Be Kind

Kindness is defined a number of ways, depending on the one that receives that kindness.  I think an adequate summary might be: showing gentleness, helpfulness and consideration through our words and actions.

Kindness seems to be a rare commodity these days.  In an increasingly coarse culture, the exchange of ideas has come to resemble the volley of weapons on the battlefield.  It is my observation that battle lines are quickly drawn and attacks ensue, no matter the importance of the issue.  Offense and misunderstandings increase in this environment, because we are all too often loaded for bear when we approach any conversation…even among friends.

Friends.  That brings to mind Facebook, Twitter and other social media.  Insulated behind our screens and keyboards, we will often carry our arguments much farther than we may have intended, resorting to personal attacks and ad hominem arguments rather than having an adult discussion of the facts and our positions.

So, what are “we” to do.  By “we,” I am specifically addressing the one who is reading this who would identify herself as a believer in Jesus, seeking to allow His Lordship to be expressed in all areas of life.  I suggest four thoughts that should guide us in every discourse.  To make them memorable, I have followed the K-I-N-D acrostic to form my outline.

Kingdom – As Christians, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God.  In all things, including our conversations, we are instructed to “seek first His Kingdom AND righteousness.”  There is often a large gulf between being “right” and being “righteous.”  If my being “right” is or has become more important than my relationship with God, first of all, and my sister, friend…even my enemy, I need to correct my course.  Kingdom citizens love, even our “enemies.”

Intent – What is my intent in this conversation or action?  Is love my motive?  Am I being moved by my emotional investment in this issue, or the good of the other person or people involved?  Am I seeking God’s glory?  I am finding that when I begin to examine my motive and intentions, I will be much more constructive in my conversations and actions.  How about you?

Necessary – Quite simply, some things are not even worth argument or conflict.  The old adage, “Choose your battles,” can save so much heartache, stress and time.  I have friends on Facebook who have way too much time on their hands for arguments over “non-essentials.”  I do realize that labeling something non-essential is a bit subjective, BUT, simply taking the time to ask myself the question, “Is it necessary for me to insert myself or my opinion here?” can be the difference in becoming a stumbling block to others.

Define – A thoughtful college professor of mine used to say, “Words don’t have meanings, people do.”  It’s a bit of a twist, I know, but taking the time to give definition to a person can create an environment for meaningful interaction.  I may totally disagree with someone, including their positions on issues and even lifestyle, and still have a positive relationship with them.  In Romans 12:18, Paul says, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all people.”

You may notice something, here.  All the responsibility for a KIND environment of interaction depends on me.  I cannot control anyone but myself.  If I am showing kindness and genuine communication fails, I can excuse myself, with kindness, and walk away with a clear conscience and peace within.  It’s a miserable day when I’ve failed to be kind and am nagged by those “I really should have said…I really should have done…” thoughts.

In the end, kindness wins, every time.  Have you found this to be true?  I’d love to know your thoughts or hear your story about the power of kindness.

 

I LOVE Donald Trump!

 

trumhaterI confess, I am not the MOST politically engaged person in the world.  I rarely watch the news, for a number of reasons.  I do READ the news, however, and make an effort to stay informed from a variety of sources.

This often leads me to like, share, retweet…which is fed into my Facebook feed.  I recently retweeted a real-time comment someone made on a speech that was being delivered by the Republican presidential candidate for the presidency of the good ‘ole US of A.  This comment was aimed at the impression left that religious liberty is limited to pastors not being threatened with censure for what they are saying from the pulpit.  The tweet reads:

Donald Trump thinks allowing pastors free speech at church is the front line on religious liberty? That’s unacceptable. #RNCinCLE

A friend and brother asked a fair question in the comments below the retweet:

James, why are you such a Trump hater.

I’ve thought about my response and searched my heart for the appropriate method of responding.  I decided it was best to put it in writing, here…so, here goes:

I LOVE Donald Trump!  I really do.

There are some things I HATE about Trump, however.

