Saturday, January 02, 2021

Kindness in Me

 The New Testament provides a proliferation of verses about kindness, especially what it should look like in us.  The Old Testament teaches about God's love and the New teaches us.  When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, she will produce fruit easily recognizeable as traits of kindness...goodness, gentleness and kindness.  Here is where we see that definition in the Greek - chrestotes - moral goodness, integrity with gentleness. 

A myriad of verses demonstrate how to gain kindness, develop the character trait in us:

  • Apply the benefits of God's promises in your life...which will result in kindness.
  • Have an eagerness, real zeal, towards love, favor for others and mercy for anyone.
  • Wear the garment of compassion and kindness.
What is in God, we must be deliberate to bring to ourselves.  His promises provide proof of his eagerness to give.  Wear the qualities of compassion and kindness - put them on and get comfortable.   When you have these promises, when you are familiar and easily portraying kindness, an eagerness will develop for favor and mercy for all.

Then, we are given practical directives for acts of kindness...and they are not random, but rather deliberate:
  • Be especially kind to those who are loyal.
  • Help the sick.
  • Be ready to provide an immediate response to need.
  • Provide companionship and sustenance.
  • Be welcoming.  
And then the news gets deep:
  • Be slow to avenge a wrong.
  • Love your enemies!  Do good to them.  Lend to them and don't be concerned that they might not repay.  (Then your reward in heaven will be great...)
If your are not sure how to dig that deep, remember that God's kindness is your lead.  His kindness extended to us even while we were sinners ourselves.  Digging deeper includes being kind to ourselves in that truth:  seek to stay in God's kindness.  Seek the kindness of correction and realize that the rebuke of a friend is a kindness. 

Most of all and finally, Love is Kind.  Kindness is an expression of love.  I do want that character trait in me.  


God's Kindness

 About ten years ago, I did a deep exploration of kindness because I had decided I needed to be more kind to the world.  I had been defending mysself  heavily for years and could have an unkind disposition.  I made some changes and hopefully some people might have noticed.  

Now I face 2021.  Each year I have a Word of the year.  I don't do resolutions, I just have a theme.  One Word.  Almost always, I don't have to search for one.  God brings me one and he brought me Kindness...again.  I could go into the reason why, but this year brings a new application for Kindness of which I am sure he wanted me to be cognizant.  So, I went to my last study, still in my prayer book.  That one is a page of "studying in color," which I often do, but I decided to transfer it into some logical order.

In the Old Testament, the word used exclusively is checed, which is often translated as lovingkindness with overtures of mercy, goodness, or pity.

In the New Testament, there are two words translated as kindness.  One is philantropia - you recognize it - which means benevolence, love acted toward people.  It is used only once or twice.  The word most used for kindness is chrestotes, with an expanded meaning of moral goodness, integrity; gentleness.  This makes kindness a character trait.

This is step one:  focusing on God's kindness.  I cannot do it God's way without a deep exploration of his example for us.  So God's kindness is in his nature.  It's qualities are as follows:

  • it endures forever
  • it preserves our lives
  • it provides opportunity even when we are in bondage
  • it binds us to God
  • even in the midst of sin
  • thus, God's kindness leads us to repentance.
God wants to demonstrate the incomparableness of his grace to us, which is demonstrated by providing Jesus incarnate and allowing us involvement with Christ's reign.  It's a kindness for us to be included in his plan, in his Kingdom development on earth.

Can we keep our own awareness of God's example of kindness?  Can we develop kindness as a character trait for ourselves?  We are to seek to stay in God's kindness.  If you want to let kindness take a hold of you, stay in these truth's about God.  You cannot give what you have not received.  Let God's kindness develop in you.  And be changed.  

Monday, November 23, 2020

Don't Waiver

Jesus walks on water:  Matthew 14: 25-33 

Truly, you are the Son of God!

The story of Jesus walking on water brings us to several magnificent ideas about the Lordship of Jesus and the spectacle of Peter.  Peter wants proof Jesus is not a ghost;  he wants a miracle.  The one who fails the miracle is Peter.  Jesus offers the proof for them all, but Peter misses it.  Peter first walks on the water but becomes afraid as he looks to the danger and not to Jesus.

"Why did you doubt me?" Jesus asks.  My interpretation is "Why did you waiver?" Why did you take your eyes off of me? Get distracted?  Question my power?

Those in the boat, though, did not miss what was happening.  They beheld the whole scene in its entirety.  They were rapt!  As a result, they worshipped at the feet of Jesus.  They now recognized the status of Jesus as the Son of God.  "You really are the Son of God!"

