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In step


Looking around with anger
Mark 3
"He looked round at them in anger ..." (v.5)

Did Jesus ever lose His temper? Some, looking at the passage before us today, might think so. In fact, I once heard a Christian defending his temper by saying: "If Jesus could not control His temper when faced with the scorn of the Pharisees in Mark 3, why should I be condemned for my inability to control mine?"Did the behavior of Jesus on this occasion result from a loss of temper?

Of course not. One luminous phrase lights up the story and puts the matter in its proper perspective: "being grieved by the hardness of their hearts" (v.5, NKJV). The reason why Jesus "looked around at them with anger" was because He was "grieved by the hardness of their hearts." The cause of His anger was grief, not loss of temper -- grief at their insensibility to human need. It was grief at what was happening to someone else, not personal pique at what was happening to Him.

Whenever we get angry, it is usually because our ego has been wounded and hits back, not in redemption but in retaliation. There is a temper that is redemptive and there is a temper that is retaliatory. The redemptive temper burns with the steady fire of redemptive intention; the retaliatory temper simply burns you up. It was intended to burn the other person up, but all it serves to do is to burn you. Patience, the fruit of the Spirit, works in us -- if we let it -- to temper our purposes to the Kingdom, and to Kingdom purposes alone.

My Father and my God, dwell so deeply in me by Your Spirit that my temper shall be tempered and produce no tempests -- either in myself or in others. For Jesus' sake I ask it. Amen.


An Attitude of Gratitude

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."1

"A national news program conducted a study of fifty people who have lived over 100 years and still lead active, happy lives. . . . The researchers specifically looked for similarities in diet, exercise, lifestyle and habits that could contribute to their longevity and quality of life. What they found was amazing.

"Through an extensive interviewing process, the news team found that some of the participants in this study had what would be considered good diets. An equal number of people were not as healthy in their food choices. Exercise and other areas of lifestyle were also not found to be a common thread throughout the group.

"However, two things were overwhelmingly consistent among over 90 percent of those studied. What were these consistent traits? Nine out of ten said that throughout their entire lives they awoke every morning with an attitude of gratitude for one more day of life and that they saw each day as a precious gift. Secondly, nine out of ten stated that they felt life was too short to hold grudges or spend time complaining, and they forgave people quickly and refused to dwell on negative thoughts.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, when I am faced with a challenge, a setback, a disappointment, a loss, pain, or a difficult circumstance over which I seem to have no control, please help me to genuinely say thank you for the opportunity to grow and for the lessons to be learned, and help me to 'hear' what wisdom and guidance you always give to a grateful heart. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


Two Ways to Honk a Horn
James 1:19-27
"... man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." (v.20)

We continue meditating on the fourth fruit of the Spirit -- patience or good temper. "Temper," someone has said, "turns to bad or good according to what is behind it." Remember that the word "temper" simply means "a disposition of mind" and really requires the words "good" or "bad" to be prefixed to it if it is to be clearly identified. Dr. Stanley Jones says that there are two ways to honk a horn -- the Christian way and the non-Christian way. The Christian way calls attention to a situation; the non-Christian way not only calls attention to the situation but it also calls attention to what the honker feels about it. In the USA I once saw a sign on a car that said: "Honk away -- it's your ulcer." Ulcers are usually visible signs of an ulcerated spirit -- ulcerated by irritation and bad temper.

Whenever we lose our temper and take it out on people around us, we do the utmost harm, not to them, but to ourselves. The one who is out of sorts with someone else is usually out of sorts with himself. He projects his inner problems on to others and fails to see that the cause and remedy are in himself. I once witnessed a Sunday School superintendent lose his temper in a committee meeting, and when reprimanded by another for his bad spirit said: "I have to lose my temper in order to get anything done around here." Our text for today contradicts that view. Listen to it again, this time in the Phillips translation: "For man's temper is never the means of achieving God's true goodness." Wrong means lead to wrong ends -- inevitably.

O Father, help me to meet all impatience with patience, all hate with love, all grumpiness with joy and all bad temper with good temper. In Jesus' Name I ask it. Amen.


Not What We Say

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."1

You've no doubt heard about the three birds that are sitting on a telephone wire. Two of them decide to fly south. How many are left? One? No. It's three. This is because deciding to fly south isn't the same as doing it.