I’ve chosen to outline these things I HATE based upon a familiar and often quoted scripture, Proverbs 6:17-19.  Here’s said passage of scripture, lifted from The Message translation:

Here are six things God hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: 6:17 eyes that are arrogant, a tongue that lies, hands that murder the innocent, 6:18 a heart that hatches evil plots, feet that race down a wicked track, 6:19 a mouth that lies under oath, a troublemaker in the family.

Bible scholar friends, please don’t hate on me.  It is merely serving as an outline, here.  I understand I am not “interpreting” this scripture, here.  Also, to my friends who support Trump, don’t hear me saying that “God hates Trump,” or “God hates Hillary.”  There’s enough of that sort of rhetoric around.

My thoughts:

Trump exudes an arrogant pride that shouts down nearly every positive thing he tries to say.  That may appear to be an unfair assessment to some, but it is true.  (Secretary Clinton, the Democrative nominee, is just as guilty.)

Trump tells lies.  He is painted by many as a habitual liar, infected with a character flaw that he dangerously believes his own lies.  Have you read the interview in the New Yorker, in which his ghostwriter “tells all?”  (Again, Secretary Clinton is guilty as charged here, too.)

I’m not sure where Trump stands on abortion.  I believe abortion is murder.  In fact, I personally believe that there is no more innocent life that is taken than a baby that is killed through abortion.  There is no room for compromise, as far as I’m concerned.  Trump seems to have an evolving position, depending on where he is and what he is doing.  That is illustrated in an article from the Washington Post.  (Secretary Clinton is clear on her stance, as recent interviews show.)

In Matthew 15:18, Jesus reminds us that what comes out of a person’s mouth reveals who that person is.  Trump makes a habit of assassinating the character of those who oppose him.  He calls people idiot, loser, etc. without reservation.  The context of his speech is usually self-promotion at the expense of just about everyone else.  It’s sad, really.  (Secretary Clinton…again, guilty as charged)

Examine the life and habits of Mr. Trump.  He may not drink or smoke, as has been reported by so many of my supportive friends on Facebook, but his life is littered with evil exploits, about which he has bragged in print (see his book).  (Secretary Clinton…well, her life has been under a microscope for a long time.  No reason to rehearse it, here.)

We’ve already mentioned Mr. Trump’s penchant for telling untruths, so we’ll not visit there again.

Let me just say, my issues with Mr. Trump…and Secretary Clinton, are too numerous to fully address in a blog post.  BUT…

I LOVE Donald Trump!  I pray for him.

The same is true for Secretary Clinton.  I LOVE her!  I pray for her.

The politics of personal destruction, the politics of fear, the political machine that consumes what is right and good in our society, if there is anything, just makes me sick to my stomach.  The fact that people will sell their soul in their quest for political power and influence is beyond disappointing, particularly when I see it happening among my brothers and sisters in Christ.  The scripture twisting that is currently happening to support a candidate is nonsensical.  My heart aches over this…and so much more.

So, I’ll continue to share political news, comments, posts, etc. that I find interesting.  My sharing does not necessarily mean I totally agree or disagree.  I have folks I love on both sides of nearly every issue.  Our disagreement enriches my life.

Mark, thanks for asking your question.  I hope my answer has brought some clarity to what I am thinking.  Ultimately, I am but a sojourner, here.  My life and breath is given to a constant seeking of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.  I continue to wrestle with the issues that face us in this election cycle.  Please, pray for me.  I’m praying for you.

 

Arriving: An Advent Journey – Day 3 (Tuesday)

Arriving advent

For how can we thank God enough for you, for all the joy we feel because of you before our God? We pray earnestly night and day to see you in person and make up what may be lacking in your faith. Now may God our Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we do for you, so that your hearts are strengthened in holiness to be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. – 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

I used to have a penpal from Japan. We exchanged letters and pictures for a short time, while I was in Middle School. We never met, but it was exciting to think that I was in contact with someone from a different culture, with different insights and life experiences.

