What does ice cream have to do with dismemberment?

I love ice cream. A lot. It’s one of my (many) weaknesses. I can turn down cake no problem. Cookies are a bit of a struggle, but I can manage it. But ice cream? My Achilles’ heel. My Kryptonite. Whatever association you want to make, it’s usually my undoing.

Generally, I try not to even think about it, because when I start thinking about ice cream, then I want some. And I happen to know that a small chocolate M&M mix from Braums is only $2.99 and only has about 350 calories in it. And that’s not bad. That’s what I tell myself so that I can rationalize the irrational desire to go get ice cream when I’ve already had my allotment of calories for the day.

Once I start thinking about something I want, I want it more. When I want it, I start telling myself that it’s okay for me to have it, and then I am smart enough to convince myself that I need it or that I deserve it. After all, I’ve been living on celery and walking 2 miles a day for weeks now. Surely I deserve some ice cream.

By the time I get to that point, the battle is pretty much lost. I’m going for ice cream, regardless of whether I actually need it or not. Is that a case of reverse mind over matter? Where your brain convinces you that you need something when you really don’t need it at all? You just want the way it makes you feel when you get it.

three-1024x768Today’s verses are Matthew 5:27-30.

“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

No, eating ice cream isn’t a sin. That was just a silly illustration to show that lust takes many different forms in our lives. There’s lust for power and and wealth and status. Yes, even the desire for some foods could probably be called lustful, although I expect we Americans are one of the only nations in the world that struggles with the idea of the lust for food. In any case, lust doesn’t always have to be about sex. It just usually is. But regardless of what form lust takes in our lives, it never ever satisfies.

You don’t have to be a counselor or a mentor to understand that lust is extremely damaging to relationships. It compromises trust and wrecks lives. That’s why Jesus says it’s better to cut your hand off than to live while it betrays you. Yes, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. You aren’t really supposed to go dismember yourself. But we can grasp the concept.

Lust is selfish. It’s entirely self-focused. It’s all about what I want right now. It’s the exact opposite of love, the character quality it disguises itself as.

You know Jesus faced lust. Probably in all its many forms. If we believe the Bible when it says (Hebrews 4:15) that Jesus experienced all the same temptations in life that we do, we have to understand that he was tempted by lust as well. He just didn’t give into it. But that just means He is more qualified than anyone to tell us how dangerous it is.

Lust is like a fire that will burn us up if we let it. We’re all so good at lying to ourselves about what we need. We can convince ourselves and everyone around us that we have it all under control, but we’re locked in a death spiral that will only end when we hit bottom.

So don’t write lust off as something that won’t bother you or something that you’ll never experience. You can’t live without coming face to face with some kind of lust, so don’t underestimate what it can make you do. You’ll turn against God to scratch that itch. But if you’re prepared mentally and spiritually to face it, with Jesus’ help, you can withstand it. With Jesus’ help, you can do anything.

Hold on to the truth. Don’t give in to the lies. And put your whole faith in Jesus. He’s the Man who faced lust and never gave in, and He’s standing ready to help us get through the day.

Lonely tree at sunrise

Compassion with, not compassion on

Do you ever get tired of people trying to comfort you when they have no idea how you feel? I do. I know they mean well. It’s them being compassionate, right? But what is compassion?

Most of the time people who try to convince me that they understand what I’m feeling just irritate me. Because half the time they have no concept of what it is to live the life I live, to work my job, to deal with the stress I have to manage. I’m sure they can imagine it, but they can’t really understand it.

Lonely tree at sunrise

Lonely tree at sunrise - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Hebrews 4:15.

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.

The High Priest mentioned in this verse is Jesus. A tiny bit of history: the Jewish faith system was set up with a High Priest who would go into the Holiest part of the Temple once a year to make an offering to pay for the sins of the nation. It was a really complicated process, and I’m speeding through this. But it was their Day of Atonement, and the High Priest was the only one who was allowed to intercede between God and His People.

When Jesus died for our sins, He became our High Priest, the intercessor between us and God, so that now when we need to speak to God, we don’t have to go through another man. We can pray in Jesus’ name and have free access to God.

What’s different about Jesus as our High Priest is that He understands our weaknesses. Jesus faced every trial and temptation we face. He went through all of the same issues that we go through. He experienced all the pain and the hurt that we have felt. He did it without sin, of course, but he still went through it. So when Jesus says He can understand our issues, He means it. Because He experienced everything we do. He can understand it.

To me, that is true compassion.

Compassion is one of those virtues that I think people get mixed up a lot. Compassion can really only be shared. We say that you can have compassion on someone. I don’t think that’s right. You can have mercy on someone. But you can have compassion with someone. Compassion and mercy aren’t the same. Mercy is giving someone something they don’t deserve. Compassion is sharing in suffering. If you want to have compassion on someone, you have to experience the same problems that they are experiencing.

Compassion International is a great program, but it’s about mercy. If you want to feel compassion for those little children you are supporting, go live in a third world country with no medicine, no food, no water, and no shelter. Then, when you really understand what it’s like to live the way they do, you can have compassion with them.

Real compassion is difficult. Because it requires us to share in the suffering of others. It requires us to live like Jesus did on a level that most American Christians won’t attempt. Because American Christianity is only about being comfortable.

So, am I saying sell everything and go live in an Indian slum? No. Although, if you feel called to do that, you should. I guess what my heart was really saying to me this morning is that I need to be patient in the midst of my struggles and problems because the things I’m going through today will allow me to have real compassion with someone in the future.

It’s happened more times than I can count, that God has used events and experiences in my life to bless someone else with. And that’s not my doing. That’s Him preparing me for something bigger than I am. My struggle is recognizing it when I’m in the midst of it. But I know of Christians who refuse to go on mission’s trips because they will have to eat food that they don’t like or they will have to live out of a backpack with limited cosmetics. Yes, there are medical reasons for some people to not leave the country. That’s one thing. But if you want to go on a mission’s trip and you expect the culture and the missionaries in the field to cater to your comfort level, you need to check your attitude. It’s the same with home missions. If you want to reach out to the people on the street, you’d better be prepared to live the way they do.

God has called us to live compassionate lives like Jesus did. But are we willing to share in the suffering of others? Are we willing to get down and dirty and uncomfortable to achieve that?