It's a bit like the difference between a want and a wish. I may want to lose some extra pounds and decide to do it, but don't do anything about it. This makes my desire and decision to lose weight nothing more than a wish.

In life it's not what I say, wish, or decide that counts. It's what I do. Action always needs to follow one's decision. Otherwise it is meaningless.

Have you been wanting to make amends with a friend whom you hurt or who has hurt you, or with whom you had a difference? Have you been meaning to visit a shut-in elderly person, make a phone call, send a card, or write a letter to a friend in need, buy flowers for your wife or special friend? Then don't delay. Do it today.

As Michael Josephson said, "Good intentions are simply not enough. Our character is defined and our lives are determined not by what we want, say or think, but by what we do.

And as God's Word says, "Do not merely listen to the word [God's Word, the Bible], and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to be a doer of your word and not just a listener. Help me to be a proactive person and make good things happen and not be an uninvolved bystander. And help me to always practice what I preach. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name,


"I got saved last night"
Ephesians 4:8-21
"... be filled with the Spirit ... always giving thanks to God the Father for everything ..." (vv.18 & 20)

The greatest single influence in turning a bad temper to a good temper is to be indwelt by the Spirit of God. Our text makes that abundantly plain. When the Spirit is allowed to dwell in us, He influences our reactions so that we respond to life's situations with praise rather than with pique.

A miner was notorious for his bad temper. His job was to look after the pit ponies, and whenever they did anything wrong, he would swear and hit out at them with a stick. When he got like this, strong men would keep out of his way, for they knew that he could as easily turn on them as he did on the horses.

One night he went to a Welsh revival meeting, got gloriously converted and experienced a mighty encounter with the Holy Spirit. Next day, at work, one of the horses stepped on his foot. The men with him waited for the explosion -- but nothing happened. One man asked: "Are you sick?" "No," replied the miner, "why do you ask?" "Well," said the man, "I know how quickly you get upset about things, and when the horse stepped on your foot and you didn't lose your temper, I thought you must be unwell." "I'm not unwell," said the miner, "I got saved and filled with the Holy Spirit last night."There is an interesting moment recorded in the life of Saul in 1 Samuel 10:27: "But some rebels said, 'How can this man save us?' So they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace" (NKJV). Had Saul maintained that same spirit, he would have been a great man!

Dear Father, let Your Spirit invade and take up His abode deep within me, so that in the hour of pressure and crisis, I shall react to everything in a truly Christian way. In Christ's Name I pray. Amen.


A Sure_Fire Prayer for When All Else Fails

"The reason you don't have what you want is that you don't ask God for it. And even when you do ask, you don't get it because your whole aim is wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure."1

Have you ever had a problem, a bad habit, or a relational conflict that you couldn't overcome or resolve no matter how hard you tried, how much you sought help, and even how much you prayed?

I have. For years I struggled with a relational conflict that I did everything I could think of to resolve—including getting intensive counseling and praying relentlessly.

Finally in utter desperation I prayed, "God, I beg you to show me the truth of what I am still contributing to this situation I am in."

Almost overnight I got the answer. I saw my super codependency. I hadn't even heard of the word back then, but what I saw was that because I was trying to fix everybody else's problems, I was blind to my own! And here I thought I was being a good Christian! Wrong. I was being a needy person; that is, I needed to feel needed in order to feel loved and that, of course, isn't really love—or it is contaminated love at best—it's need.

Once I saw the truth of what I was contributing, I knew what I had to do to fix my problem. As Jesus said, "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free."2 I also realized that the only person's problems I could fix were my own!

Why did it take so long to get my earlier prayers answered? It was because I'd been praying the wrong prayer. I'd been asking for deliverance from the symptoms (the external conflict) and not from the cause of my problem.

As James, in today's Scripture points out, many of our prayers aren't answered because our aim is wrong; that is, we pray with false motives for the wrong thing.

True, we need to treat our symptoms, but the reality is God wants to heal the root cause of our problems and make us whole, because if we don't deal with the root cause/s, we can easily exchange one symptom for another.

