Is it always right to be kind?

My children know this verse backwards and forwards and in my own Mommy Version, which goes like this: And be ye kind one to your brother/sister/ mother/father (as needed) tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32, this mother’s version).

It’s a command. Be kind.

But, do we have to be kind to everybody? All the time?

Kindness is one of God’s attributes. Look at these verses:

  • And Naomi said unto her daughter in law, Blessed be he of the LORD, who hath not left off his kindness to the living and to the dead (Ruth 2:20a).
  • For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD (Psalm 117:2).
  • Jesus said, But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil (Luke 6:35).
  • And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil (Joel 2:13).
  • But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses … By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned (2 Corinthians 6:4, 6)
  • That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7).

Through these verses, we learn that God is kind to everyone, even lousy humans who aren’t thankful, even evil. God’s essence demands His kindness.

One of the things God says about the Virtuous Woman is: She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness (Proverbs 31:26). How many of us use speech that is ruled by kindness?

Lets look at some more verses about what the Lord expects of Christians:

  • Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering (Colossians 3:12).
  • Add … to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (from 2 Peter 1:5, 7).

Being kind obeys Scripture and sets Christians apart from the world.

Kindness doesn’t mean that a person cannot stand up for his rights. Remember Paul? The authorities, not knowing he was a Roman citizen by birth, treated him as a foreigner and tied him up to be scourged. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? (Acts 22:25, Complete story in Acts 22:22-29) Paul wasn’t being unkind; he was only claiming his rights as a Roman citizen.

Jesus cleansed the Temple with a little cord whip. You might think that wasn’t kind. Are we forgetting Who Jesus is? He is God. He knows everything. He is just and kind. Did He forget Himself and act in the flesh? Absolutely not! He is the only Person Who has the right to judge. He had made the rules about temple worship in the first place. Here’s the story: And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves (Mark 11:15-17).

In Matthew’s account, immediately after Jesus threw out the moneychangers, we read: And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did…. (Matthew 21:14-15a). This doesn’t sound like Jesus was unkind, does it?

Indeed, in John’s gospel, the only one of the four gospels where the “whip” is mentioned, it says it was small and made of cords. Never does it say it was used on people or animals.

God is kind.

God wants us to be kind.

He’s kind to everyone—good and bad—and He wants us to be like Him.

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).

Choosing to walk in light

This world is the pits. It has been since the first sin in the Garden of Eden. But, God wants Christians—those who know Him personally—to walk in a different plane.

While it’s true that Christians are in the world, they don’t have to act like the world around them. Neither should they ignore everything around them, live in communes, and become out-of-touch weirdos.

We can walk in the light. How do I know? The Bible says it’s possible. First, it tells us where light comes from: God is light, and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5b). After that, it tells us the results of walking in the light: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

Of course, Christians aren’t sinless. We have battles within ourselves, and sometimes we even hurt others. Thankfully, the Lord gives us a remedy for sin: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Go daily to Jesus for cleansing.

I love the fact that every Christian is already light. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid (Matthew 5:14). It doesn’t say, “You can develop light” or “You might become light.” It says Ye are the light.

Recently, I attended a camp for young ladies. One of the young women said, “People tell me my mother has a light inside.” It’s true! She does.

What do we do with that light? Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:15-16).

Don’t hide it.

Hold it high.

Let it shine.

That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15).

Walking in the light means we’re living with God. Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12). I am the light of the world (John 9:5b).

Do you walk with Jesus? Is He the One who lights your path so that you can reflect His light to those around you?

One of the secrets of walking in light is rejecting darkness. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:15-16). It’s easy to read these words and feel self-righteous, but if we’re honest, we have to admit that sometimes we want things we see. Our flesh and our eyes draw us in to things we don’t need in our lives. We might even covet someone else’s stuff. Our love should be for God, first and foremost.

When we truly love Him, He supplies our needs.  Jesus said, Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you (Luke 12:27-31).

We can confidently walk with God, knowing that He is with us—and He is so much greater than anything this world can offer. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Choose to walk in light today.

