Be Kind in 2017

As we enter a new year, many will be making resolutions for a better life. Here’s one I believe should be on everyone’s list: Be kind. Or be kinder.

We’ve seen so much hate in 2016 that the best way we can hope for a better year is to be kind. There is a verse in the Book of Acts that exemplifies kindness.

The natives showed us extraordinary kindness; for because of the rain that had set in and because of the cold, they kindled a fire and received us all. -Acts 28:2 (NASB)

After being shipwrecked the Apostle Paul and his companions swam to shore and they were met by the islanders. Although they were complete strangers, the islanders nevertheless received them and kept them warm with a fire.

While this was a literal action of warmness, kindness is also –even more so—keeping hearts warm through genuine ministerial care. Many go through storms –emotional, spiritual, psychological—in their lives and kindness will make them feel they are not alone.

So, in 2017, be kind even if others may be unkind to you.

Be kind even if you are misconstrued, misjudged, misinterpreted.

Be kind even if false accusations are hurled against you.

To be kind is to spread love in Christ’s name.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience… -Colossians 3:12 (NASB)

The Other You

The Other You

Have you ever stood before a mirror and asked, “Who are you?”

The obvious answer would be, “Your reflection.”

And that’s how the world would want you to answer when it asks you, “Who are you?”

This is because the world wants to create the illusion that you can become what you are not. So it foists upon you the latest make-up, the classiest clothes, the fastest cars, the slickest gadgets and the most popular diets. And if you’re not able to cope with all these, the world will say you have a problem and will throw at you the trendiest self-help books.

When you get caught up in the world’s illusion, you invite fear into your lives – the fear of rejection, the fear of not looking good enough, the fear of not being good enough, the fear of not having enough, etc. You then forget the other you.

The other you is the real you, the one that God originally had in mind to create.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. -Genesis 1:27

God created you to be divine, untouched and uninfluenced by the trappings of this world. You don’t need the world. The world instead needs you.

But we lost our sense of divinity with the fall of Adam and Eve. As such, we have placed more importance on the external than the internal. We began to search for the gods of security and significance in the world when the I AM has been within us all along.

I AM is one of the names of God.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’“ -Exodus 3:14

Jesus significantly called himself I AM several times. He was the epitome of divinity in human form. Yet, for us today, he can be more than just an epitome. He can be the very life within us that can mold us into the image of God.

The other you can be the Christ in you. What the world offers is all illusion. Christ is the reality.

The other you should be the real you.

3 Awesome Ways God Loves Us

God's love

God is love. This is his very essence. And if there are three persons in the Godhead –Father, Son and Holy Spirit—this means love is the essence of all three. So here are three awesome ways God loves us according to the three persons in the Trinity.

God the Father – he runs to us.

In the parable of The Prodigal Son, we read that the father, upon the return of the wayward son, ran to greet him.

So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. -Luke 15:20

This is a picture of the love of God. God is not an aloof God who is sitting in the far reaches of heaven waiting for mankind to fall all over themselves to try to reach him. He is a God wanting to run to us, throw his arms around us and kiss us. If only we would let him. And we can by following what the wayward son did. He made up his mind to return to the father with humility and repentance.

When we run to God, we will discover that he was running towards us all along. His love is that awesome!

God the Son – he prays for us.

In the Book of Hebrews, Jesus is spoken of as the Great High Priest and he has taken as one of his duties to pray for us.

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. -Hebrews 7:25

If love is the essence of God the Son, then the prayers of Jesus can only be pure, sincere and full of compassion, not expecting anything from us in return. It is the kind of prayer that will be answered by God the Father. To appropriate the answers of the prayers of Jesus, we have to abide in him in submission of our lives to him. To trust in him is to bask in his awesome love for us.

God the Holy Spirit – he moves in us.

The Holy Spirit dwells in us.

That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. -2 Timothy 1:14 (NKJV)

And the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of love (see Galatians 5:22). This means we have the ability to love the way God loves. We have the ability to forgive the way God forgives (see my previous post). Thus, we have the power to dispel hate in this world by the love of God that is within us. The awesome love of God is universal and can touch the life of anyone.

We should not allow ourselves to love any less.