So now, whenever I have a conflict or a problem, I always ask God to face or confront me with the truth of what I am contributing to it. Only then do I ask him to show me the truth of what others are contributing, and the truth or reality of the overall situation. The important thing always is to first face the truth about myself.

I have found whenever I pray for truth and mean it, God always answers. It is one of the most effective prayers I have ever prayed. It has changed my life. Often I don't want to face the truth about myself because I am too afraid, so I also pray, "God I am willing to be made willing to face the truth about me no matter how much it might hurt."

Not that it's easy, but praying for truth is a sure-fire way to resolve many, if not most conflicts—or at least our part in them.

And when it comes to relationship conflicts, if two people will genuinely own up to their unresolved personal issues and problems (which are often at the root of many, if not most, conflicts), and each ask God to show them what they are contributing, I believe they will be able to resolve most conflicts. Each person needs to mean it with all their heart, otherwise it won't work.

As God's Word also says, "The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth."3

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, help me in all my prayers to be honest with myself and honest with you, knowing that when I call on you in truth, you will always hear and answer my prayers. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


"I would have been -- B.C."
1 Thessalonians 5:12-24
"... encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone." (v.14)

Mary writes of the change that the Holy Spirit wrought in her after conversion: "I went out to shut the chickens up for the night and found that the boys had closed the door and turned out the light, and all the chickens were outside. Chickens can't see in the dark, and if you shine a light on them, it blinds them. Three years ago I would have given the boys a good spanking, and made them get the chickens in. Tonight, I didn't even stop singing! I went to turn the light on and found that the bulb was burned out. Instead of being disgusted, as I would have been B.

C. (before Christ), I just got a new one and then I got those chickens in with such tenderness that I even surprised myself. When the last chicken was in, I thanked my Father for helping me get them all in so easily by controlling, not the chickens, but me." What the Spirit did for Mary, He can do for you.

Another woman, after finding Christ, went through a time of great persecution from her family. She said: "I used to have a violent temper and my family used to be careful how they talked to me. It was a goal of mine always to have the last word. Following my conversion, my family used to test me by saying all the things they knew used to annoy me. If it had not been for the presence of the Spirit in my life, I know I would not have had the patience to handle their remarks. I still have the last word -- but the last word is silence."

Father, at those times when the last word needs to be silence, help me to have that last word. Drive this thought deep into my heart -- that I always lose when I lose my temper. Amen.


Be Prepared

"Prepare to meet your God, O Israel."1

As a kid I was in the Boy Scouts. The one thing I remembered above everything else I learned was the Boy Scout motto which said: "Be prepared."

As an older teen I did my required two-year part-time service in the National Service with the Royal Engineers in the Australian Army. We, too, were taught to always be prepared no matter what the situation was and to always make the best out of what we had.

In life and for doing God's work opportunities come to those who are prepared—and available. And as an old preacher friend used to say, "It's better to be prepared and not called than to be called and not prepared."

Do you want to achieve something worthwhile with your life—regardless of your age? If so, be prepared. Do you want to serve God? Then the better prepared you are the more effective job God can do with your life. When preparation meets opportunity—plus with commitment and hard work—success is all but guaranteed.

In God's economy, whether you are called to be a "butcher, a baker, or a candlestick maker" be thoroughly prepared so you can be the very best "butcher, baker, candlestick maker," or whatever you can be and do your very best all for the glory of God.

And above all, be prepared for eternity, for as God's Word says, "Prepare to meet your God," and also, "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."2

If you are not sure that you are ready to meet your Maker, whatever you do, do that today for none of us has any guarantee of tomorrow. God's Word also says, "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation."3

God's gift of forgiveness and eternal life is available to all. His invitation is: "Whosever will may come."4 To help you be prepared to meet God be sure to read the article, "How to Be Sure You're a Real Christian—without having to be religious" at: www.actsweb.org/christian.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that you have a purpose for my life. Help me to know exactly what it is and get the training and preparation necessary to be the very best I can be at whatever that might be. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


Rallying Cries
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith,
act like men, be strong—1 Corinthians 16:13

When we men gather, our gatherings should be about something. Without a something, brotherhood doesn’t last. There are, of course, plenty of possible such somethings: we gather to watch sports, play sports, talk sports, talk politics, discuss philosophy, drink coffee, drink wine, drink beer, hunt, fish, golf, bike, hike, and many other things.