Can distant observers see better than those enmeshed in a situation?  Would they be the better judge of conclusions?  As I interact with my Lord, maybe it would be best to get other's opinions and conclusions before I form my own.  I am like Peter, too prone to panic.  I too easily get distracted.

Maybe I do need to listen to trusted, other voices so I can see what they see.

                             


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Evidence

 God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.                                                                  I John 4:13

Never has been an element of God so maligned and misrepresented as the Spirit of God!  It's a shame, given that this entire chapter of 1 John is the one which says, "test the spirits" so as to know the Spirit of God and then proceeds to tell us the markers, the evidence of this Spirit:

vs 2 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body.

vs. 6 If someone who "belongs" to God tells truth about him.

vs 12 If we love each other, God (by implication His Spirit) lives in us and God's love is brought to full expression in us.

vs 13  When Jesus is claimed as the Son of God, which is his rightful relationship with God.


Throughout these verses, love is the outcome of these guides to the Spirit's presence.  If any of these truths lead to any hate or deception, then they are not properly held truths.  To "hold" these truths rests in our ability to align our lives with the reality of a living God who inhabits his people.  The result will be known truths about the nature of God, which in its fullness is the expression of God. There will be no fear and no hate, which is seen in the comraderie, the family nature of the body of believers.

Most translations call this love for "brothers" or "brothers and sisters."  The Greek is adelphos, literally meaning someone who has shared parents or a shared ancestry.  It comes from a household word which means "womb."

The closeness we are to hold for each other indicated here cannot be overstated.  And the damage sin has done to the original family and many others cannot be ignored.  For some, the animosity between siblings is devasting.  Sibling rivalry is a common theme for many.

How do we then learn sibling love?  From the power of our acquired status as children of God.  Paul says it eloquently and connects life in the Spirit again with love:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  And you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves.  Instead, you have received God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.  Now we call him, "Papa."  And his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm athat we are God's children.

And since we are his children, we are his heirs.  In fact, together with Christ, we are heirs of God's glory..."  Romans 8:14-17a"

Adoption and heirship is  powerful in New Testament culture.  Adoption is more powerful legally than sonship in the Greek culture (Romans is written to Greeks): it is irrevocable.  It is a message we need to hear.  God will not give up on us and he wants our joining of spirits to give us all privilege of sonship, the greatest legacy of which is love.




Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Love is a Lifestyle

 If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion - how can the love of God be in that person?  

Dear ones, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.  Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.

1 John 3:17-19

Compassion rules the day, when it comes to God.  Love is the hallmark of the Christ way!  Sharing out of your plenty is always a good course.  This is because love is not a theory, not just a good idea.  It is a lifestyle. 

Make love your way of life.  Love in deed:  make it your business, your product, an act of labor.  And make it the basis that represents the truth about your life with Christ.  This truth is a visible reality that is objectively seen and is done with excellence, candor and with purity.  It seeks not its own extolment - just love's cause.  It is an honest presentation of the love in the heart of a person.  

Let there be no doubt what feeds and drives your life.  God's love in you makes it possible for your to purely love others, for you cannot give what you do not have for yourself.  So, if you want to love others well, garner the love of God thoroughly for yourself:

     - Let your roots grow down into God's love (Eph 3:17)

     - Have the power to undersand how wide, long, high and deep God's love is. (Eph 3:18)

     - Seek Christ's love with faithfulness. (Eph 6: 23, 24)

     - Receive the Holy Spirit, which God intended to use to fill our hearts with his love. (Romans 5:5)

     - See the proof of God's love for us in that God sent Christ to die for us, while we were yet sinners. (Romans 5:8)

     - Fear nothing!  Love wins over all earthly powers! Rest in the triumph of love! (Romans 8:38, 39)

When God's love is completed in you, your love for others will be complete.  

Monday, September 21, 2020

Purity

 Consider the quality of love God has bestowed on us that we are named children of God.  Thus we are!  And just as the world does not know or understand, much less have a relationship with Him, we do!  

Beloved, we are God's children, in more than name.  It is our destiny, though he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears.  We do know we will be like him because we will truly see him as he really is.

This being our expectation, we will keep ourselves pure, just as he is pure.

1 John 3:1-3

Purity - a set apart set of behaviors.  What does it mean to put away distractions and prepare for Jesus' presence?  Purity seems hard to pursue:  pulling away from the world's demands, preparing to enter the presence of Jesus.  

The Jews would do outward exercises.  Oils and teas?  Water and soap?  What stripping and anointing will cause me to be pure?  I first thought evil was the problem, but maybe busyness is the real problem.  Distractions.  Shiny things. Worry.  The world's agenda.

