The compassion of Jesus

The Bible tells us in numerous places that Jesus was full of compassion. Psalm 103:8 tells us that “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love”.

As I dwelt on this compassion I came to realise that compassion needs to have action attached to it. It can’t just be a noun or describing word, it needs to be a verb or a doing word.

As I looked through Scripture I found four ways in which Jesus showed compassion to those He came in contact with. Here they are…

1. He became people’s teacher – Mark 6:35 says, “When Jesus got out of the boat, he saw the large crowd that was like sheep without a shepherd. He felt sorry for the people and started teaching them many things”.

2. He fed people – In Mark 8:2 Jesus said, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been with me for three days, and they don’t have anything to eat.” He then multiplied the fishes and the loaves.

3. He raised people to life – In Luke 7:13-15 we see that Jesus had compassion on a widow who had just lost her only son. He walked up to the young man, raised Him to life and gave him back to his mother.

4. He healed the sick – Matthew 14:14 says, “When Jesus got out of the boat, he saw the large crowd. He felt sorry for them and healed everyone who was sick”.

Jesus had compassion in all of these examples. His compassion was not just in thought, but in deed. He was moved to action.

It is my hope and prayer that I will not only have Jesus’ compassion in my life, but it will be a compassion that moves me to action. How about you?

Practical tips for lay preachers

Years ago when I first started preaching as a Lay Preacher it used to be like a big build up to a huge performance or sporting event. Usually it was every three months or so.

I would get the date, start to pray about it, look at some Scriptures, pray some more, prayerfully chose a topic, change my mind, pray some more, get stressed out, pray some more, decide on a message, then change it three days before!

All the while I would not feel worthy to preach God’s Word or feel qualified to do it! I really carried a lot of stress and when it was over I felt drained. Sometimes I even became depressed depending on the feedback.

When I did Bible college I found that a lot of other Lay Preachers did the same thing I did. There was a fairly common process and not many people felt worthy to preach God’s Word. Even some of the lecturers felt that way!

Through the lessons I learnt at college and experience over the years I have developed a few things I try to do which have helped. Here are a few…

1. I seek God

I pray for the first few weeks. This gives me a chance to seek God and ask what He wants me to bring. I don’t do any preparation in this time. I wait for God to speak or lead me in a certain direction. After all it is God\’s church and God\’s pulpit, so I make sure I prayerfully seek God and His message.

2. I start to write down some thoughts

Once I start to get some ideas from I jot them down on a piece of paper. It might be a topic or an idea. If it is a passage of Scripture, I print it out in big font and start. In this part of the process I ask questions of the text, write any background information that is helpful and see if there are any natural breaks in the text that can have headings attached to them. I find this part of the process really interesting as I often learn a lot during it.

3. I commit to the text and don\’t change it

Once things start to take shape I make a definite decision that this is the text I am going to speak on. I then commit the message and points to God and ask Him to use me to speak to people through me. By this point there is no chance of changing the passage of Scripture or topic. I have found this has taken a lot of the stress out of being a lay preacher. To be honest it really helped when I was a Pastor too.

4. I pray for myself

Next I pray for myself. Preaching as a Lay Preacher every few months can be pretty stressful at times. You want to use God’s Word correctly and do your best. You also want to be a blessing to others. So I pray God would help me to prepare and keep my emotions in check – before, during and afterwards. I also pray for protection as preaching is a spiritual exercise and I need protection and covering from God.

5. I practice the message.

Once my message is complete I give it a run through to see how it flows. I do this at a pulpit and imagine that I am preaching to a group of people. After this run through you might make some minor adjustments. This is to make it flow more smoothly if I noticed something. I also like to know how long it will take. I have found that I preach at about 100 words per minute. So 2000 words for me is about 20 minutes. One Pastor I know records his practice version and listens back to it in his car on the way to church. This helps it to be fresh in his mind.

6. I walk away and leave it

I put it down and leave it. Once the minor adjustments are done I put it down and leave it as it is. I just wait for the day to preach it. I am someone who usually prepares early. So I may have it ready a couple of weeks before and just leave it as is. I may re-read it the day before and practice it again.

7. I accept there will be feedback.

Everyone wants positive feedback, but sometimes you push people’s buttons and they might say things that actually hurt or throw you. And of course not everyone holds the same position on Theology. I ask God to shield me from the wrong negative feedback and filter what it correct. I ask for any incorrect feedback to be like water off a ducks back.

8. Finally I reward myself.

If I have preached in church or at another event I have done a very good thing. Regardless of how I think I have done, I thank God for the opportunity and I do something nice for myself. It might be a long slow walk through the bush trails near my house with an iced coffee or having a nice afternoon nap afterwards. I find this is a good part of closing the loop on each message.

Conclusion

Being a Lay Preacher is a great thing to do, it really is a privilege. But is also has a up and down cycle to it for many people. I hope some of these things may help you if you are new to preaching as a Lay Preacher.

Jesus is the narrow gate

In Matthew 7:13-14 the Bible says, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it”.

This verse is referring to how a person gets into God’s Kingdom. In this passage Jesus is referring to Himself as the Gate or the way we find salvation.

As I reflect on this narrow gate I am reminded of sheep coming in to be shorn by the shearers. They come from a large paddock and then the fencing gradually narrows until there is only room for one sheep at a time to pass through. It passes through with not much room on either side.

For us when we enter God’s Kingdom through the narrow gate, there is not much room on either side for us either. We can’t bring our achievements to impress God, we can’t bring our wealth or riches to buy our way in, we can’t bring our pride.

When we come to this narrow gate, that many don’t find because of the things above, we simply come humbly seeking to enter God’s Kingdom. We come in faith and hope and looking to Jesus as the Gate. We come not knowing all the answers, but we come seeking Jesus.

Jesus tells us in the Bible that He is the way to the Father, the truth and the life (John 14:6) and that He is the only way we can find salvation and rest for our weary souls (Acts 4:12, Matthew 11:28). Will you come to Jesus today? Will you enter through the narrow gate of Jesus?

I would encourage you to visit my “Peace with God” page now to enter into God’s Kingdom. Enter through the narrow gate that is Jesus and begin a whole new journey of faith and life today. You can do this here.