True Forgiveness

true forgiveness

When we get hurt, the intensity of the hurt really depends on how we judge the offense. More often than not, we judge the offense with our ego.

The question we thus should ask is, what really got hurt? Was it our sense of dignity? Our opinion of certain issues? Our looks? Our associations? Our idols?

Then we need to examine the degree of our like or dislike of the person who caused the hurt. If we do not know the person too well, the degree of the hurt is much more than if we knew the person better. For example, we find it easier to forgive a sibling or parent than someone outside of the family. This is because our ego is less likely to assert itself when the hurt involves our loved ones.

Thus, oftentimes it is the ego that deals with the hurt. It can tell us to not forgive. It can tell us to forgive and then have nothing to do anymore with the person who hurt us. It can tell us to forgive but harbor murderous thoughts. It can tell us to forgive but not forget.

In other words, the ego has its own definition of forgiveness. And we go by it.

But what does God’s word say?

So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” -Luke 17:3-4

Jesus wasn’t referring to quantity, but the quality of forgiveness. The relationship is still there. There is no walking away. There is still the effort to build up the relationship.

True forgiveness doesn’t say, “I forgive you. Goodbye!” True forgiveness says, “I forgive you. Allow me to minister to you because I know you’re hurting too and that might be the cause of why you hurt me.”

It is true love –what is known in Greek as agape—in action.

Forgiveness should not be based on ego. It should be based on Christ in us. It should produce the hope that the hurt will be soothed, that reconciliation will take place and that the love of God will prevail so that his goodness will ultimately be the outcome.

And his glory be revealed.

3 Awesome Attributes of God’s Love

God's Love

Love has four meanings in the Greek. The greatest of these is agape, the love that describes the love of God.

Here are three awesome attributes about God’s love that we should emulate, so we can begin to understand the full impact of what love truly is.

1. It is humble.
Pride is so subtle that we can think we’re being humble but unknowingly proud. Take forgiveness as an example. Humility in forgiveness is a two-way street. The one asking for forgiveness and the one who forgives should both reach out to the other with the goal of soothing the hurts, starting over again and restoring whatever may have been lost.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. -Matthew 5:23-24

But oftentimes the one who forgives will not forget. He will forgive but not reconcile. There is no love, there is no humility. It is not forgiveness at all.

When Jesus hung on the cross, he forgave. With his death and resurrection, he continues to reach out to people to reconcile them with God. God’s awesome love was displayed in Calvary!

2. It is self-emptying.
In other words, love in its highest form empties us of the trappings of the ego: self-love, self-worth, self-importance, etc. Agape says, “I will give you all that I am so you can be the best that you can be.”

The crucifixion exposed the worst in man; the resurrection revealed the best that man can be. Jesus emptied himself at the cross so that he can fill us with the best that heaven can give.

Many times it will cause us pain to seek to love the way God does. Yet, it is the ego that is pained, because it struggles to let go of what it believes gives us significance and security. The ego is illusionary. The reality is God.

Give up the ego and embrace God. We will then be on the road to finding and expressing God’s love.

3. It is sacrificial.
It is readily offered. We do not become humble and empty ourselves because we do not have a choice. We love because we want to love, just as God loves us because he wants to love us. Love doesn’t just happen. We make it happen.

We give and we serve and not count the cost. We do so as an offering to God. We do not judge on whether the person is worthy of our love or not. We just love. God always finds us worthy of his love. And he paid the price of this love.

Love at its highest form never asks for anything back. God’s love is an unconditional love.

All three attributes is summarized in this passage of Scripture:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross! -Philippians 2:5-8

May we love the way God loves!

The Music of Love

Music of Love

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. -Colossians 3:14 (NLT)

Perfect harmony. Beautiful description of people coming together in love.

It speaks of unity. Synchronicity. Blending. Flow.

And God is pleased.

It doesn’t come easy, but it can happen. It takes practice, getting to know one another, recognizing each other’s gifts, learning, correcting, following, leading.

Just like a symphony. But the conductor is the Holy Spirit. The audience is only one – the Lord Jesus Christ.

So we dare not be out of tune. We dare not be the screech that will spoil the music. We would want to be a part of making beautiful melody unto the Lord.

