Archives For Kindness

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You have nothing and you gain nothing without the eternal love of God working through your life. God is love; therefore, love is vital. 1 John 4 commands us to love one another because love is from God. The fruit of being born of God and the fruit of knowing God is the love of God seeking to work through you.

God’s love is relentless toward the world. God’s love is relentless toward you. Therefore, His relentless love should be relentless through each of us. It’s time we look inside the church family to see how well we’re loving one another. We need to get it right in house in order to truly get it right out there in the world.

The world is looking for an alternative community that fills the empty God void of their lives. The problem is not so much the world if you think about it. The world is doing what it’s supposed to do. The world is a dark place and has learned to live in that ever-increasing darkness.

The world functions in their darkness. They play by the rules of darkness. It’s not until children of the light love them like Christ that they awake to the emptiness of their lives. John 13:34-35 commands Christ followers to love one another in the same way Christ has loved us. The importance of why is found in verse 35 where it teaches, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The majority of weddings I officiate ask me to use 1 Corinthians 13 as a scripture reading somewhere during the ceremony. It’s often viewed as a stand along poem. However, it must fuller than that!

Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians is about spiritual gifts for the common good of the body of Christ. Chapter 14 then goes on to teach us to pursue love and desire gifts to ministry with. We must never forget that chapter 13 is placed in the middle of those bookends. Love is at the center of God’s alternative community and must be what we are most known for.

1 Corinthians 12:31 (ESV)

31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

The more excellent way is love! The gospel calls us to live a love that is beyond self-interest. If you take love out of your home, out of your community, out of your country or out of the world, you have nothing and you are nothing as it relates to eternal value. You are empty. The world is empty. Godless love is empty love.

You have nothing and you gain nothing without the eternal love of God working through your life.

Don’t believe me yet? Don’t read the next three verses. Let the next three verses read you.

1 Corinthians 13:1-4 (ESV)

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Without love, the church should stop calling itself a church. Without love, the Christ follower is not truly following Christ. Without love, neither the church nor the Christ follower lay up anything of eternal value.

WE LOVE HIM BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US.

We can’t love Him without loving others. Love is an outflow of a true relationship with God. Love is vital.

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Samuel Hamilton in East of Eden once wrote, “Two stories have haunted us and followed us from our beginning. . . . We carry them along with us like invisible tails—the story of original sin and the story of Cain and Abel. And I don’t understand either of them. I don’t understand them at all, but I feel them.

Original sin is the story of the fall of humanity. Adam and Eve disobey God and death had a birthday. The story of Cain and Abel is the story of violence finding its first platform of death and destruction.

Brian Zanhd in his book, Beauty Will Save The World, teaches that the picture of individuals going wrong is seen in the story of Adam and Eve and the picture of civilization going wrong is seen in the story of Cain and Abel.

Separation from God and violence was never God’s plan for us as individuals or for civilization. We were created to reflect the image of God. We were designed to take care of each other. Violence is not the way of the kingdom of God.

God’s rule and reign in the here and now is not through violence and power. His rule and His reign are through the work of the Holy Spirit working not only in us, but through us toward others by the power of love.

Love is the greatest power ever known to man. Love was perfectly demonstrated on the cross. When violence taunted Jesus to fight back, He fought back with love and not violence. He took all the sins of the world and its violence upon himself and said, “It is finished!” He defeated it with love. So must we!

We can only love like God when we move toward God in submission. We must not be violent to get our way. The Gospel was never gifted to us to force upon the sinner. It was gifted to us to love the sinner to the foot of the cross. Violence will always and only be seen as corrupt in God’s sight. (See Genesis 6:11-13)

The Church is called to be God’s new humanity in the world. We are not called to call down fire like James and John wanted to do when Jesus was rejected. They asked to call fire down, and Jesus warned them that they knew not what spirit they were being lead by.

When we live God’s peace to the world, we show forth His lordship. The world system cannot bring peace. Only God can do that, and He did it by the cross. When we follow the politics of forgiveness and redemption, we find that we are following Jesus.

When you and I answer the call to deny self and take up the cross and follow Christ, we are baptized to the imperative call to love our enemies. Christ sending His sheep out among wolves is about love and never about retaliation. I’ve heard it said many ways and it is true…the beauty of love and kindness is most strikingly seen in the darkest of places.

