Kindness

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December 22

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

These days, in fact many days in the past, Christmas gift-giving in our household is an interesting study in perplexity.  As in most households, we start asking, “What would you like for Christmas?” around or before Thanksgiving Day. Tami and Janna have always been fairly easy to buy for since they were pretty much upfront with their list. Braden is not so upfront but I figure Ohio State or Reds clothing or a gift card to Dick’s or Chik-fil-A will do him well. I’m pretty content with what I already have so I would suggest a gift certificate to a bicycle site (names included) and some jigsaw puzzle sites. It didn’t matter though because for the most part those suggestions were ignored. 🙂 But Jo?? She is extremely hard to buy for. She doesn’t wear jewelry (for which I am grateful for since I see what some wear and its cost). She doesn’t even wear a watch. Her Fitbit is most often in her pocket. She doesn’t wear perfume very often and was always picky as to what she would wear (Coty Wild Musk was a favorite). I don’t dare buy her clothes. Too big or too small I can’t win! 🙂

So one year I decided I wasn’t buying anything. I decided I was going to give myself. How’s that for a real treat? I made each one of them a booklet of 12 coupons. Any time during the month stated they could cash it in. I’m not very handy or creative so I can’t remember much about it. I do KNOW they liked the Date Night-a meal and doing whatever they wanted. I remember Janna and I actually seeing Back to the Future 3 on one of them.

Point: The greatest gift we could give each other is ourselves.  While other gifts fade away, that one lasts forever and there are no returns. No too big or too small. No wrong color.  There is, however, lasting impact and unforgettable memories. Give the best gift possible…YOURSELF.

“Father, you gave yourself in the person of Jesus. ‘The Word became flesh’ is the way it is put. May I always remember it isn’t the presents under the tree that matters but my presence.”

December 9

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

I read something this morning that struck me. It struck me because is sounded strangely familiar. Here, let me give you the verses and see if you think the same thing:

“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about you.” {Emphasis mine} (Titus 2: 7-8)

Do you see what I emphasized?

It sounds strangely familiar to this:

“Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered those who revile your good behavior may be put to shame.”  {Emphasis mine} (I Peter 3:15-16)

It seems to be that the quickest way to shut someone up is to live a life of integrity, dignity, honesty, kindness and gentleness in front of others. Then when someone decides it is time to slander, bad-mouth, or spread lies, others will know the truth and not believe obvious lies. As Paul says elsewhere: “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

“Father, the quickest way to shut up my naysayers it to live an exemplary life of integrity and purity in front of others. Let that be me.”

November 20

Friday, November 20th, 2020

First, a couple of questions:

  • Have you noticed that judging is a tricky thing?
  • Have you noticed we will often judge another but overlook our own sin? (Of course you have noticed)
  • Have you noticed we are often more judgmental of people who struggle with the same sin as us?
  • Have you noticed how we often have a scale of how right or wrong a sin is?

Judging is tricky. I know what some say. They use the Scripture in Matthew 7:1- “Judge not, that you be not judged” as rationale for being able to do what they want without having you or me as their conscience. “Who are you to judge?” is the question often asked. I have some thoughts on that but let’s walk away from that for now.

I’m particularly wanting to focus on the kind of self-righteous posturing we get into when we compare. “Will you look at that. I’m sure glad I don’t do that.” That kind of self-righteous shtick that lampoons others while getting us off the hook. Sadly, if we have overcome a habit, rather than become more sensitive we tend to become a harsher critic.

Another angle to throw in is how we are often harder on others or totally avoid talking about the sin we are guilty of. Like the preacher who harps on porn or adultery because it is prevalent in his life, OR avoids talking about them because they are in his closet.

Here’s a novel idea (said with tongue planted firmly in my cheek): How about we just stop pointing fingers of judgment on sin and look in the mirror more intently and with more honesty? I’m not saying we lay down our discernment of right and wrong. What I am saying is to stop the self-righteous picking at someone else.

“Father, may my thoughts and words be pure and Christ-focused.”

November 9

Monday, November 9th, 2020

I read today’s devotion in Our Daily Bread and it was a really cool story of the author’s two grandchildren. They tried out for a play called Alice in Wonderland, Jr. and were set on getting the roles for two main leads. Instead they were chosen as flowers. Flowers! And you would expect them to be bummed…upset…jealous. But they were just the opposite. They were excited for their friends who got the leading roles. Their mother reported, “Their joy seemed greater cheering for their friends and sharing in their excitement.”

I thought about that. The Bible says, “Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” Sadly, way too many in the church “Weep with those who rejoice and rejoice with those who weep.”  Pastors, for example, have difficulty celebrating another pastor’s growing church. It is way too easy to be jealous and bemoan the fact the “my church isn’t growing like his.” That’s only one example.

