40 Days of Kindness – #19

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Read Deuteronomy 7:6-9

6“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples,8but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.9Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…” 

Unrelenting Love

As I look back on my late teens and early twenties, I see a young man who was causing a lot of pain and damaging a lot of stuff, including my dad’s little red convertible. Many I’m sure wondered how my parents put up with me. I was a question mark on my fathers otherwise impeccable reputation in our small town. Yet through all of my small and huge    mistakes, the love of my father and mother was unceasing. Some would say they were naive. Maybe their were, but they were unrelenting in loving their kids, even the difficult one.

Israel was set apart (holy) for the Lord. He had chosen Israel as his treasure, not because they were special or especially good. In fact Israel would at times show themselves to have less sense and moral integrity than the pagan nations around them. So why doesn’t God just dump them. Why didn’t my parents wash their hands of a prodigal son and change the locks on the house.

This is the beauty of God’s love – it is unconditional. That is, it is not dependent on us earning it, following all the rules, or behaving better than the neighbor kids. Certainly there are 10,000 blessings in keeping within God’s boundaries and living according to his instruction. But that is not the cause or catalyst for his love.

God’s love springs from HIS covenant commitment to the ones He made in His image. He chose to set His affections upon Israel alone and then through Jesus Christ, the whole world.  He gave His only Son that we might have eternal life. Not because we deserve it but because

“The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does” (Ps 145:13);

and:

God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1Jn.4:16)

This is so beautiful and amazing – it is amazing grace. It is the love that draws prodigal sons home, it is the love that sustains the wounded, and the love that makes the broken whole again.

This is also the love that fuels our love for God and one another – when we believe it. This is the challenge – to believe in God’s love for you. To accept it without earning it. To believe He is for you without condition, even in spite of lots of negative conditions. He is for us, His love never fails and His love never ends.

PRAYER:

Father, thank you for your love for me, my family and your Church. Help me to believe it, rest in your love, and live out of your love today. AMEN.

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#18 – 40 Days of Kindness & Prayer, Together

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Read Nehemiah 1:1-11 (CEV)

I am Nehemiah son of Hacaliah, and in this book I tell what I have done.

During the month of Chislev in the twentieth year that Artaxerxes ruled Persia, I was in his fortress city of Susa, 2when my brother Hanani came with some men from Judah. So I asked them about the Jews who had escaped  from being captives in Babylonia. I also asked them about the city of Jerusalem.

They told me, “Those captives who have come back are having all kinds of troubles. They are terribly disgraced, Jerusalem’s walls are broken down, and its gates have been burned.”

When I heard this, I sat down on the ground and cried. Then for several days, I mourned; I went without eating to show my sorrow, and I prayed:

LORD God of heaven, you are great and fearsome. And you faithfully keep your promises to everyone who loves you and obeys your commands. I am your servant, so please have mercy on me and answer the prayer that I make day and night for these people of Israel who serve you. I, my family, and the rest of your people have sinned 7by choosing to disobey you and the laws and teachings you gave to your servant Moses.

8 Please remember the promise you made to Moses. You told him that if we were unfaithful, you would scatter us among foreign nations. 9 But you also said that no matter how far away we were, we could turn to you and start obeying your laws. Then you would bring us back to the place where you have chosen to be worshiped.

10 Our LORD, I am praying for your servants—those you rescued by your great strength and mighty power. 11 Please answer my prayer and the prayer of your other servants who gladly honor your name. When I serve the king his wine today, make him pleased with me and let him do what I ask.

BEGIN with BROKENNESS

Brokenness is often what God uses to reveal his purpose and vision for us. Nehemiah is an example of a broken leader, broken over a broken city and its people. Enemies destroyed the wall around Jerusalem, leaving the city in a vulnerable position. The people were broken and disgraced. Nehemiah sought God’s heart and followed His leadership. He was open to God working in him and through him.

A church’s [families] vitality depends on God working and servant leaders that are available and responsive to him. Nehemiah painted a clear picture of vital servant leadership. (1) Nehemiah was inquisitive and interested. He asked questions. What questions do you need to ask at home and at church? (2) Nehemiah accepted reality. He heard the news that the wall was broken down and the people were in trouble. What is our reality? Is there a need for fresh vitality and commitment? (3) Nehemiah acted. He cried, prayed, fasted and surrendered. What action do you and I need to take today for greater vitality in our family?

The beginning is to be broken over the current reality of the brokenness within and around us. Then we must seek God in prayer, fasting and surrender.

PRAYER:

Father, give me the wisdom to understand our reality, to be compassionate, to prayerfully seek you and surrender to the leading of your Spirit. AMEN.

