Kindness: Do I have to?

Are Christians called to be KIND?

 I feel like people who have made habit out of quick, witty retorts (during middle school it was more of a defense mechanism), should get a spiritual hall pass on kindness. But alas, the Bible says otherwise. Why is it so hard to be kind? Why are people so fed up with people and is that cultural sentiment opposing the Great Commission? Perhaps kindness isn’t a struggle for many of us but over the years it has gotten less sincere. What do we do with that and how does God get the glory?

We find the list for the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, specifically 5:22-23, The list, cultivated by Paul being moved by the Holy Spirit, speaks to the resulting character of someone (who by way of the Holy Spirit) is developing maturity in his or her life. The fifth characteristic of the nine mentioned is KINDNESS. It is a bedfellow to love and takes plenty of self-control. The Greek word for “kindness” is chrēstotēs. Roughly translated means “benignity, tender concern, uprightness.” It is kindness of heart and kindness of act. What do we know off the bat?

Kindness is the characteristic that led God to provide salvation for us (Titus 3:4-5). Kindness leads God to give us green pastures, quiet waters, and the restoration of our souls when we’re weary (Psalm 23:2-3). It is God’s tender care that makes Him want to gather us under His wings, to protect us and keep us close to Him (Matthew 23:37). God expressed kindness when He provided for Elijah and the widow of Zarephath during a drought—and He showed more kindness later when He raised the widow’s only son from the dead (1 Kings 17:8-24). When Sarah exiled Hagar and Ishmael, God gave the outcasts kindness in the form of water and hope (Genesis 21:9-21). On multiple occasions, kindness induced Jesus to stop what He was doing and help others in need (Mark 10:46-52). And kindness leads the Good Shepherd to rescue us when we stray (Luke 15:3-7). In kindness He “gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11).

Church, when we exhibit the kindness of God, we are tender, benevolent, and useful to others. Every action, every word will have the flavor of grace in it. To maintain this attitude toward those we love is hard enough. To express kindness toward those who are against us requires the work of God (2 Corinthians 6:4-6).

What is Cultural Kindness and why do we need to know?

Cultural kindness is more about tolerance (what some have referred to as the gospel of being nice) and the decision to accept differences without complaining than it is about actual, truth in love. What’s the problem? It asks us only to be pleasant to those who are different from us before it becomes controversial, but it doesn’t call us to love them. Big problem here. When kindness exists without love, it quickly becomes insincere, something we do because it’s a forced obligation from a place of tribal acting and virtue signaling. But kindness without love isn’t kindness at all. It’s merely an imitation. And people see through imitations.

This is the main problem with cultural kindness as opposed to genuine biblical kindness. It offers niceness and acceptance of others while putting on the mask of love. But tolerance can mask a hatred. A smile can have contempt behind the teeth. Cultural kindness is built from a base of insincerity, and often points to a “Music Man-esque” phoniness that can fool the town for awhile, but always ends up backfiring.

Acts of cultural kindness have become compulsions to avoid insulting someone, and even when paved with good intentions can still seem contrived and even patronizing, and if done enough will lead to subliminal behavior of the same ilk. I’ll give you an example: why do we text the way we do? Why does a grown man have to end his questions or blatant statements in a peacekeeping “Ha” or a “smiley face” or a “laughing until I cry face” just to make sure the person on the other end knows “It’s all good.” It’s a lie, by the way. I am not doing any of those things on the other end of the phone, I just deep down don’t want you to be offended by what I have said. Let’s be honest. Why this neutering of speech? Why this odd signaled softness? Why abuse our emojis because people have stopped letting their “yes be yes and their no be no?!” Yes our culture is far too quick to be offended. Yes, text lacks tone or context and is now our main way of communicating. But it is the COMPULSION to be insincere or even lie that lead to dangerous changes in the way we interact with others. Which, full circle, is how people will KNOW whom we serve. See Galatians once more, Padawan. Digressing…

The apostle Paul told the Ephesians to put away six sinful attitudes and behaviors: bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice. Bitterness is an inward frame of mind that refuses to forgive. Wrath and anger are combined here to refer to violent outbreaks of uncontrolled human rage. Clamor speaks of shouting and loud quarreling. Slander means evil speaking, and the Greek word translated “malice” implies wickedness, which is at the root of all the other sins listed here. To accept Christ is to reject these practices.