Some of us, though, believe there’s one something that stands well above the rest—a great cause—to follow our King, Jesus Christ, which includes fighting for ourselves, our loved ones, our friends, our neighbors, and engaging an enemy that “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

It’s an honor that we’ve been called to such a cause. But, just as men are apt to allow their attention to drift and to lose focus over time, so are groups of men. We must, therefore, be intentional about maintaining purpose, about maintaining alignment with one another, and about maintaining morale and increasing mettle toward opposition and hardship.

One approach is to borrow an ancient technique: the rallying cry. It requires we simply consecrate, and then adopt, a few well-chosen words that capture what we stand for, words that reflect our agreed upon priorities, and that rally us always back to God’s (and now our) great cause.

Decide today what you and your brothers are about . . . decide your something. Ask yourselves, what brought us together? What’s our purpose in being together? What are our priorities toward one another? What do we care about? What makes us unique? If you’ve never thought about these things, now’s the time, brother. Keep it fun. Set aside some time to pray together and to listen. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. Then collaborate and iterate and formulate your group’s rallying cry.


No reason to smile
Proverbs 17:17-28
"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (v.22)

A surprising thing takes place in those whose temper is tempered by the Holy Spirit -- bad temper is replaced by a growing sense of humor. God has given us the power of humor, not only to laugh at things, but to laugh off things. I am not suggesting that we ought to use laughter to deny realities, but humor often reduces things to their proper size.

I once heard a preacher say: "There is no good in a movement or a person where there is no good humor, for goodness has laughter as a corollary." There is something basically wrong with a person who, at appropriate times, cannot break out into hearty laughter. I heard recently of a member of the Irish Republican Army who was wonderfully converted.

He spent the first month after his conversion in the home of a minister who said of him: "It was two weeks before I saw him smile, and when I spoke to him about this, he said: 'I have been in a grim business, plotting against people -- and the way I was living, there was just no reason to smile.' " How tragic -- "just no reason to smile." Depend on it, where you cannot smile, you cannot live -- you just exist.

Over the years, I have watched many groups come to the CWR Institutes in Christian Counselling. Many are tied up with fears, guilts and apprehension. We invite them to share their fears and get them up and out. They do. Then the laughter begins. They grow progressively happier as the week goes on. By the end of the week, they are ready to laugh at anything -- themselves included.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, it is said of You that You were anointed "with the oil of gladness more than your companions." Let that same anointing rest and remain upon me today -- and every day. For Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.


Long Suffering Vs. Suffering Long

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."1

A Daily Encounter reader rightfully shares how we can't always get well even though we want to. Healing can be a difficult thing to understand. Some people get healed. Others don't. Lazarus and Dorcas were raised from the dead, while John the Baptist lost his head and stayed dead.

It is still true, however, that if we want to be made well/whole, it needs to be more than a wish. In life, it's what we do, not what we say, that speaks the loudest of all. And it's what we do about what we say we want that makes the difference between a wish and a want.

Nevertheless, there are some burdens that we may need to learn to live with and manage, for we live in a broken and imperfect world. For these issues we need longsuffering, which can help us to grow in faith, patience, and every grace.

However, there are other problems in life that can be resolved. For example, some people are ill because they are harboring a long-standing grudge and refuse to forgive the one/s who hurt them. I know one man whose wife divorced him twenty years ago and who has long since remarried, but he is still clinging to the fantasy that she is going to come back to him. These instances are suffering long. In these there is no benefit to be gained whatsoever—only bitterness, unhappiness, and illness.

This is why the Serenity Prayer, though simple, is so profound. It is today's suggested prayer: "'God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.' Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus


Warm goodwill to others
Colossians 3
"... clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (v.12)

The fifth virtue listed in the fruit of the Spirit is kindness. The King James Version uses the word "gentleness" but there is little doubt that "kindness" is a more faithful translation of the original Greek word -- chrestotes. "Kindness" is a very beautiful word; it means "a kindly disposition, or warm goodwill toward others

."One commentator says that if you wanted to express Christianity in one English word, you would use the word "kindness." To speak, for example, of an "unkind Christian" is almost a contradiction in terms. There is some evidence that in the early centuries of the Church, non-Christians used the words "kindly" and "Christian" as synonyms.

