The Fast I Have Chosen
Cheryl is married to lance Pittluck, Senior pastor of the Anaheim Vineyard. She is part of the Vineyard Anti Slavery Team (VAST), leads the anti Human Trafficking Ministry at Anaheim, and is Faith Community Liason for the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force.
When I think of the word compassion, I think of Jesus. He never failed to act when He felt sympathy or pity for someone. Over the years, I have become more and more aware of God’s enormously compassionate nature, but this was not always the case. I grew up learning about a God of infinite power and knowledge. He saw and knew everything we thought, did, or thought about doing, and He had the power to respond as He saw fit. In some ways, that was reinforced when I came into the Vineyard in the early 80s. The Kingdom dynamic of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit as seen in power evangelism, healing, and prophecy were deeper and even more tangible examples of God’s power and knowledge at work.
Even though I have always known that God so loved the world, it was probably 20 years ago, when I first heard Eddie Piorek speak on the Father’s love, that I began to grasp the reality of God’s love for me. When we lost our three year old son in 1997, it was God’s love that sustained me. The fact that He is omnipotent and omniscient mattered little in comparison to the truth that He would still love me whether I crawled into His arms and sobbed my heart out, screamed at Him, or even turned my back on Him in anger. It was His consistent love and compassion that guided me through the utter blackness, and held me up when I thought I would never stand again. Over the years, God has continued to reveal His compassion to me.
A few years ago I got involved with the Anti-Human Trafficking Movement. I fell into it when a friend asked me to teach on the subject at an upcoming women’s event. After four to five weeks of Google-ing, I finally had the facts, figures, and stories to present my well-ordered teaching designed to educate and inform. I was scheduled to give the same teaching three times in a row. As I stood before about 50 women, I began my first presentation. Part way through I was suddenly, unexpectedly overwhelmed with emotion. I could hardly speak. I struggled through, finished, and, after a 10-minute break, started all over with the second group. The same thing happened, only this time it was worse. By the third delivery, I had to literally steel myself against the emotion and plow through it as quickly as possible. For the next several days I felt as though I had been hit by a truck. What I finally realized was that in speaking the words out loud, the reality of what I was saying had gone from my head to my heart. While preparing the teaching, I had actually prayed that God would make the information “real to me” so that I could be genuine, but I never expected this kind of answer. God impressed upon me that His compassion was breaking into my heart. Once again, I realized that I didn’t know my God very well. So, I went to His Word.
“Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice... to set the oppressed free... to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter...” (Isaiah 58)
“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.” (Psalm 82)
“Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1)
The compassion, love, mercy, and forgiveness that God has lavished upon me are clear examples of God’s heart. Now that He has convinced me that this is, in fact, for me, He has gone back to reminding me that it is for the world as well.
The world loves to ridicule the church in T.V. and film. It rejoices in highlighting and publicizing the failures and downfalls of our leaders. It loves to deride our views on moral issues. But it never gives us a hard time when we are feeding the poor, rebuilding hurricane devastated houses, or rescuing orphans and human trafficking victims.
What does God value? How can I demonstrate God’s compassion to the world? I must put my money where my mouth is and my hands where God’s heart is, because God’s heart is overflowing with compassion for the poor, the orphan, the alien, the widow, the lost, the lonely, the last, and the least. What a way to serve Jesus, bring light into the darkness, and beautify the bride of Christ.