Empty of Empathy

It seemed he would never stop talking so I stopped listening. My mind drifted off to my own set of problems and concerns. His story, just like the two dozen I had heard before him seemed a distraction. I had to remind myself. It was his story that I was supposed to listen to and give all of my attention. Ultimaely, the ministry of medicine is only a ministry if you actually minister, or serve. That requires listening.

However, right now, I am engulfed with my own personal challenges. How could I help my wife overcome her illness? How long was she going to be in the hospital? Did I actually make her sick? These were all good questions. But these questions are completely inappropriate when there is a sick person in front of me. I need to exhibit empathy and compassion to this man, right here and right now. I feel empty of empathy. I feel overwhelmed with my own concerns.

It is in such a time that the Holy Spirit comes and gives me the second breath. He fills me with the energy of His compassion, His competence. It is His empathy that gets me out of the slump and enables me to provide what each individual I am called to minister to, the service they should have. The Holy Spirit asks me, ‘dear son, do you want your wife’s doctor to be distracted as you are right now? Do you want her doctor to be more concerned about their own problems when they are speaking to her? Should they be like you, empty of empathy?’

The Holy Spirit always makes it personal. Whenever I am empty of empathy, I must remember, only He is able. I am the vessel which must be filled with His presence to minister health and healing. I must keep my mind centered on serving Him and that means focused on making sure the person in front of me is given the best care I can provide.

God gets glory through me, if I will learn to lean on Him as I provide for others. His love never ceases. He is never empty of empathy.

For it is God who works within you to will and to act on behalf of His good purpose Philipians 2:13

Adore Not Implore

It was a bad dream. It reflected my selfishness. In this dream, I intentionally arrived late. I didn’t want to get caught up in the crowd of angels, and wise men who had come to worship and adore. I wanted a private audience with this baby. I had a list of things to present this new-born child. My list was important to me. It had all the things I wanted this baby to do for me.

In this dream, they all seemed to ignore me. Joseph huddled around and protected his new family, as Mary nursed the baby Jesus. There was no place for me to sit. There was only straw, huge stones and dirt. The angels were still rejoicing, the shepherds still adoring, and the wise men were still worshiping. They all had gifts. I had a list.

The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh emphasized the infinite royalty of this child king. The shepherds brought their humble praise. I brought a list. I did not come to adore this child king. I had come to implore Him.

Do this for me Jesus. Do that for me Jesus. Help me with this and help me with that. My bills, the roof on my house, the car repair are the things on my list. I need you to help heal my cousin and my spouse and even, my dog. I came to implore you Jesus, not to adore you. I need you to do for me what is important to me.

Such is the dream of a self-centered, not Christ centered soul. God has revealed Himself in His Christ. The more I fail to adore, the more lists I will present to Jesus the things I want Him to do for me, instead of surrendering my life to Him.

The more I worship, bow down and praise and worship, the greater joy and peace I have. The angels, shepherds and wise men knew it. They came to adore, not to implore.

Touch Screen Be Healed

Does it hurt here?

No doctor, it is over here a little more to the right side.

Okay, can you pull your shirt up and let me see that spot? No, I still can’t see it. Adjust your camera a bit, or have someone hold it for you. Okay, that is better. I see it now. Now hold your phone close to the place of pain so I can know what medicine to prescribe for you.

So here we are. I feel a lot like the TV preachers and healers who advocate healing by touching the screen. Telemedicine is both a boom and a bomb. It is, unfortunately the way of the future. The downside is the doctors who are being educated today will be less inclined to get their hands dirty. In an effort to be safe, we will maintain a distance from the sick. The medical professionals of the previous centuries sat with, touched and became exposed to very diseases of the people they served. They cared for them on a personal, close-up basis.

Touch the screen to get healed. I prefer not to get my hands dirty. And after all, you are too dirty to touch.

Jesus had a ministry to the whores and lepers. He never distanced himself from the unclean, unsavory and unsightly. Paul Brand writes

“I have sometimes wondered why Jesus so frequently touched the people he healed, many of whom must have been unattractive, obviously diseased, unsanitary, smelly. With his power, he easily could have waved a magic wand. In fact, a wand would have reached more people than a touch. He could have divided the crowd into affinity groups and organized his miracles–paralyzed people over there, feverish people here, people with leprosy there–raising his hands to heal each group efficiently, en masse. But he chose not to. Jesus’ mission was not chiefly a crusade against disease (if so, why did he leave so many unhealed in the world and tell followers to hush up details of healings?), but rather a ministry to individual people, some of whom happened to have a disease. He wanted those people, one by one, to feel his love and warmth and his full identification with them. Jesus knew he could not readily demonstrate love to a crowd, for love usually involves touching.”

In an age of social distancing, and wearing masks, of course we must be cautious. But we must also be aware that we are making it clear to the people we serve that we don’t want to know their stories, feel their pain and frustrations. That unfortunately, is the future.

Isaiah 53:4 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. Like one from whom men hide their faces, He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. 4Surely He took on our infirmities and carried our sorrows; yet we considered Him stricken by God, struck down and afflicted.

He Favors Dust

He stoops way down to touch
Each and everyone of us
Despite my evil thoughts and deeds
My Father favors dust

His loving tender mercies
Covers my greed and lust
One things describes His kindness
My Father favors dust

As I count my own self worth
Possessions I consider must
I value my belongings
My Father favors dust

When you see another person
Remember he’s the same as us
Our God delights in him
My Father favors dust

There is none who’s more deserving
There is no ‘upper-crust’
Dirt is dirt, none better, none worse
My Father favors dust

Psalms 103:14 For He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
Psalms 104:29 You take away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.
Ecclesiastes 3:20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

Leaders Are Not Rulers

The first rule of leadership is do not attempt to rule. Leaders are not rulers. Leaders are leaders. The world needs leaders, not rulers. Rulers are despots, tyrants, dictators, and czars. Leaders are servants.