Tertullian, one of the Church Fathers, said, "The words were so allied in meaning that no harm was done by the confusion."I once asked a church youth group, if I had the power to give them just eight of the fruit instead of nine, which one would they be willing to do without. Almost everyone in the group said "kindness."

When I asked why, they explained that for them, the word conjured up a picture of weakness and sentimentality. I told the group that they were obviously unaware of the true meaning of the word "kindness," and that a kindly disposition does not necessarily mean maudlin sentimentality. So let's be quite clear what we are talking about when we use this word: kindness is a supernatural virtue endowed upon us by the Holy Spirit, engendering within us a warm goodwill to others. How much of it, I wonder, will flow out to others today from you and me?

Gracious Father, help me today to be clothed with kindness. Make me a person who can show warmth and goodwill to others. I ask this for Your own dear Name's sake. Amen.


What kindness is not
Ephesians 4:17-32
"Be kind and compassionate to one another ..." (v.32)

We saw yesterday how a group of young people had a wrong concept of kindness, viewing it as just maudlin sentimentality. It is surprising how debased the word "kindness" has become, in both Christian and non-Christian thought.

Some Christians accept the word because it is used in Scripture, but have no real desire to acquire the virtue because, to them, it smacks of sentimentality and weakness. The world uses the word but, separated as it is from any thought of God, "kindness" comes out as a mild compensation for a lack of firmness and clear thinking. People say, rather patronizingly in some cases: "Oh, he's a kind fellow" -- and they leave it there. The word has come to wear thin in the currency of the world (and in some parts of the Church), so there is a great need to see it minted afresh and gleaming bright in the commerce of modern-day Christian life.

Think with me still further about what kindness, the fruit of the Spirit, is not. Kindness is not being a "do-gooder." In fact, the word in the original Greek does not imply active goodness but a disposition of goodwill, although active goodness may be one expression of it. Many think of kindness as giving money to people who have a financial need, but just giving money to people who appear to need it, without being guided by the Spirit, can result in great harm. Giving to people at the wrong time can take away from them something more precious than is being given. There are few things in which we have more need of the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit than in our giving.

O Father, help me to discern between what is true and what is counterfeit. I want my kindness to be genuine kindness -- the sort of kindness that helps people, not hurts them. Amen.


No Hiding Place

"Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?" declares the LORD. "Do not I fill heaven and earth?"1

Tim Timmons and Stephen Arteburn in their book, Hooked on Life, tell about a middle-aged woman who made her way into an apartment building to the twelfth floor. As she arrived at her intended destination, she rang the doorbell impatiently. The door opened mysteriously, and she was welcomed by the smell of incense and smoke. She entered and was greeted by a slightly dressed young girl who announced her presence with the sounding of a huge gong. With this the young girl said, "Do you wish to see the all-knowing, all-powerful, the wonderful one, Maharishi Narru?"

"Yeah," the woman said. "Tell Sheldon his mother is here!"

We laugh at such folly in others, while at the same time, most of us to some degree hide behind some kind of phony facade. It may not be as absurd as what we have just read about, but when it comes to trying to hide from God, that's impossible. God knows all. He sees all. He knows who I am . . . where I am . . . why I am here . . . where I am going . . . what I am doing . . . and what I am not doing. No matter how I try, I cannot hide from God! No way. Period!

As David wrote in the Psalms, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."2

The best thing is to tell God who you are, where you are, what you want, what you don't want, what you are afraid of, what you don't want to give up, etc., etc. Only when we get honest with ourselves and real with God, can he (or anyone else) help us.

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please open my eyes so I can see any way in which I may be deceiving myself, or running from your perfect plan and will for my life. Help me to be honest with myself and honest with you—knowing that the best thing in the world for me is the purpose you have for my life. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus' name, amen.


Needed: Damages or Repairs?

"He [Jesus, the Christ] was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed."1

David Seamands tells the story about an old farmer who was in an automobile wreck. Along came an amateur lawyer who inspected the bashed fenders and battered doors and said to the farmer, "Man, you ought to collect some damages for this." The puzzled farmer wisely replied, "Damages? I've collected enough damages already. What I need are some repairs!"2

And isn't that what we all need—repairs; that is, healing of our sin-sick soul?