We are called to be light. We are called to walk in His love. Both are done in the darkness, and both cast darkness out. Now walk bold today my friend. Walk in love. You will find you are walking in the footsteps of Christ Himself.

Let There Be

July 19, 2013 — 2 Comments

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I find it perfectly beautiful that God didn’t curse the darkness and chaos of creation to call it forth. He simply spoke in perfect love, “Let there be…”

There is a “let there be” moment in every life of chaos we encounter.

It takes time. God didn’t speak to the creation in just one day.

Let us never forget there is eternal life waiting to be called forth in every dark corner of the world and yes, even your community.

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There will be times that God causes you to notice people, and at other times He will simply lead someone right to you directly. I have had both of these happen in my life, almost on a daily basis.

Once, I was in a local store in California shopping with my family. My son Noah had to use the restroom. After we finished, we were on our way back to meet my wife and daughter, when I noticed a woman visibly upset. God touched my spirit and caused me to stop. I asked her, “What’s troubling you?” “Nothing,” she replied. I then said, “Are you sure?”

She responded by letting me know I would not want to hear it. I assured her, I would not have stopped if I didn’t want to hear it. She smiled and began to pour her heart out. She spoke to me for about five minutes about all that was going wrong for her. Her troubles were pressing in on her, and she felt alone and helpless. She was frustrated, angry and bitter about life.

I listened to every word she said, and I never broke eye contact. My son watching was just an added bonus because I knew he would ask me later why we stopped for a total stranger, and I would have the opportunity to pour into him compassion ministry. When the lady was finished speaking, I said, “You know, I bet the rest of your day is going to be just fine.”

She laughed and said, “I think you’re right. Thanks for taking the time to listen.” “You’re welcome,” I said and my son and I departed. I know it sounded effortless and not much like a miracle, but for her it meant everything. It was the miracle she needed for the day.

Wright, Steve (2012-03-18). The Descent To Compassion (pp. 48-49).  . Kindle Edition.

Leave-The-Past

What is it about the past that holds so many people captive?

When I was growing up I worked in my father’s sheet metal shop, and there were all types of machinery, and tables for working with all things metal. One table had weighted magnets that would swing out over the table and hold a piece of metal down to the table once they were turned on. The metal would then be unmovable as you worked on it.

From time to time,  I would jump up on the table and try and pull a magnet to the point of breaking it free from the table. It was a strength game my bothers, and I use to play to see who was the strongest.  I was never able to break the magnets free, and neither were any of my brothers. It always remained locked in place. The only way to break it free was to cut the power off to the magnet.

Some of you today need to do the same thing and cut the power off to the past that has you in its grips. You have tried to pull your way free from the past. You have struggled really hard to be stronger than your past, but nothing seems to set you free. The only thing that will free you is to cut off the power of the past. You do that by believing God is at work in your life in the present.

We all have a past.  A past filled with memories so powerful and hurtful that to recall them brings nothing but a pain to your soul and a knot to your stomach. When we hang on to our painful past memories, we either become withdrawn and unsociable; or explosive, cranky, critical, judgmental, reactive and mean towards others.

Jan Glidewell once said, “You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms to full to embrace the present.”  I love the story of Joseph in the Bible. His story is one of my favorites. I’ll try and summaries and keep it brief as I give you some background and insight into his life and choices concerning his painful past.

  • Joseph, son of Jacob, overcame a painful past.
  • He was raised in what we would call a “dysfunctional family.”
  • Sibling rivalry filled Jacob’s household.
  • Joseph’s brothers caught him, threw him into a pit, and discussed killing him.
  • One brother intervened and convinced them instead to sell Joseph as a slave In Egypt, where he became the property of Potiphar.
  • Potiphar’s wife had eyes for Joseph and made continual sexual advances.
  • He refused, she falsely charged him with attempted rape and he was imprisoned.
  • While imprisoned, Joseph made friends with a baker and a cupbearer.
  • Both promised to pull their political strings and secure Joseph’s release.
  • In time, the baker was hanged, and the cupbearer was freed, but forgot Joseph.
  • For two more years, Joseph’s remained in prison.
  • One day Pharaoh had a dream that no one, but Joseph could interpret.
  • Egypt would experience 7 years of plenty/7 years of famine.
  • As a reward Pharaoh put Joseph over all of the agricultural activity in Egypt.
  • The years of plenty came, and Joseph stored up. Seven years later the famine hit.
  • This famine was so severe that even people outside of Egypt came to get food.
  • One day, Joseph’s own brothers arrived.
  • Joseph recognized them, but his brothers didn’t recognize him.
  • Joseph sold them grain and tricked them into coming back before revealing himself.

