Archive for March, 2010

The Shepherd’s Care – Connecting with Compassion

Let me write briefly on an activity I want to call, The Shepherd’s Care. This is an incredible gift that some folks have and it astounds me, speaking naturally, when I see it in others. There’s no greater example of witnessing a Shepherd’s Care at work than observing it in the Lord Jesus and how He was able to connect with people; that Great and Good Shepherd of the sheep.

Matthew 9: 35-36 NIV

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

This is an incredibly moving passage. Looking on the multitudes, the Savior was moved in compassion for the needy about Him; even at such close proximity He saw the whole picture! The NIV translates the crowds as harassed and helpless! While in the midst of the day-to-day rigors of His ministry, He was aware of the needs about Him.

Most everyone who reads this passage in Matthew 9 is deeply affect—who wouldn’t be? That’s the reason we find these verses in the scriptures. As much as I’d like to believe everyone is capable of such insights continually, realistically it’s not the case! At times we need to be prodded and nudged by the Lord in the direction of the sheep.

Just as amazing to me are the men and women who have this special gift of seeing the needs of others and possess a natural capacity to extend themselves. God gives them keen insights of compassion and they connect with the needy as the Lord saw them. They are men and women who have a Spiritual Gift of a Shepherd’s Care and see these things naturally with little to no external encouragement from others or the Bible.

Paul seems to indicate this same gifted calling in someone involved with him in his ministry. Paul writes to the Philippians of Timothy…

Philippians 2:19-20 KJV

19 …I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. 20 For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.

That’s not an insult to the rest of Paul’s fellow workers; it’s just an acknowledgement of the Spiritual Gift of a Shepherd’s Care that Timothy possessed. I’m suggesting this natural care linked with the ability of Connecting with Compassion to people is the same gift that the Lord displayed! It is no wonder we discover in reading historic references that Timothy eventual becomes an elder of the church at Ephesus. Connecting with Compassion as the Lord did is a Spiritual Gift!

J. Robert Hanson


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In the book of 1 Kings Elijah humiliates the prophets of Baal. In typical Elijah the prophet fanfare he challenges them on Mt Carmel to prove their strength and worth in an episode of igniting the altar with fire. The shortcomings of Baal are staggering and all Israel is reminded who the Lord God really is, everyone except Ahab the king’s wife, Jezebel. She is not too thrilled by Elijah’s performance. In fact, she forces him into hiding out of her anger. Elijah had just proven on Mt Carmel her whole system of religion was phony and to add extra emphasis he killed all the prophets of her god, Baal. She swore she would end his life with the warning “I will hunt you down”.

To make a long story short, Elijah runs, he ends up at Mt. Horeb believing he was the last remaining faithful prophet in the whole wide world. He is convinced all humanity as he knows it was lost. As far as Elijah was concerned, he had finished his ministry and he was ready to die! That’s when the Lord meets him in a gentle whisper and tells him these words of prediction.

NIV 1 Kings 19:15 The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.”

Just when he thought he could retire, Elijah is recommissioned and given new purpose in life. This time his ministry is not so much recall and defeating the prophets of Baal, as his new emphasis is to hold in judgment the dynasty of Ahab for their continued immorality and obstinacies. Ahab taught Israel to sin by worshipping Baal. With this god shown defeated at Carmel, the ministry of recall becomes the ministry of reckoning. God sets in motion, starting with Elijah, the eventual destruction of all the wickedness of Ahab and his progenies. Hazael, Jehu and Elisha will become the 3 key tools God uses to accomplish the end of a wicked dynasty. Elijah is the tip of the spear. So, when the prophet is ready to “hang-up” his prophetic shoes, God says, not so fast, you’ve still got a few good years left in you – go teach and train Elisha to take your place!