#17 – 40 Days Devotional

Friday, March 2, 2018

Read Mark 10:42-45

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

AMASSING TRUE WEALTH

One unique thing about Jesus was that he was so radically different from the ways of the world. Titans of commerce amass huge fortunes and immense power enabling them to manipulate people and the political system. World leaders puff up and show off military prowess and sacrifice 18 year old boys to prove a point. Leaders buy votes with favor to this group or that, and often religious leaders are all too willing to trade the sacred for a seat at the table of power.

NOT JESUS.

Strangely, the Lord of lords did not come to Lord over us but to love and serve us. And what we call public service today, gaining wealth, power and influence by serving government for decades, is not remotely near Jesus point. He came to live among the hurting and broken, to amass nothing but souls, to suffer for us and to serve us unto His own gruesome death on a torturous cross.

Jesus, the Lord of lords, did not call down the hosts of heaven (armies at his disposal), but rather served us and gave his very life as a ransom for our souls.

John Chrysostrum (344-407AD), considered the most prominent doctor of the Greek Church and the greatest preacher ever heard in the Christian pulpit of the old world, said:

“Before he humbled himself only the angels knew him. After he humbled himself, all human nature know him … his humble [service to others] did not make him less, but produced countless benefits and made his glory shine forth with brightness. Why then are you afraid you will become less if you humble yourself and serve.”

We could say Jesus stooped low to pick up very little. He gave up heaven to ransom a broken human race. But he counted it joy to serve his broken creation and make us whole again.

Jesus is different for sure. Dare we be different too?!

PRAYER:

Father, I let go of my desire for power and control. I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure. I let go of my desire for survival and security. I open to the love, humility and servant heart of Jesus and his action within me. Amen.

#16 – 40 Days of Kindness Devotional

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Read Matthew 5:9 (NLT)

God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.

The KINDNESS of PEACE 

Peace is not the absence of conflict. Kindness is not accepting anything from anybody so that there can be peace. That is not peace, but it is a conflict avoidant niceness, masquerading as peace.

At the outset of World War II, Nevel Chamberlain, then Prime Minister of England, sought peace by appeasing Hitler and later sought to negotiate peace with Hitler through the Italian Fascist Dictator Musolini. President Roosevelt wanted to maintain peace by avoiding the European conflict altoghter. He abandoned England, France and our allies until war hit our shores in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. Appeasement and avoidance of conflict will not create peace. Winston Churchill said: “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile—hoping it will eat him last.”

Let us say then that peace often involves work and sometimes a treacherous fight.

St. Augustine (354-430AD) said:

“There is in the inner person a kind of daily quarrel; a praiseworthy battle.”

We don’t often look at quarrels or battles, inside or out, as “praiseworthy.” But he goes on to say,

“…the battle keeps what is better from being overcome by what is worse. The conflict is to keep [inappropriate] desire and lust from conquering the mind and wisdom.”

What he is describing is a peacemaker. Working for inner peace and peace with men and women means seeking what is better, what is healthy, holy and good for ourselves and others.

The enemy longs to disrupt our peace by corrupting the good and glorious image of God in us. Peace means fighting for that better part of me – the part made in the image of God, filled with His power, goodness and His kindness that leads to peace. The battle for peace is real, both inside and out. But in Christ, the battle is already won and His love – a love that overcomes all our sins – is that which will satisfy our deepest desires and cause peace to permeate the broken world.

PRAYER:

Father, let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. Give me your grace and strength today to stand, in you and with you, for what is right and good, both within and with those you divinely set in my path today. Amen.

40 Days of Kindness Devotional – Day 15

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12

9But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other,d for God himself has taught you to love one another. 10Indeed, you already show your love for all the believerse throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more.

11Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. 12Then people who are not Christians will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others.

BE QUIET IN LOVE

It’s Hump Daaaaay and for most that means get busy and get it done. Get the kids out the door, feed the dog, make those calls, write that report, get to that meeting, impress the boss, make that sale, fix what broke, pick-up the kids, get them to practice, grab dinner on the fly and collapse. Life can be so busy!

Busyness is often the enemy to love. I can be so busy that I forget to breath in the blessings and take time to love the people around me. I appreciate the story of the movie Collateral Beauty with Will Smith. Smith is a successful partner of an advertising agency until he loses his six year old daughter to cancer. It devastates him. It is both a sad and beautiful movie. It reminds us that life is precious and fleeting and yet filled with abundant (collateral) beauty and opportunities to love. The characters all have burdens and busyness that keep them from seeing beauty and love – until some angels arrest their attention.