Genesis 45:1-3

1 Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Make everyone go out from me!” So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it. 3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence.

They were terrified. They did not know anything about Potiphar’s wife and the undeserved prison sentence. Neither did they know about the abandonment by the cupbearer. But they remembered the pit and their bartering and selling their own brother. They had every reason to be terrified

Genesis 45:4

And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.

Perhaps they expected a call for the royal guards, and the punishment they deserved for the cruelty they had shown their own brother. But no retaliation comes. These brothers did not know that Joseph had made peace with his painful past. His own words indicate he had let go of any vindictive feelings he held against them. He had cut off the power to the past.

Genesis 45:5

5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.

How was Joseph able to put all his painful past behind him? What was Joseph’s secret? He practiced true forgiveness. Joseph could have struck back and felt the exhilaration that comes from getting even. Instead, Joseph chose to forgive. Until you forgive, the pain of your past will continue to be felt in your present.

I chagllege you today to cut of the power to the magnet that is hold you in the past. Forgiveness is how the power switch is cut off. It is hard to forgive but possible.

God’s Mercies

March 4, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Lamentations 3:22-23

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

“New every morning” I love those three words. There is something remarkable about starting over each day. There is something extraordinary about how God faithfully wakes us up with His mercies.

If I were left alone to greet only myself in the morning, it would be mostly with guilt and shame. I would surely over analyze my obedience and faithfulness toward God. However, God doesn’t work with guilt and shame. He works with His mercies.

The moment I open my eyes and hear my heart beating, and hear the sound of my breathing, I can feel God kiss me with His morning mercies.  He doesn’t do it because of my works of righteousness, but instead, He wakes me with His mercies because it is who He is.

His love is steadfast and never ceases; His mercies have no end. His mercies are new each morning because of His faithfulness and not our own. As beautiful as a sunrise is more beautiful are the mercies of God, for they are the merciful sunrise that God allows to rise in our souls each and every day.

True Love Is Action

February 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

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“Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone you will presently come to love him.”-C.S. Lewis

Love is an action. God is always in action toward us; therefore, we constantly experience the love of God. God is love. God is unselfish in nature and thus pours His love out upon all. It is the love of God that is the most powerful action and force known to humanity.

God sent His best to this world. Emanuel, God with us. He sent love, (action) wrapped in flesh. God made Himself vulnerable among His creation to demonstrate the depth of His love for us. John 3:17 say, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Condemnation was already upon us. We were outside of Christ. However, the love of God (action) drew us to him in repentance, and it was His love that won us to Him. That unconditional love in action is the same love we owe the world around us. We owe the world love to win them. (Romans 13:8)

The love of God demonstrated toward us must be passed along through us. It is after all, the overflow that will win the most hardened sinner. So, get out there today and walk in the good works God has created for you in advance and win them with love.

I end with a quote from N.T. Wright. “Our task as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to a world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion…”

 

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Those outside of Christ have a perception of you. They know you are a follower of Christ; but how do they label you? Do they define you by all the beautiful life-giving things you are for, or do they define you by all the things you are against?

I once heard it said, “It should break our hearts that often we are known more for what we are against than what we are for, for who we have excluded than for who we have embraced.”

Years ago when I gave my life to Christ, I became part of the youth group at the church where I surrendered my life to Christ. It was an enthusiastic group of kids. They loved God very much. However, there was one thing that confused me much.

They spent a lot of time after the message in the altar praying. Now of course there was nothing wrong with that but it was some of the prayers I heard that confused me. The prayers didn’t confuse me because they were wrong. I think they confused me because they seemed incomplete. The prayers were one-sided prayers.

I would often hear prayers of repentance over sin they had committed in their lives. Of course,  there is nothing wrong with that because it’s the right thing to do. However, I would also hear prayers of repentance over things that were not sin. I’m not sure why they did that, but I can only assume it was motivated by the desire to be holy and closer to God. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with that, other than you’re repenting over something that doesn’t need repentance.

The thing that was missing were prayers that would accompany them out of an altar into the darkness of their world with the love, grace and mercy of Christ as their battle cry. Instead, I often saw these same kids walk into the darkness preaching their convictions onto those outside the faith. Therefore, many of them became known for what they were against, instead of what they were for.