What is of note is that we never read of Elijah returning to the Desert of Damascus to anoint Hazael, or meet Jehu to anoint him for that matter. Most likely, at this time, these two were still young men growing up. These tasks of anointing are going to be fulfilled by Elisha. He will take the mantle of Elijah and finish this ministry. In fact, this is what Elisha’s ministry was geared toward, finishing up the judgment pronounced by God upon the house of Ahab. It is Elijah’s new ministry to set these events in motion. The first project—train a replacement in Elisha.

For the servant of God, ministry is never over until God calls us home. Focuses may change, purpose may transform, but God is ever aware that his instrument at any age and occasion can be used for His glory!

J. Robert Hanson

If you would like to read more of this subject and the work of Elisha see the 2 Kings 8 link.


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Man Plans – God Triumphs!

NIV Isaiah 7:2-7 — 2 Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. 3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah…meet Ahaz…4 Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because…[they] have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves…” 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “‘It will not take place, it will not happen…’”

This is God’s message through Isaiah to Judah’s wicked king Ahaz. He is about to experience the combined efforts of destruction from Syria and Samaria. A monarch of incredible darkness is let in on God’s plan for helping Israel’s Southern Kingdom. Surely Ahaz himself was far from worthy of such insights. And yet, because God had made a commitment to David (2 Kings 8:19 “Nevertheless, for the sake of his servant David, the LORD was not willing to destroy Judah. He had promised to maintain a lamp for David and his descendants forever), not even this dark king was allowed to overthrow that promise through his insolence.

God’s encouragement to Ahaz is “Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid…It will not take place, it will not happen…” He was given full opportunity to enjoy God’s commitment to Israel. However, a problem develops. Darkness breeds contempt against all the promises of God. And the dark heart of Ahaz conjures up a scheme that will be the bane of all Israel. Knowing full well God’s plan of victory he makes a deal with the tool of deliverance, the king of Assyria. Ahaz empties Judah’s treasuries and gives away the Temple’s vessels of service to purchase the favor of Tiglath-Pileser, the Assyrian monarch.

My inclination is to say “that’s it Ahaz, I’m finished with you.” But God’s commitment to His promises will not be diminished. While total defeat is in store for the Northern Kingdom, Samaria, Judah is allowed to remain. Isaiah, once again the instrument of God’s voice, tells the Lord’s people…

NIV Isaiah 8:6-8 “Because this people has rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah and rejoices over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, 7 therefore the Lord is about to bring against them the mighty floodwaters of the River— the king of Assyria with all his pomp. It will overflow all its channels, run over all its banks 8 and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, O Immanuel!”

Though the water reaches up to the neck, the land of Judah would survive. Though Ahaz in all his dark schemes brings certain ruin upon his people, God will not allow this man to diminish His promise one iota. One can reject the counsels of God, but you cannot cancel His promises.

J. Robert Hanson

If you’d like to read more about Ahaz and his Life and Times, go to the link for 2 Kings 16.


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When Anna, John and Becky were little (long before the Sarah era), while traveling in our car, Linda and I would entertain the kids by playing a little tape called Ants’hillvania. We played it over and over. It was all about the choices of a teenage ant by the name of Antony. One of my favorite characters on this tape was Mr. Worm. There is one phrase this wise old worm would utter that is etched into my consciousness—“Choices, choices! We all got to make ‘em!” I really don’t know how much the kids remember or got out of the tape, but those words from Mr. Worm influenced me profoundly.

Good or bad, we all have rivers to cross, crosses to carry and cares to endure. It’s those opportunities for choice that defines who we are! As a parent of adult children, I just hope my influences were good enough to help remind them of what they are in Christ before they choose. I figure if I can be affected by Mr. Worm’s repetitive phase, “Choices, choices! We all got to make ‘em!”, than maybe some good will come of my nagging reminders of the faith I delivered to them. Life is full of difficult choices! I have discovered making the best ones require serious evaluation and good assessments of the results of choosing. Look at one of the difficult choices the Apostle Paul made.