Jesus is a leader, not a ruler. He leads through love. He leads by showing mercy. He leads in forgiveness and humility. He leads through personal sacrifice of suffering being wronged without seeking revenge. Jesus leads in serving not in being served.

All of the earthly rulers, kings, monarchs and warlords, lead by forcing their subjects to submit. Jesus invites us to be led by Him. He does not force us by fear. He invites us in love.

It is not showing examples of your power that draws people. It is the power of your example. Show people you can lead. They do not need rulers. They need leaders.

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

Broken Backs or Bent Knees

Broken Backs or Bent Knees
Work Smarter, Not Harder

The alarm clock rang. I hit the snooze button. It rang again. I just turned it off. I awakened 45 minutes later. I realized, I was going to be late for the church meeting and for the work at the clinic. And then, I heard Him speak to me, softly and clearly. Michael, kneel first to pray, then stand to work. I ignored this. Instead, I jumped out of bed. I was running late for work and I had what seemed a million other things to do. I had no time for kneeling and thanking God for the gift of life that morning. I had to get going. I dressed in a hurry.

I took a quick shower, donned my usual scrub shirt and pants and.., oh my! The pain was sudden, excruciating, and worse of all, completely unexpected. I leaned over to pick up my shoes from the floor and almost fell on my face as a lightning bolt shot through my lower back into my right buttock and thigh.

Then I remembered. What God wants is not a hard worker. What God wants is a faithful servant. The faithfulness is not in how hard I work, how much back breaking labor I do. The faithfulness is manifest in how I kneel to pray, to worship, give thanks and listen.

God does not want me to bear the burden. He has already done this. He wants me to accept the fact that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

At the name of Jesus, every knee must bow, not every back must break. God will not place a back breaking burden on me. I am the laborer, but the burden is of God. Whenever I take the burden, I am not in keeping with His command.

The scripture reminds me again and again what is required. It is not about working hard. It is about working smart. It is about letting God carry the burden and do the sacrifice and commit to Him the worship and praise that is due His name.

Micah 6:7-8 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Philippians 2:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

Matthew 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Michael, don’t break your back trying to serve Me. I am not impressed with how hard you work. Bend your knee in praise and worship. My burden is light.

Not a Curse Not a Comfort

My enemies ignore me
My friends don’t seem to care
Neither notices my presence
It is as though I am not there

Neither notices my existence
They take no time to mention
I provide my friends no ease
For my enemies, no tension

In an effort to be neutral
To avoid taking a side
I prefer not to offend
I choose not to decide

I won’t make a selection
I might make the wrong choice
I just keep still and silent
Let no one hear my voice

I am neither curse or comfort
I am neither foe or friend
No one fears my presence
To both sides, I pretend

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Revelation 3:16 KJV

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
Romans 1:16 KJV

Band Aid on His Cancer

I put a band aid on his cancers
I fed his hunger with a pill
I ignored the circumstances
That had really made him ill

I looked deep in my black bag
Stethoscope and BP Cuff
I assured him that in one week
My quick fix would be enough

I then took pictures of my doings
All good deeds must be recorded
When he asked: ‘ how much my camera?’
I said; ‘you can’t afford it!’

Then I bundled my belongings
Left behind unwanted clothing
Back to my air conditioned flight home
Full of self, full of loathing

Loathing the sights I again witnessed
Knowing his pill wore off that night
His cancer grows, his hunger increases
I am safe, away in flight

Do you too put band aids on the cancers?
Do you write the checks then sigh?
How on earth it got so bad?
Well, you are part the reason why.

For if you and I avoid the tumors
The wretched, filthy, destitute
We are both part of the blame
This truth we can’t refute

Give, go, or send is the commandment
That our God has long declared
Stop the quick and easy fixes
Don’t pretend I really cared

Stop the pills and, stop the potions
Short term, simple, cute, quaint answers
Lord when did I see you?
He answered; you put a band aid on My cancers

Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Isaiah 58:6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?

Isaiah 58:7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to yor house? when you see the naked, that thou cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh?

Isaiah 58:10 And if you draw out your soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall your light rise in obscurity, and your darkness be as the noonday:

Don’t Let Them Rot

She was only a child
Just 8 years of age
He abused her young body
We expressed our outrage

They take multiple lives
Brag about what they do
No remorse, no regret
They should go to hell too

We demand justice at once
No parole, no appeal
Let them all rot in hell
That’s just how we feel

But the gospel I read
Is both justice and grace
Mercy and forgiveness
Intertwine, interlace

If it is only the good
The deserving the nice
The gospel is worthless
Not worth the Lord’s Christ

He died for the evil
Those we hold in contempt
The raped and the rapist
Those who would not repent

I must pray for them
God’s salvation is free
Bring them to Yourself Father
Just as You did me

Romans 5:6-7 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

1 Corinthians 6:11 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Lying Down With Fleas

Oh you mustn’t lie down with the fleas
It is sure you will soon be scratching
No matter how clean you might be
These parasites you can’t avoid catching

At all costs avoid sleeping in gutters
No matter how convenient it seems
You will smell and look like those others
They are not really on the same team

Character means more than just winning
True victory recognizes the cost
You hold the high ground and you’re grinning
But it’s your integrity that you have lost

Can’t hold your head high and proclaim
That to get to the top you did wrong
If you betray Christ’s Jesus name
Your supposed victory won’t be for long

The winds blow strongest at the peak
So before you make the steep climb
Remember your fall will be swift
A dangerous and precipitous decline

1 Corinthians 10:12 Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

1 Corinthians 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.