In place of these things, through the Word, prayer, fellowship and accountability, true believers are to put on kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness. These three virtues also deal with interpersonal relationships. In the original Greek, the phrase rendered “be kind to one another” literally means “keep on becoming kind toward one another.” The graciousness of God, which is also found in Jesus Christ, shows us what it means to be kind to one another. Because God acts kindly toward us, we are to behave the same way toward others. Because Christ offered grace as the basis for our forgiveness, so too should we.

Being kind to one another is not optional for the people of God. Walking in love means following the example of Jesus Christ. And if we have been saved, transformed and changed by the blood of Christ Jesus, Christlikeness is on our MINDS.

“I am not a kind person. That is just how I have always been.”

This never works as justification for a Christ-follower because the whole premise of Christianity is God changing who we are! The biggest barrier to kindness and often the reason for our endless excuses? The second-greatest commandment.

Being kind to one another involves caring for others, bearing their burdens, and valuing them above ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Kindness motivates us to speak life and encouragement to others instead of death and discouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Expressing support and affirmation instead of condemnation is a characteristic of kindness (Proverbs 15:4).

Being kind to one another means finding a way to forgive rather than blame. Perhaps the most stunning example of this is found in God’s supreme act of kindness that provided for our forgiveness and salvation when He sent His Son to die for us on a cross. Like Paul said to the Romans, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

So what is our lesson? We can’t fake sincerity and the fruit of the Spirit of God won’t be counterfeited. We have to cultivate our conscience, choose to walk in those spiritual disciplines prescribed to us as the Church and seek to put our love for God over comfort and convenience. May our prayer always be: Lord, give me all the mercy you were going to give me today. I am going to need it! Be Kind, Rewind, and then be kind again!

— Pastor Adam —

Sisters In Christ, Choose The Good Portion

Luke 10:38-42

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to Him and said, “Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Have you ever related to Martha more than Mary? This a running theme in my life and as it turns out, prevalent in the lives of many of my friends. We have found it quite helpful to remind each other “this is no new problem” but rather one that brings forth much introspection. This account reminds us that a servant’s heart is a cherished thing, but nothing is more valuable than the time and energy we devote to our relationship with the Lord. In other words, seemingly good things can make the most subtle, dangerous idols. Whether it’s an unrealistically clean house, excelling at our job performance, or being everything to everyone in whatever capacity, it has become a daily fight to find our worth in Christ alone. So it is with that context in mind, I want to focus on the last part of this passage. Jesus says to Martha “you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

We often get caught up in the act of serving but have we stopped to evaluate why? You naturally have a servant’s heart? You were asked to do it by people who depend on you? You want to remain willing to do whatever is needed as an ambassador of Christ? These are great reasons, but I think they are too often coupled with other motivators: guilt, pride, expectation, and the approval of others. It was Jesus Christ that said to Martha, “…you are anxious and troubled about many things.” The longing to serve those around us is often used as a faulty barometer of our standing in the eyes of the Lord, rather than the evidence of spiritual fruit overflowing from a place of love and thankfulness. We serve so we can relieve our troubled hearts from anxiousness. We choose service as an act of recompense rather than an act of love.

The Lord tells Martha, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” He showed Martha that she had a choice to make and He was the One who would give her the power to do it well. How often do we allow anxiousness to cloud our judgement or blind us from seeing the one thing that is most necessary when committing our tasks? Sisters, how do we move on from an anxious heart to a peaceful one, a heart just dying to sit and have time with our Lord? The answer might seem simple to write, difficult to live out.