Maybe it’s time you and I began to truly practice what these young girls exhibited: full-fledged joy at another person’s good fortune. Instead of competition, maybe we  ought to try teamwork and support.  While some bloggers seem to thrive and have countless readers, and others (like me) who struggle to get one or two, it is important for me to cheer them on (providing they are giving Scriptural truth). Jealous competition is so ugly.

“Father, help me not to get jealous or competitive, but to truly rejoice with others who excel at the same thing as me. Only then will Your church be seen as a healthy body.”

September 14

Monday, September 14th, 2020

Taking credit. You see it in sports. Someone is full of him/herself and takes credit for the performance. You see it in business. “I did this” or “I did that.” That person tends to forget what I will call the “trenchers.”  They are the ones who work daily in the trenches-brainstorming, conceiving and executing ideas-the plan. You see it in movies, TV, or other “up front” activities. The actor get the accolades; the double or the bit actor or the one behind the scene is left behind. You see it in the pulpit. A pastor copies plagiarizes preaches a sermon almost word for word of someone else but doesn’t give credit where credit is due.

Giving credit.  Turning the tables.  Acknowledging those unseen players. The wife who hates the limelight and quietly supports her husband. (Can you say Jo?) The bit player whose idea spawned a movement. The teacher who week after week teaches in relative obscurity and is content to be in the background.

I could give example after example but I’m sure you get the point. Giving credit to others is not the product of over-inflated egos but of a humble heart.  Demeaning others in order to exalt oneself is not love; it is not Christ-like at all. I’m of the opinion (for what it’s worth) that God is not interested at all in our status, our position, our clout, or our standing in life. What I do believe is that He is interested in our willingness to be used by Him and to acknowledge His part in our lives. As someone has said, “May they forget the channel, seeing only Him.” (Kate Barclay Wilkinson)

“Father, may I simply be a promoter of You. Help me not to be one who takes credit, but one who gives credit where credit is due. May people forget me and see only You.”

August 6

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

One of the by-products of the pandemic we are going through has been loneliness. Being cooped up, isolated, sequestered, quarantined, or just plain fearful of being around people has led to many feeling alone. There is a hankering for human interaction, but it is often slow in forthcoming. Already lonely people are even lonelier. Many have become hermits, fearful of their own shadows. Many, sadly, think they need no one else; while in truth, we desperately need other people.

Chuck Swindoll once wrote about meeting a former Marine who was converted after his discharge. This Marine was the picture of a typical Marine-touch, cussed loudly, drank heavily, chased women, and had no need for Christians or the church. When he saw Chuck he said the thing he missed was the times at the tavern when he and his buddies would sit around a pitcher of beer and laugh, joke, and let their hair down (as if a Marine could do that).  🙂  On another occasion he also wrote a quote from someone who said, “The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give His church.” (Dropping Your Guard-p.128)  {Note: please know I am NOT recommending someone go to a local bar or tavern for fellowship}.

What that Marine, of course, was talking about was his need for fellowship. A place he could laugh, cry, and be accepted. And that is why this pandemic has brought about so much loneliness. We have no one. Phones and computers and texting is not enough. We need face-to-face, in person contact.

How about you?  Are you isolated? Are you alone? Get outside. Find someone else who may be alone, or feeling alone. There are safe ways to make that happen if you are concerned about that.  People need people whether we realize it or not.

“Father, you are my refuge, my safe place. But sometimes we just need someone with skin. We are all made for others. Help me to search out those who are lonely and see how I can help.”

May 29

Friday, May 29th, 2020

I always have mixed emotions. I struggle between compassion and hard-heartedness. You don’t find them in our little town because we don’t have an intersection going to an interstate. Or coming off one. People who panhandle. They have signs designed to catch your attention and tug at your heartstrings. Are they really in sorry shape or are they playin’ ya? As the pastor of a church we get calls for help. One guy called and he was staying at McCormick’s Creek State Park’s Canyon Inn. Expensive, even in off-season. He said his car broke down and he was having to stay the night and would we help him by paying for his room for another night? We have a much cheaper-priced hotel in town.  Aaaahhhh No.  About a week later the same voice called asking for gas for his moped to get to work. $25? I asked him if he called last week because I recognized his voice. It was the only honest thing he said. Answer: No again. Awhile back Jo & I were on our way to Ohio and stopped for gas. A guy was sitting at a pump and asked if I had money for gas. First mistake: I should have offered to pay for gas. Second mistake: giving him money for gas. He got in his car and drove away without getting gas. (Smack my head). Ironically, we were driving the interstate and maybe 20-25 miles later and guess who was in the middle with his hood up?

I’m torn because the Bible talks about helping others. About entertaining angels unawares. It tells me to give without expecting anything back. So I struggle with helping or turning my head or just saying no. Stats show many of the panhandlers work together and shuffle around and do rather well. We shouldn’t give to get; we should give to be rewarded; we shouldn’t give to get on God’s good side.