The question constantly being asked is: "If God is a God of love, why does he allow such damages or suffering in the world?" "Why does he allow children to starve?" "Why does he allow terrorism to continue?" "Why does God allow all the problems in the world to continue? When will Jesus return to take all God's children to Heaven and end all this misery here on earth at least for his children?"

I don't know when Jesus will return but with the ever increasing conflict between militant Muslims (Islam) and the Jews, Christians and Westerners (the infidels), the stage could be being set for the final world conflict that will signify the imminent return (or immediately follow the return) of Jesus to earth to take his children home to glory—where God will wipe away all tears and where all sadness, suffering, and sickness will be no more.

In the meantime, however, we happen to live in a broken, sin-sick world where we suffer not because God left us but because we, the human race, left God and consequently reap the results that sin produces. As a result, we desperately need the healing of our soul provided through the punishment, crucifixion, and death of Jesus Christ who died in our place on the cross in order to pay the penalty for our sins so that we could receive God's free pardon and the gift of eternal life.

While we still live in this sin-sick world, we will continue to see all the pain and suffering that a sin-sick world produces. However, once we accept God's gift of salvation, he will heal our sin-sick soul and give us peace in the midst of this suffering world knowing that our sins are forgiven, that our soul has been healed, and that we are on our way to Heaven.

The critical question is not why does God allow suffering, but rather, why don't we turn back to God and receive his full and free pardon?

Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please help me to find healing for my sin-sick soul and for my damaged emotions so I will experience the abundant life you have planned for all your children. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."


A debased word
Romans 2
"... not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (v.4)

We continue looking at counterfeit forms of kindness. Kindness is not indulgence. Supernatural kindness can be severe -- severe because it loves so deeply that it can come up with a hard refusal. It is based on God's kindness, which can cut when, just like a surgeon, He insists on cutting out of us moral tumors that threaten our spiritual health. But always God's severity is our security. It is redemptive; He loves us too much to let us go. Kindness, which is the fruit of the Spirit, is like that.

Again, kindness is not a substitute for clear thinking. In being "kind" to one person, people can often be unkind to another. The wrong kindness -- that is, kindness which does not operate on clear guidelines and right thinking -- can deride justice. For example, a businessman remarked to his wife that he was dismissing the chauffeur on the grounds that he was an unsafe driver.

"He nearly killed me today," he said. "That is the third time." His "kind" wife answered: "Oh, don't dismiss him, dear -- give him one more chance."Another example of misguided kindness comes out of the law courts. A woman on trial for murdering her husband was acquitted chiefly because of the efforts of one "kind" lady on the jury. Explaining her attitude to someone after the trial, she said: "I felt so sorry for her. After all, she had become a widow." By such examples as these, "kindness" has become a debased word -- a fact that can hardly be denied. People have found it easier to be "kind" than truthful. How desperately the word cries out to be redeemed.

O God, take my hand and lead me through the fog and confusion that surrounds this word. Help me understand that true kindness can be a cutting kindness -- kindness that gives life and not lenience. Amen.


The kindly rain
Matthew 5:38-48
"... your Father in heaven ... sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (v.45)

The word "kindness" in Scripture is used more of God than of anyone else. William Barclay says: "It is something of a joyous revelation to discover that when the King James Version calls God good, again and again the meaning is not just moral goodness but kindness." The goodness of God is not something we need shrink away from in fear, but something that draws us to Him with cords of love.

This does not mean, of course, that God is indifferent concerning our sins and moral violations; it means that He is so warmly disposed toward us that He has provided through the Cross a way whereby our sin can be forgiven and forgotten. In the Old Testament, especially the Psalms, the expression "loving kindness" is often used.

A little boy explained the difference between kindness and loving kindness like this: "Kindness is when your mother gives you a piece of bread and butter; loving kindness is when she puts jam on it as well."In the New Testament, however, a content has gone into kindness which has made the adding of the word "loving" unnecessary.

The Moffatt translation brings out this thought most beautifully when it says: "Treat one another with the same spirit as you experience in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). Not merely the same actions, but the same spirit in the actions as was in Jesus. This shows kindness to be more than just actions -- but attitudes. I can think of no better definition for kindness than this -- kindness is treating others the way God has treated us.