We surrender to Him daily. It is for His glory, not our own. It is by His power, not our own. True strength lies in recognizing our weakness without Him.

It is dire that we first humble ourselves and ask the Lord for help as we surrender our “rights”, plans, expectations, and again, the approval of others. Notice a trend? Surrender is the pathway to true freedom in the Lord. Submitting to His will by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is choosing the good portion.

Martha could have taken her anxiousness, surrendered it and knelt before her King, spending her time focusing on the main thing in the living room. Allow me to reiterate, it wasn’t that Mary was a “better” Christian than Martha and it isn’t a bad thing to serve. It was the root of her service that was misaligned. Start with surrender and let your service be guided by the leading of the Holy Spirit. As we surrender ourselves to the Lord, our service becomes the overflow of a thankful heart that loves to bring God glory through opportunities to serve Him and His people. Be encouraged as you ask God to help you fully surrender and in the process, grow closer to the one thing that is most necessary in our lives: honoring a WORTHY Lord. My friends, let’s choose the “Good Portion.” Praying for you and thankful for my sisters in Christ!

Sister in Christ,

-Amy Jo-

Rest > Control

In an article titled Anxious for Nothing Addressing the Worry I can’t Explain, Jared Wilson expresses several things we can do with our “anxious nothings!” Anxious nothings: those things we worry about constantly but can’t control. This category ranges from the panicked parents with multiple children who want their house looking like the front cover of Magnolia magazine at all times, (often forgetting the nature of their sticky little blessings) to others sincerely battling a constant state of anxiety twith such intensity they’ve even attempted to make peace with their lack of peace! In the article, Wilson offers some helpful solutions. 1) We can adopt healthier habits through a life of spiritual disciplines and sacrifice. 2) We can stop saying yes to everything anyone asks of us out of a fear of being unliked; connected to our self-worth no doubt. But the real kicker is at the end of his piece when he brings it all back to Jesus Christ’s main remedy for a life of anxiety and fear: the solid rock practice of casting all our burdens swiftly onto the back of the One who has asked for them AND the Only One who has the ability to carry them. 

Aren’t you glad we don’t have to understand everything about our cares before casting them? You just need to know He cares for you. He doesn’t love some idealized version of you. He really loves the broken, weird, messed-up you. So much so that while you were a sinner hating Him, He saves you in that sin. And the more we know the nature of God (Biblical Discipleship) and the more we see the nature of man (literally everywhere), the more we can remind ourselves of the One working it all towards our undeserved good and His deserved glory. In other words, He’s there for us in our time of need, absolutely, but do we recognize our need for Him is an every hour kind of need? God is not the ejector seat, He’s the heartbeat. For example, the author of Hebrews seeks to make our nature and the nature of the Lord so clear we can’t help but leave encouraged and blessed at what our Savior has done while being reminded of how important it is to actively draw near to the Lord!

Hebrews 4:14-16: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

I love what Roman Catholic reject Martin Luther says about this passage. “First, the apostle terrifies us and then he comforts us.” Like when a caring relative “googles” your symptoms and after you’re good and terrified at the list of possibilities based on “a cough” she then reminds you God is the Great Physician and prays “God we just want your will to be done” over you. Thanks Auntie!

The unknown author of 14-16 is addressing the warning in Hebrews 4:1-13 reminding them how terrifying it is to think that we could honestly fail to believe and fail to enter into the rest that the Lord has so graciously provided YET live our entire lives thinking we know the Lord intimately and genuinely trust Him. But after he warns us, after he terrifies us, he COMFORTS us. And boy does he comfort us in these verses! The summation and something we all need to hear RIGHT NOW??

Let Us Hold Fast To Our Confession OF FAITH while the majestic LORD GOD Holds Onto Us!!! 