“God won’t give you more than you can handle.” True?

“God won’t give you more than you can handle” is one of those typical sayings that we should file in the nearest trashcan.

Why? Because it’s not true.

If you’ve never been to the place you felt completely overwhelmed, then you haven’t lived very long—or you blissfully go through life oblivious. (If the latter is true, I envy you.)

Trials come. Many times, they arrive bunched together, all at once. Everyone experiences hurts, yucky situations, broken relationships, deaths, and financial tight spots. Everyone has the washing machine break down—on a day when company’s coming and you need clean sheets. Everyone cuts a finger, spills milk, and drops eggs or jelly on a freshly mopped floor. Everyone has car problems. Everyone has friend, family, and neighbor personality clashes. Almost everyone experiences sickness sooner or later. Nobody doesn’t have trials. No one’s immune. Trials are part of life.

I think it’s funny when people share trite sayings and sound bites that might seem right. They may even sound like Scripture–but those sayings aren’t true.

God won’t give you more than you can handle?

Ask the Apostle Paul about that. This is his testimony: Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? (2 Corinthians 11:24-29) Falsely accused, narrowly escaping death, persecuted in churches he founded, personal disappointments, prison time, and the weight of the ministry upon him—the Apostle Paul understood there’s suffering in the will of God.

The Bible is clear: Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Christians should expect it. No, we don’t need to fear or do something dumb in order to invite it, but those who live a godly life will see persecution at some time and in some way.

I love Paul’s response to his list of sufferings: If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not (2 Corinthians 30-31). He stated the facts, accepted them, and glorified God in the process.

Will God sometimes allow—not necessarily give—you more than you can handle?

Oh yes!

An Old Testament example is Job. God introduces him: my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil (from Job 1:8).

Yet, God allowed him in one day to lose his herds, servants, and all ten of his children. His reaction is perfect: Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly (Job 1:20-22).

Later, Job also lost his health, the support of his wife, and any encouragement his friends might have offered. His loss was overwhelming, so much so that he even wished he’d never been born.

After Job persevered, God blessed him. And, ever since, we speak of the “patience of Job” for his incredible endurance in the face of adversity.

I don’t pretend to understand the Trinity: three Persons—all one God. Remember when Jesus was praying in the garden of Gethsemane? Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Luke 22:42-44). Even Jesus—God in the flesh—needed Divine help as He faced the cross.

The truth is that sometimes, God allows trials that we can’t handle.

I believe this verse is taken out of context many times, but it is one of the most encouraging verses in the Bible within its context. Paul is talking about persecutions and afflictions that aren’t going away. He’s writing from prison, having suffered hunger, cold, and adversities. His testimony (given by the Holy Spirit): I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Philippians 4:13).

Job determined, Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him (Job 13:15a).

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:28-29a). Everything we go through—with the Lord’s help—helps strengthen us in faith and actually works together for our good. Our experiences help us be more conformed into the image of Christ. These hardships build up our faith log: God helped me here and here; He will also help me go through future trials.

After Paul asked God three times to take away his thorn in the flesh, God gave him a clear answer. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Paul’s response? Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

God’s grace is sufficient, but we are, at best, weak human beings. My own life verse was chosen back in high school. I thought life was daunting then, but again and again since, the Lord has proved Himself powerful. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

It’s freeing to know that we don’t have to be enough. He is.

We don’t have to handle it. He can.

We can completely rely on our all-powerful, compassionate God, Who can do it for us.

God bless you, today.

Six correct reactions to criticism

Criticism comes often in life. If you sit, they tell you to stand. If you stand, they say you should rest. Everyone seems to have an opinion about what you do, should do, and don’t do. They opine about how you do it, and how they think you could do it better. Normal life seems a no-win situation. What is the correct reaction?

I recently watched an interview with a young woman. She had posted something online. It was misunderstood, and bullying ensued. She was so hurt by the nasty things that were said that she had to get offline for a while.