We have a number of letters from Paul to people he never met. There are some common themes in these letters, all held within the passage I’ve chosen for today.

1. Thanksgiving – Paul expresses great joy and thanksgiving for these folks, even though they are complete strangers.

2. Prayer – Paul prays earnestly for these believers, with earnest for there spiritual maturity.

3. Love – In the midst of prayer that they might abound in love for one another and all, Paul acknowledges the increasing love he has for them.

4. Holiness – Paul would be remiss without a mention of God’s intent for each of his people, to walk in holiness.

5. Jesus Return – “Blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.” Our holy walk finds it’s ultimate fruition, when we stand before Jesus, conformed to His image.

Paul had never met these folks, but we are put to shame by the depth of his love…his earnest prayer…his constant thanksgiving…

Imagine how our lives would be changed if those we know held the same place in our hearts and minds.

I haven’t thought of my former pen-pal in a long time, until, today. I’m thankful for her. I am praying for her. I hope to meet her, one day, at the coming of our Lord Jesus. Until He returns. I pray the

Lord cause ME to increase and abound in love for MY brothers and sisters and for all…so that MY heart is strengthened in holiness to be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

AND I pray the same for you.

What does that mean?

I have seven kids, spread from three to 20.  Six of them are adopted from China.

The fact that English is a second language to most of my kids has led to more than the usual questions being asked about the simplest things.  I confess.  I have not always been the most patient father.  In fact, some of the questions tend to drive me a little nuts.

Today, while driving to the church, one of my children observed a driver ahead of me using their left turn signal.  The question, “Does that light flashing mean that they are turning left?”  I began to have the little internal conversation, “Of course it does, isn’t that obvious,” when I had a gut check in my spirit.  No.  It wasn’t obvious, or the question would have been unnecessary.  So, we had a quick lesson in the use of turn signals, along with multiple illustrations of how many people do not use them.

This got me to thinking.  Yeah, I know.  That’s always a bit of a dangerous thing.

Anyway, I got to thinking how we often neglect to answer the simplest questions for the “child in faith.”  We make the assumption that the information is available.  We make the assumption that people are sophisticated enough to figure things out for themselves.  I traveled down that rabbit hole for a bit and began to think of the myriad of issues involved.

Much like my adopted children, new Christians are experiencing culture shock.  They are experiencing language acquisition.  They are disoriented and confused, at times, by the rapid changes in their habits and ideas.  They are frightened to disappoint, ignorant of the myriad of expectations they are facing and hungry to learn.

Today, I committed to practice more patience in the face of the “obvious” questions from my children.  I commit to never calling any of my children, “Captain Obvious,” ever again.  Yes, I’m ashamed to say that I have used that phrase a few times.

Today, let’s also commit to practice more patience in the face of the expected hurdles and failures that baby Christians may be experiencing around us.  Be ready to give an answer.  Be prepared to offer comfort and encouragement.  Be committed to being an example…a light…a cheerleader and a champion.

Let’s make the fruit of the Spirit the OBVIOUS thing in every interaction.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 5:23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (NET Bible)

PJames

Do You LIKE Jesus?

We live in a world saturated with, so-called, social media.  Every major social media outlet gives you the option to “LIKE,” “SHARE,” etc.

Some even use images of Jesus, encouraging us to LIKE and SHARE, depending upon our opinion of Jesus, what we believe about Him, etc.  Here’s one of my favorites (not really):share if you love jesus1

For the most part, these memes are pretty much harmless.  They tend to trash up my news-feed on Facebook, which can be a little aggravating, but I scroll right past them.

Are you shocked?  Don’t be.  LIKE them and SHARE them to your little hearts content (well, please don’t share my example, it’s really silly).  I won’t be.

Another pastor recently made this observation:

 

I’d venture to say that we have churches full of people who LIKE Jesus.  They LIKE the IDEA of Jesus.  They LIKE Jesus kind of LIKE they LIKE Santa.  He’s great for a season.  He’s great when he is bearing gifts and spreading happiness, but when He communicates an expectation of commitment and transformation…all bets are off.