Philippians 1:21-25 NIV

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith…

The necessity of the many out weighed the desire of the one. In Paul’s thinking there was no greater gift than “to depart and be with Christ.” However, at that moment, choosing to remain engaged in His Spiritual Gift on the earth, was of greater necessity—and I for one am thankful he made that choice. Our “progress and joy in the faith” weighs heavily on the fact Paul stayed on earth to contribute in his share of the canon of scriptures! Major parts of the New Testament were written because he chose to wait around and complete his Spiritual Gift’s contribution to the Body of Christ. Who knows where we’d be had Paul chosen otherwise! Though, we may not be the Apostle Paul, our choices do have the same important value. Our decisions not only affect us personally, but others are seriously impacted by our choices! “Choices, choices! We all got to make ‘em!” So choose wisely.

J. Robert Hanson

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Cause I’m the Taxman!

Luke 5:30 NIV 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?”

Apparently attitudes towards tax collectors haven’t changed much. The Pharisees and teachers of religious law during the Lord’s era combined taxmen and sinners together in the same breath. My wife and I just had a CPA inform us what we owe the IRS and right now I’m kind of going with the idea there’s not much difference between the two either—I’m lumping them together.

And yet, the Lord and His disciples are there eating dinner with them! In fact, it’s much worse—a short while earlier Jesus included a tax collector into His following. What was He thinking? That means day-in and day-out I will have to live with the association that my Savior chose to have this fellow, Levi the taxman, as His disciples!

Does that seem right to you? Evidently my attitude toward the people of the IRS may need some adjustments. And while I maybe convinced that the IRS has no soul and is a spawn of the devil, the Lord Jesus sees them as the sick needing healing. How can there be any miracles among sinners if they are rejected before conversing with them? There can’t be! It’s the sinners Jesus had come to call to repentance. It’s time I climbed down off my high horse and invited a taxman to dinner! Bon appetit!

J. Robert Hanson

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NIV Luke 5:8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wondered why, in this situation, the Lord would tell Peter not to fear. The encouragement seems kind of out of place to me in context of the circumstances. In fact, Peter’s reaction to a boatload of fish has always seemed a bit over the top to me also. I’d be happy to see my business increase like that, not pushing away the “golden touch.” Let me see if I can lend a machete to my own logic.


The Lord is standing lakeside preaching to a crowd of people. Looking around He spots two boats empty of occupants. He jumped into one and asked one of the boats’ owners, Peter, to push him a short distance from land to speak to the people. Peter obliged and the Lord sat down in the boat to teach.

After Jesus finished speaking He instructs the weary fishermen to “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Peter, the experienced fisherman he was, expressed his doubts to the carpenter. Nonetheless Peter, in respect for the Master, wisely did as asked. The results were just as the Lord implied. They caught an overwhelming amount of fish requiring the other boat to join and help hauling in the catch. Of coarse, we know from the story both boats were filled to nearly sinking. This is where Peter makes his curious statement, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” That is not my idea of a good business plan.


After looking at this passage for a while, a couple of things began to dawn upon me. First, we know that Peter at one time had a wife. We read in Luke 5 that the Lord came to Peter’s home and healed his mother-in-law. That implies Peter had responsibilities for the care for his mother-in-law, and for a house at the very minimum. We can only assume his wife was alive so we won’t toss that into the equation. To have these cares meant Peter needed to make money to provide for others and him.

The second thing we learn is found in the Gospel of Mark. Prior to the incident of his mother-in-law, the Lord had been calling Peter to follow him. In the Gospel of Mark the same challenge, to make him a fisher of men, was given and we read Peter immediately left his nets and followed. Luke presents a little different aspect. Peter is found again at the nets. Did Peter return to the nets? Apparently so!

The last thing of note to me was Peter’s voice of frustration at the Lord’s command to “Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch.” Luke tells us of Peter’s reply. “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing!” I understand the voice of a tired cynic and I’m thinking here is one! In fact, generally when someone sounds a little cranky like this there is something else causing it. Could it be the Lord has been persistently pressing Peter to follow Him? Could it be Peter knew he should follow? Was Peter feeling the weight of family responsibilities? Could it be Peter’s fishing business was not doing to well at the time? I’m just saying maybe these things are in play, who knows?