What about you? What do you do? What do you think?

“Father, give me wisdom and discernment to know if I’m being snookered or truly helping someone in need. Help me not to become jaded to helping others.”

May 1

Friday, May 1st, 2020

WOW! May 1 already! Time flies when you are having fun. Okay…onto the devotion.

I wish it wasn’t true. But it is. I’ve seen it. Been a victim of it. You’d think it would be limited to those outside Christ, to those outside the church, but it’s not. I was reminded of it today. Here’s what I’m talking about.  It is in this statement:

THE CHURCH IS THE ONLY ARMY THAT SHOOTS ITS OWN WOUNDED.

One of the characteristics of the Marines is “No man left behind.” Too bad many churches don’t have that philosophy. It would change our whole idea of target practice. Instead of shooting at our wounded our focus would be on our real enemies: gossip, division, jealousy, envy, vindictive speech, dissension, judgmentalism, and other sins which seem to get a free pass. But let someone stumble! Then it almost appears to be an all out feeding frenzy.

David knew that. Take a moment and read Psalm 109. Just the first 5 verses give you a glimpse of his predicament. But to get an even deeper description check out verses 16-20. What a sad psalm as David laments his treatment. Was David perfect? Of course not. But he was the victim of vicious attacks.

People need encouragement not attacks. Even if they have sinned royally. Do they need to repent? Yes! But that is God’s department. He did not make me judge, jury, and executioner.

“Father, may I be an encourager not a judge.  Help me to remember a hurting person needs a helping hand not an accusing finger.”

 

March 26

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

Years ago I remember reading the story of Kitty Genovese. (I can’t remember the name of the book but the author was Fritz Ridenour.  It was a book on evangelism. I also remember he used the story in John 4 to show how Jesus did evangelism with the woman at the well and how it served as a good example for us). Okay…back to Kitty. 🙂 Anyway, Kitty was brutally knifed, raped and murdered outside her apartment one evening. I googled it this morning and recent updates say she was knifed 13 times and no one lifted a finger to help or even call the police.  As an aside, her story helped institute 9-1-1 and also what was called The Bystander Effect.

That kind of apathy and “unfeelingness” stuns us. It should stun those who talk about the goodness of man and how we are all basically good inside. I simply cannot fathom that no one came forward to rescue her, to help her or to even call.

Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. A man is beaten, left for dead and two religious people walk on by as though they see nothing. It took a foreigner- a Samaritan- to stop, bind his wounds and take him to a hostel where he could recover. Jesus’ teaching was easy to see-for them and for us. What I need to ask myself, what you need to ask yourself, is who will I choose to be in that story? We live in a time where so many are living in fear and panic.  So let me issue this challenge: instead of asking yourself who will I choose to be, why not BE the answer! Why not ask God how you can BE someone’s answer?  Pray for God to lead you to someone-especially in this time of fear-who could use your help. Instead of being a need; why not meet a need? And yes, I know we are to take precautions. And we should. There are other ways-creative ways-we can help reach someone’s need. 

“Father, you have not asked me to sit idly by or to pass by on the other side. You have given me the challenge to be an answer. Lead me to someone whom I can help.”

March 4

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

All of us want and need someone to care about us. Without exception. Oh, I know there are people who say they don’t need anyone else.  I want to say to them “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” And I know there are those who pretend to be “hard” and try to push people away, but they aren’t kidding anyone. We all need and want someone to care. Our world is filled with people who go through life feeling hopeless, abandoned, empty, and lost.

Sadly, just as there are many who go through life feeling that way, there are those- many who call themselves followers of Jesus- who basically say, “I don’t care.”  They have cocooned themselves in a cloak that says, “My world” and have tried to shut themselves out from others.They give off the air of “I don’t care” and “Don’t bother me.”

That philosophy goes against the very teachings of Jesus in Matthew 25 when Jesus talks about the sheep and the goats and who would inherit the kingdom. Our response to those who are hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick and in prison will go a long way in determining if we are a sheep or a  goat. Will we, as followers of Christ, reach out or hunker down?

I recently read that Stephen Foster, the writer of “O Susanna” and “Camptown Races”-songs that made the world sing- died at the age of 36 as a derelict in a 25-cents-a-night flophouse, looking twice his age. I can’t help but wonder what got him there? How does someone with so much going for him/her end up lost and hopeless, a slave to drink? Then I ask myself did no one care?  Did no one reach out?  (I can’t answer that honestly because I don’t know).  It might be easy to say, “Alcohol did it” and that may be true. But what drove him to the alcohol? Was it loneliness? Hopelessness?

“Father, give me a heart for the hopeless, the lost, the hurting, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and the sick. Help me give hope where there is none.”