Is it about strictness and censure or an awakening that causes all worldly attachments to fall away?  

This makes me think of Step 11 of the Twelve Steps:  Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out.

Conscious contact.  An awakening to the presence of God in all things and the possibility of the Kingdom of Heaven to be present now.  Of all the things I have ever been in pursuit, this is the hardest.  In some ways, it is less tangible than worldly pursuits.  In other ways, it is the greatest reality to which I can hold.  Conscious contact.  Get "woke" to the possibility that I can be prepared to seek Christ in this day and in his future coming.  Might I miss the coming if I haven't sought it in the day I hold?

To seek out purity is to stay "woke" to the truth of the coming King.  All other worldly matters are either vehicles to ride into his presence or be discarded.


Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Love

Don't fall in love(1) with this corrupt world or worship the things it offers.  Those who love its corrupt ways don't have the Father's love(2) living in them.  These do not come from the Father:

     the allure of pleasure (the lust(3) of the flesh(4))

     the passion to have things (the lust of the eyes(5))

     pompous superiority (pride (6)of life (7)).                                         1 John 2:15-17


I think the original language has a lot to teach us here, so I've highlighted certain words.  Let me explain:

Don't fall in love (1) - agapao - to love in a social or moral sense; to welcome or entertain; to be content with.  This world is not enough for you.  You are made for something more than it has to offer.  Don't attach to lesser things, lesser parts of who you are.

The Father's love (2) - agape - connected to a person, this word now is a noun - affection, goodwill, family love.  With the descriptor of "Father," love now is a give and take, relationship-based affection.

Lust (3) of the flesh (4) - Lust - ephithmyia - desire, craving especially for what is forbidden.  Flesh - sarx - this is not the body literally but the sinful response of people which leads them away from God.  "Sensual" might be a better term.  Peter describes it well:  "fleshly (sarx) desire (epithymia) by sensuality (aselgeia)."  2Peter 2:2)  The sense that it is the unbridled demands of lasciviousness and wantonness:  out of control, even to the point of addictive-type behaviors. ("I couldn't stop myself.")  It is not our senses and desires, except when hijacked, when  good sense and godly directives become driving forces.  Kind of like the difference between eating and gluttony, sex and pornography, anger (not a sin, you know) and rage, even need and want.  

Lust of the eyes (5) - ophthalmos - metaphorically, the eyes of the mind, the faculty of knowing - focusing.  What you attach to, find alluring.

Pride (6) of life (7) - Pride - alazoneia - bragging, arrogance which trusts in its own power especially over divine laws and human rights; an empty presumption.  Life - bios - the course of life; that by which life is sustained, its goods and resources.  Might have an emphasis of "personal trust in how a person's life is resourced by self."

Essentially, this world should not be held in higher regard than the eternal Kingdom, which we are called to recognize and live into even in the present.  As we seek Kingdom presence and ways, as we realize in its realities our needs on earth will be met in a deeper and continual fashion.  We are to seek that Kingdom - zeteo - crave it!  Desire it first!

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Truth 2

 Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you;  rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning.  The old commandment - to love one another - is the same message you heard before.  Yet, it is also new.  Jesus lived the truth of this commandment and you are also living it.  For the darkness is disappearing and the true light is already shining.

If anyone claimes, "I am living in the light," but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness.  anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble, but anyone who hates another is still living and walking in darkness.  Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.

1 John 2:7-11

Hate has no part.  No part in light.  It is only present in darkness.  I have someone I would "love to hate," but I cannot.  Jesus' example says I may not.  I realize that which I allow in my heart  - specifically to hate someone -- causes me to dish out on myself that very hate.

When that form of hate is unforgiveness, it inhabits sin and haunts my soul.  When I don't embrace (love) someone, I fail to embrace myself, not being far removed for the cause of hate in others.  Forgiveness has a big price tag.  Jesus paid that price so that I and my fellow Christian don't pay for it, except when we reject that forgiveness.  Then someone will pay.

Either the offender pays or the offended pays.  Sometimes both because compensation may not always cover the offense, even with good intentions.  So Jesus' work on the cross becomes paramount for my peace personally and relationally.  There is too much sin to manage on my own.

So, love, I must!  Forgive, I must!  I am ready to extend that which I learned from the one who loved first and best.  I am ready to forgive as freely as I have been forgiven.

To live in the light - the path lit, being able to see, being able to discern - is the course of true freedom.  "The way to go" can only be known when there is light.

Amen!

Make it so!