The gospels share such accounts (i.e. John 6:59-67).  Unfortunately, nothing much has changed in 2,000 years of Christian history.

Jesus says, “If you love me, you’ll keep my commands.” (John 14:15)

John says, “This is how you love God, you keep His commandments…and they don’t weigh us down.” (1 John 5:3)

God did not come in Jesus Christ to suffer and die to be LIKED. He came to give is Life through His Word, Jesus. Click To Tweet

Jesus says, “The person who does not love me, doesn’t keep My words.” (John 14:24)

We’re not talking about earning our salvation, here.  We’re not talking about earning anything, here.  We’re talking about loving Jesus.

To love Him is to seek to be LIKE HIM.  It’s not enough to LIKE Him or the idea of Him.  God did not come in Jesus Christ to suffer and die to be LIKED.  He came to give is Life through His Word, Jesus.

He came to transform us and conform us to Jesus.

Paul says it clearly.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, 8:29 because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Do you get that…

He destined us to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus.

Honestly, I am more interested in your desire to BE LIKE JESUS, because that is what the Father intends.

Peace.

 

 

 

Build A Bridge And Get Over It!

Yes, I know!  That phrase has been uttered many times in a biting and confrontational manner to push others to let go of the past and move forward.  I have even thought about using it a few times, but have never actually said it, until now.

Stick with me.

Monday of this week, I went into the hospital room of a woman I had never met.  Her daughter is an active member, but I had never laid eyes on her.  To be honest, I was a bit insecure with the situation.  I wondered what to say, what not to say, what questions to ask…have you ever been there?

The visit was short and sweet.  Another of her daughters, who I had never met, was there.  I introduced myself and the reason for my visit.  Pleasantries were exchanged.  I offered help and prayer…then left, feeling a bit defeated and disconnected.

Fast forward to Thursday.

I made a return visit, flanked by Pastor Tim Thomas.  I hoped for a better result…a connection…an opportunity to offer more than pleasantries.  I prayed that God would make that happen.

Upon entering the room, the conversation was much the same.  She appreciated our visit.  I asked about a couple of symptoms she had been having during my last visit.  They had resolved and she was encouraged about returning home, soon…

Then it happened…a bridge was constructed, miraculously, right before my eyes.  I don’t even remember the context, honestly, but she mentioned the name of a Nazarene congregation, in East Dublin, GA…Graham Memorial Church of the Nazarene.  I had last entered the doors of that church as a Junior in High School, in 1986, nearly 30 years ago, as a member of a youth choir.

“I’ve been there,” I said, simply.

Three simple words.

From those words sprang a beautiful conversation that included three things that are important bridges of relationship for all of us.

A common heritage – She shared precious memories of godly grandparents and parents, worshiping God with abandon and participating in the life of this congregation.  In fact, her father helped build the sanctuary in 1950.

A common experience – Her memory of a committed pastor and wife, who faithfully ministered for 56 years at Graham Memorial, was an experience I’ll never forget.  Juanita Frost, the pastor’s wife, was vocal in her worship.  As our youth choir sang, she praised and encouraged from the front row, “Bless’em Lord.  Help’em Lord.  Amen!”

A common hope in Jesus – Her physical condition is dire.  Many would say she is without hope.  Through our conversation, she remembered her mother, lying on her death-bed, not able to acknowledge those around her, quoting the Bible, continuously.  She talked about the death of her grandmother, who, with her last breath, shouted “Hallelujah!” and entered glory with a smile on her face.  She confessed that, like those who have gone before, Jesus is her only hope, physically and spiritually.

I share this story to encourage you to build a bridge.  There are people all around us, needing someone to care, someone to listen, someone to share their lives.  Some we pass on the street, others we visit in a hospital or nursing facility.  Wherever you find yourself, ask God to help build a bridge…and, then, get over it!