Love. Put it on. Wear it. Be comfortable in it. Never remove it. Don’t worry, you won’t smell. On the contrary, you will become a sweet-smelling aroma that wafts up to heaven.

Making music doesn’t get any better.

Perfect harmony.

Sheepish Declarations

Sheepish Declarations
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. –Psalm 23:1

In the first verse of Psalm 23, we see two kinds of declaration. One is a declaration of faith, the other a declaration of surrender.

“The Lord is my shepherd,” is a declaration of faith on a God who is able to provide, protect and empower. It is faith because God is invisible and yet we can believe he exists .

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. -John 20:29

The declaration of surrender is implied. If we declare that God is our shepherd, we are tacitly declaring that we are his sheep. Sheep are meek, vulnerable and easily frightened. This means we are to take the attitude of a sheep, that we are lost without a shepherd. In other words, we can find fulfillment and contentment in God and his will for us. I shall not want.

Yet, a surrender to God’s will also means recognizing that he knows what we want and need and that he will supply these according to HIS riches in glory. Not ours.

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:19

Our concept of what we want is totally different than God’s. God’s concept is always better and always abundant.

It is significant to note that David made these declarations even when he had already been chosen as king. Everything about David’s life, whether he was shepherd or king, was centered on following after God’s heart.

And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the[son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ -Acts 13:22

Declarations of faith and surrender are declarations of devotion to God.

Recommendation Letter

Recommendation Letter

Disciple Recommendation Report
To:
Jesus, Son Of Joseph
Carpenter’s Shop, Nazareth

From;
Jordan Management Consultants,
Jerusalem.

It is our opinion that the 12 men you have picked to manage your new organization lack the back ground, educational and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking.

They do not have the team concept.

Simon Peter – is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper.

Andrew – has no qualities of leadership

The two brothers, James and John – place personal interest above company loyalty.

Thomas – demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale.

We feel it our duty to tell you that Matthew has been black-listed by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau.

James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus have radical leanings, and both register high on the manic-depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential.

He is a man of:

• ability and resourcefulness
• has a keen business mind
• possesses contacts in high places.
• He is highly motivated and ambitious.

We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man.

We wish you every success with your venture.

Very truly yours,
Jordan Management Consultants

What is it to you?

Questions
Shortly after the Resurrection when Jesus appeared again to his disciples, Jesus had mentioned to Peter the manner by which Peter was to die. Peter then asked the Lord about John and what would become of him.

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” -John 21:22

In other words, it was no concern of Peter, for his only concern was to continue to follow the Lord.

Oftentimes we defocus ourselves from the tasks or purposes God gives us when we look at other Christians and what they are doing or not doing for God. Unless their tasks intertwine with ours in a team effort, theirs is of no concern to us.

Are they praying or not praying? Are they ministering or not ministering? Are they following or not following? These are questions better left unasked.

Focus on what God has given you to do. It may seem small or big, insignificant or important. That’s really up to your own perception. For God, it is a task he has deemed you are able to accomplish. Do it then with all your heart.

So next time you see a fellow Christian and you are wondering what he/she is doing or not doing for the Lord, ask yourself:

What is it to me?

The Faith to Forgive

mustard seeds

When Jesus spoke to his disciples about forgiveness, they had a seemingly strange request.

3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” -Luke 17:3-5

Yet, on second look, the request to increase their faith was not that far-fetched, for it does take faith in a loving God to sincerely forgive an offence.

With this in mind, Jesus’ response was allegorical.

He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. -Luke 17:6

A mulberry tree has deep roots and difficult to uproot. So can be an offence. It can come from deep-rooted feelings and it can hurt deeply. Thus, it needs faith to forgive so that the offence can be likened to throwing it into the sea and completely forgotten.

The response of Jesus also tells us another aspect of faith. It has to grow. It is not within God’s purview to increase it.

Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” -Luke 17:4

Yet, it is a seed that is already within us.

…In accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. -Romans 12:3

A seed of faith has been given to each believer. It is up to us to make it grow. It may take several trials, challenges and, yes, offences.

However, when faith develops, it becomes a powerful force to forgive a wrong, no matter how deep.