Let me see if I can put my thoughts together on this. If the Lord was calling Peter all along and Peter was expressing reservations, certainly I can understand the pressures of making sure things at home are taken care of! Then combine that with a lack of success in the fishing business for supporting a family. Maybe Peter was putting off following Jesus 100%? Maybe he felt he was settling for 80%? I can surely understand those reservations. And maybe as the Lord pressed upon Peter that the Heavenly Father would take care of his home, he had major practical doubts. Peter looked at his wasted nightly toils and expressed real fears to the Lord. He could have thought, “Who’s going to take care of my family”, and Peter would be right. However, is that really what the Lord is asking of Peter, to be irresponsible with his kin? I doubt that.

And then suddenly the miraculous answer to a ridiculous request makes a turn in business happen! This poor fearful fisherman is suddenly flush with money from the biggest catch he’d ever had. When the Lord answers our problems after our successive times of expressions of doubt, it is very humbling. Now I can understand why Peter would say, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” And it makes more sense why the Lord would say, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” All of Peter’s concerns and cares where answered. The things he was responsible for would be taken care of! I’d say Peter did the wise thing in waiting for the Lord to give the miracle. So many times people run from responsibilities and blame God’s call for their troubles. Though it was difficult, I my opinion, Peter made the wise choice in waiting for the miracle! If God is calling, He’ll provide it, “What do I Fear!” My best choice is to wait for His miracles and not doubt His goodness to provide what He is calling me to!

J. Robert Hanson

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There is a Strategic Assignment God assigns to ever believer—prayer! This is perhaps the most difficult of all the Strategic Assignments that God asks us to do. Think about it for a minute. Other assignments that God gives the believer are not as foreign.

The assignment of Ministering God’s Word appeals to the intellect. Though only comprehended by the Spirit, studying the bible is still similar to examining any other subject we find interest in. While revelation comes from God, the gathering of information uses the resources of our intellect to collect the concepts.

The assignment of Participating in Fellowship is not unfamiliar to us; we have relationships of varying degrees all the time with people from all walks of life. To make a friend does not take the Spirit of God, to understand a spiritual believer does. However, sentimentality is a useful way of establishing relationships. Using sentimentality as a means to participate in a fellowship is not indistinct at all. We, as humans, can understand it.

The assignment of giving an Offering in Worship to God is not foreign. The human heart understands all to well the concept of thankfulness to someone who has rescued them. Our emotions are very adequate to passionately render gratitude to people who have expended themselves for us.

However, when it comes to the assignment of Surrendering in Prayer, we really have no developed aptitude for doing this on our own. Prayer that touches God cannot be duplicated in the natural arena. It is only spiritual and can only be done through the Spirit. This is why, in my opinion, prayer is the most difficult assignment that God gives the believer to do. The only way it works is through the spirit.

In fact, there is a story related to us in the book of Mark where the Lord says this very thing to three individuals He commanded to pray. In the garden of Gethsemane, while the Lord goes off to pray alone He assigns Peter, James and John with the duty of watching, which implies prayer also. When He returned, this is what He found:

Mark 14:37-38 NASB

37 And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour?” 38 “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

When it comes to the assignment of prayer, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. The flesh is weak; the body is weak because the human condition without the illuminated spirit has zero capacity for relating to this exercise. All of the other assignments can find some sort of place to relate and be comfortable in the effort, but not when the assignment is praying. The Strategic Assignment of Surrendering in Prayer can only be done by the spirit-enabled life, which is foreign to the natural man. Over years of praying the assignment becomes easier. Everyone has the opportunity to enter into prayer. It’s the most difficult because it is the most foreign to the natural man, but with spiritual development the assignment becomes easier to bear.

J. Robert Hanson

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