I once heard Billy Graham say, “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.” I love that! I don’t have the ability to convict anyone. I do have the ability to bring guilt to someone but that not the same as the conviction the Holy Sprite brings. I much rather leave the task of drawing the heart of the outsider to Christ in the hands of the Spirit of God.

I don’t have the right to judge the outsider. That’s the job of God when He sees fit to do so. (Judging one another in the church is for another post) However, I will share just one scripture. 1 Cor 5:12, “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.”

It’s my job and your job to love! When we love and show God’s love to the world it melts and convicts the heart of the outsider. When people met Jesus, they didn’t walk away with an opinion of what He was against. (Well, the religious Pharisees did because they needed to be shook up) When people encountered Jesus, they walked away hopeful because of what He was for.

So, allow me to ask you one last time. Those outside the faith, Do they define you by all the beautiful life-giving things you are for, or do they define you by all the things you are against?

Live like Jesus. Love like Jesus and He will change the world through your witness.

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Psalm 55:12-15 (ESV)
12 For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. 13 But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. 14 We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng. 15 Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart

When a person helps heal a wound in your life you are thankful, and rightfully so.  They were there for you in your moment of greatest need. However, what happens when that same person reopens the wound by partnering with the very one that caused the wound in the first place?

When that happens it’s called, talking out of both sides of their mouth. It simply means to say different things to different people about the same subject. Betrayal hurts no matter what you call it.

Many things in life hurt and can be difficult to handle, but when a friend throws you under the bus, it’s a pain of a special category. Betrayal brings many negative emotions to the surface of your heart, and it hurts tremendously.

In our text, the psalmist uses some strong language in verse 15 that I’m not sure how to fully process, nor interrupt in a way that makes perfect senses to me. However, it’s real language and shows the depth of the pain he was feeling.

Getting rid of negative emotions can be a battle all by it’s self, and the last thing you need to do is add another battle to the battle that is already raging in your heart. I suggest you take a cue from Jesus himself and walk in the power of extreme forgiveness. I once heard it said that forgiveness means to “let go.” Letting go can be done in spite of your emotions.

Forgiveness is the only way to move beyond betrayal. When a friend betrays you, you can seek revenge and feed your negative emotions if you choose, but it’s only a prison you are building for yourself.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let me say it again. Forgiveness is the only way to move beyond betrayal.

Matthew 18:21-22(ESV)
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

 

Your Anger Blew Up Again?

January 10, 2013 — 1 Comment

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Anger is an emotion and emotions serve a purpose for good if we submit them to God.  Anger can find solutions to a problem or it can add destruction to a problem. For example, if you are angry at a certain behavior in your child that needs to be corrected, anger is an emotion that is telling you something is not right. Anger is not the problem. How anger is allowed to manifest is the real issue. Anger can be useful or hurtful.

Not long ago, I lost my temper with one of my children. I allowed anger to determine an unhealthy way of handling the problem. I started out calm enough, and my correction seemed to be going okay. Then something happen that caused me to raise my voice.

At that moment, whether I want to admit it or not, I lost my influence for good and turned into the old fallen man that doesn’t reflect the long suffering of God, nor his patient love.  In my heated moment, I forgot that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance.

The more I allowed my angry to run out of control the more it consumed all the grace, mercy and reflection of God away from my child. I could see the fire of anger burning but instead of throwing water on the fire, I just threw more gas. The frustrations of my adult world that I should take to God in prayer and leave at His feet found their way out and projected onto my child.

My anger had become harmful instead of constructive and redemptive. I’ve heard it said before, and I believe it to be true, “Anger becomes harmful when you don’t regard it as a signal to fix the cause.” The bible declares in Ephesians 4:26, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,”

I got the second part of that verses right. Before the sun went down, I had apologized to my child. The next time I want to get the first part of the verse right. In my anger,  I don’t want to sin. When I honestly think about what I did, I concluded I was exceedingly mad at myself more than what my child was doing. I had  some unresolved stress in my own life that I had allowed to come out in the form of anger and onto my child. I had failed to protect my child from me.

If you have ever had a similar experience and need to apologize, here are a few tips.

1. Leave your pride at the door.

2. Just say you were wrong. Don’t include any excuses.

3. Look your child in the eyes and say I’m sorry.

4. Ask for forgiveness. Let them decided if they want to give it. Don’t demand it.