treat persons whose lives were 'broken', whose moral condition was despicable? (Note Matthew 9:10-13; Luke 7:36-50; Luke 15:10-32)

  6. Share a time (occasion) in your life when (as in the case of the "Good Samaritan" – Luke 10) God provided opportunities for you to express your love and practical compassion and care to a 'hurting wayside traveler' on life's pathway.

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  7. Identify each of the 'characters' in the story of the "Good Samaritan" (Luke 10:25-37) in terms of the three following philosophies:

    (a) "What's thine is mine."

    (b) "What's mine is mine."

    (c) "What's mine is thine."

  8. At times in your "Christian life" do you find it easier to 'sympathize' with the suffering ones around you (even to the point of 'praying' for them), than to actually DO something concretely and practically and materially and visibly for them?

    According to the Scriptures, what should be the Christian's response to the needs and hurts of people around him? (Note 1 John 3:16-18; James 2:15-18) As a Christian who seeks to live obediently, what have you done to 'translate' your 'good intentions' into 'good actions', regarding Christ's call upon your life to 'feed the hungry' and to 'clothe the naked' and to 'heal the sick' and to 'visit the imprisoned'? (See Matthew 25:31-40)

  9. Do you think it is 'fair' (rational and accurate) to compare the church to a 'major sporting event' where there are only 22 men on the football field who desperately need rest and 22,000 people in the stands who desperately need exercise? Do you think that most inactive .and uninvolved Christians who are members of local churches honestly wish they could become active participants (workers) in the local church, but that they feel 'inadequate' or 'unworthy' or 'unwanted' and 'not needed'? What can you do, as an active participant in your local church, to encourage some of the uninvolved 'spectator-type' Christians in your local church to become participants?

  10. According to Hebrews 12:1-4, what must an uninvolved 'spectator-type Christian' do to become a participant in the 'race of life'?

  11. As a participant (runner) in the' Christian Race', share how you have personally 'come to terms' with the following: (a) Discipline, (b) Commitment, (c) Accountability, (d) Performance.

  12. In light of the fact that the entire human race comes 'short of the glory of God' because of sin and rebellion, what can a person do (according to the teachings of the Book of James) to find peace with God, and how is the authenticity of one's peaceful relationship with God demonstrated and attested?

  13. Are you willing to be 'used by God' to rescue a fellow human being from possible (and even certain) moral and spiritual catastrophe and ruin?

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