This year it’s the RONA, this Fall it’ll be Hurricanes and with the upcoming election prepare for mass media outlets to offer you a buffet of doom and gloom. REGARDLESS, our trust is now and forever in the sovereign God. Rest. In. Him. Cast your cares to heaven where they belong and get to work on the mission. Your neighbor will not believe your Savior is sovereign if messengers of the Gospel live like He isn’t even in control of the beaches opening. God bless, Beloved. My heart longs for congregational worship very soon!

Don’t Waste Your Quarantine, Beloved.

I’ll cut right to the chase… I hate that we can’t meet. I know two things can be true at the same time and our current situation is a fine example. 1) God will bring us heaven. That is our future. Whatever happens from here on out, if we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ Jesus our Lord, we will be ushered into heaven by the ONE interceding for us on our behalf. Hallelujah! 2) God does some of His greatest work in the already, not yet. Some seasons can feel more like life on a fallen rock than others and folks, this is one of those seasons. Every morning I wake up and grab what has now replaced the morning paper, type in my password and scroll down a sheet of information, analysis, reports and opinions to determine no one knows when normal returns.

Personally, I have no idea HOW I am handling it even though I remain confident I know WHO is in control. I wouldn’t say I have been fearful, but definitely apprehensive and downright grieved at times. I have these moments of clarity where I want to return to the past just to punch my former self for complaining about our church schedule. What I wouldn’t give to see my baby girls run to embrace their friends on a Wednesday night or watch our Sunday school classes gather to open up the Word before worship and if we are honest, mainly indulge in some much needed chit chat among family and friends. Depending on your season, kids at home or kids grown up and moved out, this is not break or a time to get organized. For many, this may be a time of new chaos and first-time feelings.

Regardless, what questions should we be aiming inward and what staple of truth can help us navigate waves the size of those that took out Elsa’s parents?

Church, here we are. Many of you have your own problems related to the COVID-19 quarantine and although the content of your prayer requests may differ, the source of strength is what unites the body of believers now and forever. As we wait for the world to turn in the right direction, may you seek to THRIVE not just survive. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago during my sermon, do not waste your quarantine.

I am not writing this naive or unaware of the stock market, I am in no way attempting to lessen anyone’s burdens or pretend I know all the secrets to life’s major conundrums. All I have to offer is the Jesus who offered everything to me when He gave us Himself. Two questions we need to ask during this time: What does this say about our Lord? What does this say about me?

God is a redeemer. It is what He does. A friend of mine offered some wise words: we may not even be alive to witness all that our Lord will redeem through such a dark and abrupt situation as this. Trust in the Lord like never before. The culture does not dictate His faithfulness, He is steadfast and immutable in nature regardless of what is happening or not happening around us. But often times the trials shine a brighter light on His victories. They sober us up, they kill off the distractions of our block scheduling, they remind us of the frailty of life and how no one will know their last day, and by His redeeming power all eyes are once again on the only One who can truly save and sustain His people: our savior and Lord Jesus Christ. What does this say about our Lord? No preacher is preaching to an empty room because Jesus never leaves, He never stops growing the Kingdom of God. Praise God for the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit!

Finally, what does this pandemic say about you? Was our grip too tight on the temporal while we profess to be a people living with eternal perspective? Remember, two things can be true at the same time: we can grieve and mourn our normal, sure. But we do not have to bow a knee to an idol. We have been given sight in salvation. Let us move forward with great expectation that we will grow more intimately in Christ Jesus like never before, that we will have some much needed time with our families, much needed trials to test our faith, much needed opportunities to place our trust in Him as well as ask for wisdom in all things, and at the end of the day know good and well all things are working together for our good but most importantly HIS GLORY. Don’t waste your quarantine. God redeems. We run the race with Word, Prayer, (wise) Fellowship and Fasting.

Hebrews 12:1b-2a: “…let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith…”

Till we meet again, beloved, what a potluck that will be,

Pastor Adam