Today’s trend is to feel victimized. I recently heard that the United Kingdom is discussing whether “online abuse” constitutes a crime. If it gains traction, a whole police task force will be needed to deal with negative words.

I’ve written before about abusive language, hate speech, and God’s law of kindness. You may want to read my posts here and here. But this post is about reactions to it.

What is the correct reaction to criticism?

First, we’ll look at wrong reactions:

  • AngerLet all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice (Ephesians 4:31). But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice.… (Colossians 3:8a)
  • RevengeDearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord (Romans 12:19). For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people (Hebrews 10:30).
  • Dwelling on the hurtFinally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).

Here are six correct reactions:

  1. PrayerBe careful (full of care, anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
  2. Apologizing, if necessary—Sometimes the fault is mutual. If you need to repent to the other person, do so. Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him (Luke 17:3).
  3. Reporting crimes to the proper authorities—Unfortunately, in Christian circles, the tendency has been to sweep crimes under the carpet along with verbal assaults and sins. If the suffered hurt was actually a threat or crime, it should be reported to police. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.… For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil (Romans 13:1, 4).
  4. ForgivingThen came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22).
  5. Moving forward—Leave the junk of the past in the past. The Apostle Paul said, One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13b-14).
  6. Not revisiting old hurts—One of Satan’s best weapons against Christians is encouraging them towards wrong thinking. Once you have dealt with a hurt in a biblical manner (above), you can put it behind you. When that hurt pops into your mind again, dismiss it. There are two ways to do this. One is learning Philippians 4:8 thinking (passage above). The other is to discipline our thoughts through the power of God. (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

So many Christians today experience defeat in their lives because someone hurt them. Yes, the hurt was real and deep. We should not minimize it or brush it aside.

It must be dealt with correctly so the Christian can move forward in victory.

Jesus said, I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10b).

God bless you and help you overcome.

I have the weirdest superpower

When I read about other people’s superpowers, I usually crack up. But I have friends with serious superpowers, too: teaching, showing mercy, organizing, “keeping kids alive,” cooking, blitz cleaning, etc. I admire every one of these ladies!

And then, there are the more unique friends: One’s hand tendons roll. Another completely flops his tongue upside down. My family can raise one eyebrow very high. Superpowers tend to be quirky, silly, and frankly … who cares?

Mine is special.

And, it’s just as weird as other people’s.

I smell things.

You might smell things, too, but probably not like I do.

I actually smell things when I see a photo.

  • Bread? Yummm.
  • Lilacs? Sweet.
  • Gumbo? Smell the shrimp and spices.
  • Roses? Those, too.
  • Gas pumps. I smell the fumes.
  • Lemons or chocolate? Yes, quite a visceral reaction.

It’s really crazy when I browse Pinterest, since photographs trigger a genuine smell reaction.

Maybe the connection between my nose and my mind has rewired. I never heard of anyone else with my goofy gift. It’s true. And yes, sometime’s I think I’m bonkers.

Did you know that God recognizes smells, too?

The priests in the Old Testament burned special incense, a recipe mandated by God Himself. It was so special that it couldn’t be used for anything except worship. And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy: And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy (Exodus 30:34-36).

The incense burned, and the smoke of it covered the mercy seat that is upon the testimony (Leviticus 16:12-13).

God was pleased with this perfumed smoke in the air.

It was a complete sensory experience for the high priest, too. The gold, silver, brass, beautifully embroidered curtains, colors, and blood and fire filled his vision. Little bells tinkled in his ears—the bells that let those outside know he was still alive and moving around in the Holy of Holies. The cloud of incense billowed over the Mercy Seat as he made the sprinkled blood offering to cover the sins of the people for another year.

David said, Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice (Psalm 141:2).

In the New Testament, the prayers of God’s people actually become perfume in heaven. What a concept! Our prayers smell sweet to God.

And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints (Revelation 5:8).

And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand (Revelation 8:3-4).

I wonder how many sweet puffs of perfume I sent up today.

How about you?