Father, just as you let Your kindly rain fall on the evil and the good, help me to rain kindliness on everyone I meet today -- regardless of who or what they are. In Jesus' Name. Amen.


What this sad world needs
Proverbs 19:20-29
"What is desired in a man is kindness ..." (v.22, NKJV)

Now that we have put into the word "kindness" the content of Jesus -- "treat one another with the same spirit as you experience in Christ Jesus" -- we must now consider how to develop and grow in kindness. Ella Wheeler Wilcox has said:So many gods, so many creedsSo many paths that wind and windWhen all that this sad world needsIs just the art of being kind.

Human kindness may be important, but supernatural kindness is even more important. It is what "this sad world needs." The importance of kindness is seen by the fact that an act of kindness lingers on in the memory. Once, when about to step on to the platform of the Colston Hall, Bristol, to speak to a large audience and feeling a little weighed down by personal circumstances at the time, a few ladies who represented an organization called "Women Aglow" handed me a little box in which was a beautiful flower.

Along with it was a message: "We love you and are praying for you." That kindness and the spirit that prompted it stood out like a star on a dark night. I have never forgotten it and will never forget it. It will live on within me until the day I die. If kindness can minister such comfort and encouragement, then how imperative it is that we ask God to ripen this fruit within us. Of the many things surrounding Paul's shipwreck on Malta, Luke recalls in particular that the "islanders showed us unusual kindness" (Acts 28:2).

O Father, help me to demonstrate the fruit of kindness this day so that somebody, somewhere, may use it as a light to lighten their darkness. In Christ's Name I ask. Amen.


Stay Salty, My Friends
Woe to you, when all people speak well of you—Luke 6:26
Sooner or later our faith conflicts with friendship. Sooner or later our faith is tested against friendship. You see, the time will come, for each of us, when a friend needs us. He or she will take a dark path (as we all do, sometimes), a path leading away from God. It might be dramatic; it might not. When it happens, though, we’ll face a choice—to speak up and speak truth into his or her life . . . or . . . to ignore what’s going on, avoid conflict, and avoid the risk of forever altering the friendship or even losing it altogether.

The good news is that we’re designed for these kinds of things. We’re the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). For God gave us “a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). But, salt can, over time, lose its taste—lose its saltiness. We men lose our saltiness when we choose popularity over truth, passivity over love. The problem is, salt that has lost its taste “is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet” (Matthew 5:13).

When the time comes, before you do anything, make sure you’re being driven not by judgment or resentment or jealousy. If you might be, go no further and simply entrust your friend to God. God’s able to reach your friend by other means. If, however, you’re sure that it’s love that’s driving you, more than anything else, then go ahead and speak. Put your friendship upon the altar and see what God does with it. Do it privately and gently. But be warned, it might not go well. These conversations are tough. That’s okay. Trust God to work it out in the end.


The great peril of the saints
Matthew 25:31-46
"... whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (v.40)

How does kindness grow in us? It depends on how deeply we live in God. Some Christians set out to be kind but kindness which is the fruit of the Spirit is not the result of self-effort but comes from abiding in Christ. The Christian abides in Christ and the fruit grows and ripens of its own accord.

The kindest Christians are those who have no ambition to be kind and hold no such thought. This is not to say that they do not desire to be kind, but they do not try to manufacture their kindness. Consumed with a longing to be more like Jesus every day, their thought is not on their personal sanctity but on how they can reflect their Lord.

They come across as people who were so self-forgetful that it could be said of them what was said of Samuel Barnett of Toynbee Hall: "He forgot himself even to the extent of forgetting that he had forgotten."The great peril of the Christian life is that we may become selfish in our consuming longing to be unselfish.

Only as our roots go down daily into God through prayer and meditation in His Word can we be kept secure from the temptation to focus on growth for its own sake -- rather than for His sake. The person whose kindness is an appetite for praise gives up when the praise does not come. And they give up more quickly still if people say: "What are you getting out of this yourself?" The Christian whose kindness flows out of his relationship with God never gives up. He just can't help being kind.

O Father, help me to spend time with You so that in the legislature of my heart, You may write the law of kindness. Help me to come under its sway forever. Amen.