The young Christians of Thessalonica were concerned about their success in this very populous and prosperous city. Their temptation was to compromise faith and holiness to grab a little “happiness.” The apparent success and prosperity of the pagan culture made them wonder if they were missing out on the real good stuff.

Paul’s message is amazingly simple. Love more, just as God taught you, and live a quiet life. Slow down, breath in the beauty, and love. Simplicity and love will lead you to thrive and others will appreciate the way you live. Really?! Paul suggests we not chase the squirrels of life, but embrace love and a quiet life.

Maybe love really does change everything!

PRAYER:

Father, help me to abide in you love today. Lead me to be quiet, slow down and breath in the beauty of your creation and your love. Let me breath deeply of it and live it out with others today. AMEN.

 

Devo for day 14 – 40 Days of Kindness

February 27, 2018

Read 2 Timothy 2:1-2 (NLT)

1Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. 2You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.

Leading in Christ Strength

I remember as a young banker, two mentors took me under their wing and showed me the ropes. I graduated near the top of my class, but I needed men with practical experience to help me grow. I was sure I knew a lot, but I was radically inexperienced and largely unaware of what I didn’t know. It took an investment from more mature men to shape a not so humble and receptive younger me. They persisted and shared what they knew I didn’t know.

Young Timothy was not born a leader. An older man named Paul built a mentoring relationship with him. Paul invested in Timothy to develop his heart and mind to lead the church at Ephesus. This is the way leaders are made. Mentors, more mature men and women invest in younger men and women to pass on the gift of grace and the lessons of life.

The body of Christ, just like any family, needs godly mature people to show the way. The church needs us to invest in each other, to build one another up. Most especially we need  mature folks to pour their hearts into the younger folks around us. We hope they welcome growing in faith and using their gifts to serve the Kingdom, but they rarely will if no one shares and invests in them.

Judges 2:10-12 shares the sad story of faith lost and evil taking root because one generation did not share with the next.

“When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel . . . forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them.”

It took only one generation to lose the spiritual legacy that should have been passed on.

Who told you about Christ? Who showed you how to read the Bible? Who showed you how to manage the affairs of a home and navigate relationships and work? Maybe you need someone to help and maybe you had a great mentor.

The question is are you willing to invest in a child, a student, a younger adult and be a mentor? Are you willing to learn from a more mature person, humbly? It is a great kindness to invest in another person and share what has been shared with you. Without this, we are prone to repeat Israels mistakes and learn some hard lessons. But if we will pass on the grace we have received, we will make a significant difference in the family of God.

PRAYER:

Father, give me a heart to share the grace and wisdom you’ve given me with another person and give me a humble heart to receive from others as well. May the kindness you have shown me in the lessons of life flow kindly and intentionally from me today. AMEN.

40 Days of Kindness Devotional – Day 13

Monday, February 26, 2018

Read Ephesians 4:25-32 (paraphrase)

24 So live into your true self, the one created in the image of God—totally accepted and set apart by God.

25 Stop living falsely and hiding. Let us be truthful with one another, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t turn against God and others by letting anger control you.” Don’t leave your your anger unattended, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the enemy.

28 Don’t deceptively take from others. Instead, work diligently, be honest, and give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use harsh or wounding language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that the heart of your words will be beneficial to those who hear them.

30And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has made you his own and guaranteed your ultimate freedom. 

31 Set aside all your bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all hurtful behavior. 32 Instead, move toward one another in kindness and tenderheartedness, and forgive one another, as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Moving Toward

One thing we all have in common is that we have been hurt by other people. People, have said or done things that hurt us. And it’s very probable that we too, as broken people, have hurt others. In this broken world, the question is not “will I be hurt” but “how will I respond when hurt by others?”

This passage sites several reactions that often accompany the hurt we encounter: anger (v.26), bitterness, slander and hurt you back behavior (v.31). These parts of us, old parts if you will, that pop up to defend our hearts. They mean well, but ultimately they are not giving us the help we need. That’s why Paul says set them aside.

The true self, the new real you is united with Christ by the mystery of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. The true you is safe and in Christ. As children of God, we are protected, defended and loved by the King. As such we need not react to the hurt, but in our true self we move toward one another in kindness and love.

This is not always an easy reality to grasp. But Christ in you, the true you, has the power and the Spirit of love. This is a pro-active strength that moves toward others with a tender heart and forgiveness. It’s Monday – new challenges await us and hurts may come, but in Christ let’s move toward one another in love.

PRAYER:

Father, you know the pain of hurt more than I. You know the cost of forgiveness and you know the power of love. Fill me afresh with that power that I may move toward others with kindness and tenderheartedness today. Amen.