Archive for September, 2016|Monthly archive page

A little kindness

A man I know makes a point of smiling and saying something kind or encouraging to store employees at the check-out counter.

He says he does it because these busy people so often have to deal with sullen or angry customers.  They need a little light in their day.

It’s an act of kindness – a small one.  Yet it shows that this man’s heart is in the right place.

As a Christian, I know I am called to be kind.  Kindness is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, as Paul says in Galatians 5:22.  And the Holy Spirit is within me so kindness should flow naturally if I allow the Spirit to fill my life.

We have all heard stories of acts of kindness which have had a profound impact on people in trouble.

Some years ago, our church followed the advice of Clare de Graaf in his book The 10-Second Rule.  De Graaf urges us to follow God’s promptings in our minds to help others – not waiting for a more convenient time.

People in our congregation found it was fun to be kind.  And heart-warming, too.

Sometimes, though, being kind does carry a cost – perhaps in a significant amount of time spent in helping someone else.  Or, it could be a financial sacrifice.  And, occasionally, we may not get the thanks we feel we deserve.

But Jesus clearly placed a lot of emphasis on kindness.  For him, we believers don’t have a choice – we must help.

A good example of Jesus’ thinking is the well-know story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.

Jesus uses the story to illustrate what the commandment to love our neighbour is all about.  While telling the story, he succeeds in skewering the self-righteous and legalistic Jewish leaders.

As you recall, a Jewish man was attacked and robbed on the road to Jericho and left for dead beside the road.  A Jewish priest and a temple assistant passed by, ignoring him.

But a passing Samaritan – despised by Jewish leaders – took pity on him, cleaned and bandaged his wounds, put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn where he cared for him and paid the man’s bill.

Too often, I am like the Jewish priest and the temple assistant – I don’t want my plans derailed.  I don’t want to be bothered.

But Jesus was telling us we should do what the Good Samaritan did.  He told the Jewish leader who tested him about who our neighbour is: “Now, go and do the same.”

He is saying that to me today.

Doubts about God’s love

If you’re like me, sometimes you feel God must be really disgusted with you and can’t love you.

Why is that?

I think it’s because of a lack of faith.  It means that we don’t believe what the Bible says.

There are times when I feel I have failed God once again and I get discouraged.  I can’t imagine ever pleasing God.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Part of the problem is that I have fallen into the trap of believing that I must please God by being perfect in every way.  And if I’m not perfect, he will shake his head, frown, and maybe even turn away from me.

But the apostle Paul tells me in Romans 8 that I cannot be condemned because I have put my faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, destroying the barrier of sin between me and God.

He then writes these great words in verse 31: “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”

And he goes on to say in verse 38:

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”

It is satan’s job to discourage us.  He is out to whisper doubts in our ears – to be the voice of condemnation.

The Bible says God knows I am weak.  He knows that I can’t do anything by myself to make myself worthy of him.  Only the Spirit of God within me can enable me to become more like Jesus.

When I became a believer, I did not become perfect.  I merely started on a journey – with some ups and downs – to become more like the Lord.

In Psalm 103, David says:

“He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.”

When I think about God, I often forget that his love is infinitely greater than human love.

When the Father looks at me, he sees me through the filter of Jesus who died for me.  I am wrapped into the greatest love in eternity – the love of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for each other.

I need to ponder this great truth and let it sink into my being.

Free? Really?

I grew up before the rebellious sixties when young people threw off what they considered a kind of slavery to tradition including Christianity.

As I look back at the decades since, there seems to have been a constant rebellion – a repeated attempt by the young to free themselves.

Many may feel they have found the freedom they sought.  But I wonder.

Instead of freedom, I see widespread addiction, depression, anger, aimlessness, and family breakdown.

What is freedom?  What should it look like?

I think many young people in the 1960s thought that freedom was doing what they wanted and rejecting the values their parents held.  Those people probably did not have a clear idea of what would come after they freed themselves from the past.

Others had a firmer vision.  They wanted to change society according to a political philosophy.

This second group has had a considerable impact on our world.  They may feel vindicated in their rebellion.

But are people freer now than they were decades ago?

In my view, they are not.  They may be free of many social constraints, but they are prisoners in other ways.

I believe that personal freedom is a bit of an illusion.  We all depend on others – for love, for employment, for emotional growth and satisfaction.

As well, the Bible makes clear that there are two forces at work in our society – the force of evil under the direction of Satan and the power of love flowing from God.  People are being driven to make a choice between the two kingdoms.

The great 23rd Psalm states where David stood: “The Lord is my shepherd.”

The picture of shepherd and sheep runs through scripture – it was often used by Jesus.

In Matthew 9:36, it says: “When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

It is not flattering for us to picture ourselves as sheep.  But I believe it is accurate.  I may think I’m in control of events but I’m constantly finding out that I’m not.

What is wonderful in that Matthew passage is Jesus’ reaction to seeing our helplessness.  He has compassion.  His heart goes out to us.  He is offering to be our shepherd.

A shepherd guides and defends his sheep; he makes sure they are well fed; he rescues them when they are lost.

I have chosen Jesus as my shepherd.  I frequently wander away from the flock, but he is constant – he finds me and brings me home.  He cares for me.

Freedom?  I have freely decided to cast aside my helplessness to belong to God.