Kindness and Truth

My kids hear it from me all the time: “Kindness!” When they are interacting with others, I stress kindness. Do they listen? Not all the time. But when they do (and when I remember to practice it myself), their time together tends to be sweeter and more pleasant.

God has something important to say about kindness in Proverbs 3:3-4: “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man.” 

He says that by being kind and truthful – and making it part of who you are in your every day living – you will find yourself in a place of favor both with God and with man. Who wouldn’t want to be a position to be favored by everyone, including God?

Consider this: If you consistently treat others with kindness and always speak the truth, what wrong can they hold against you? Nothing. That’s not to say accusations won’t ever come up against you. But any accusations hurled your way will fall away – they won’t be able to stand.

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If you have watched the live action Cinderella movie that came out in 2015, you might have noticed a theme that Cinderella lived her life by: “Have courage and be kind.” In the movie, Cinderella made it a point to exercise kindness to everyone, both man and beast, despite the cruelty and maltreatment she endured from her step-family. It wasn’t easy for her. She frequently had to have courage and believe that her kindness wasn’t in vain. In the end, however, her kindness won out because it made her stand out from the rest and exposed the cruelty and lies presented by her step-family.

Just like in the movie, truth and kindness are undeniably important to us in the real world. And just like Cinderella, being consistently truthful and kind may sometimes require a great deal of courage. If you find yourself wondering if your efforts are even worth it, and if you question why you should bother being kind to others when it isn’t reciprocated, take heart that the heavenly Father understands your predicament.

He even goes on in Proverbs 3:5-6 to give a little encouragement: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do no lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” 

God knows that we won’t always understand why others don’t return our kindness, and He knows that it isn’t easy. So, He tells us that since He is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (all places at all times), and omnipotent (all-powerful), we can trust Him to lead us in the right way. He will make our paths straight. We can lean on Him when we don’t think we have the strength or courage to keep on being kind or to speak the truth when it’s hard. He is, after all, God. The One and Only God.

We are finite beings. We have a beginning and an end, and we are bound by time. God isn’t either of those things. He is infinite, He is the Creator, and has never had nor will ever have a beginning or an end. He knows everything. He tells us this in Proverbs 3:7-8: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.”

It is sometimes easier to return ugly behavior and words to others when they are hurled our way, but God cautions us to consider the limitations of our wisdom. The fear He refers to in this passage isn’t that of being scared. It means reverence. Hold Him and His wisdom, instruction, and kindness in utmost respect and obedience. Doing so will be refreshing.

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Most of us have experienced the miserable feeling that occurs when we are at odds with someone else. If we give in to ugly words and actions because we feel wronged, can it ever truly help us feel better? Nope. Returning a wrong for a wrong will always make us feel yucky.

So what is the take-away? Kindness, truthfulness, and trust in God’s infinite wisdom and understanding will lead to favor and good repute with God and man, and will refresh you by knowing that you have followed the golden rule: treating others as you would have them treat you.

Join me as I endeavor to practice kindness and truthfulness and teach my family to do so as well. Let’s change our communities for the better by having courage and being kind.

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God’s Mysteries, Our Blessings

img_3790Life can seem incredibly unfair. We look around us and wonder if God even cares. Good people seem to suffer some of the most horrific experiences, and those we might consider unworthy of anything good sometimes appear to have all the luck.

I have great news! Regardless of how terrible our circumstances or the circumstances of those around us unfold, God does mighty and awesome work. When our hope is lost, we can find joy in Him.

Yesterday, February 28, 2018, was the observance of Rare Disease Day. How do I know? I looked up odd holidays on Google. I found an amazingly long list of odd, crazy, and weird observance days we Americans sometimes get silly over. However, Rare Disease Day caught my eye.

I wondered how many people in my Facebook world endure a rare disease or are connected to someone who does. So I asked. I was amazed at the responses I received! I have never heard of some of the diseases and conditions reported by my friends and family, so I assume a large portion of the population hasn’t heard of them either. I am going to try to change that.

Rare diseases are just that – rare. You might be surprised, though, at how many of your friends and neighbors deal with a rare disease every day.  As we discover that so many people around us live with difficult sicknesses, disorders, and diseases, how can we know that God really cares?

God’s ways are a mystery. He has never tried to hide that from us. In Isaiah 55:8-9 God says, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'”

The Apostle Paul tells us his thoughts on the subject in Romans 11:33: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”

We will never understand why God does what He does, but that does not mean that we’re doomed. Often hearing the stories of those around us, or even our own hindsight, allows us a bit more of a glimpse into God’s mysteries. Those who have walked down the path of suffering in the shadow of God’s wing understand that even though bad things happen, much good can flow out of their suffering.

Over my next several posts, I hope to highlight several rare diseases and conditions and share the stories of those who live with them every day. Stay tuned to discover the mystery of how God makes good come out of something terrible, and how He uses the things this world considers unfair to bring about joy and blessings.

The Best Love

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Y’all….this is love.
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
If you don’t know what propitiation is, let me help you see: it is an atoning sacrifice, or satisfactory payment. Jesus paid the price your sin costs, and satisfied the wrath of God…IN YOUR PLACE. The payment for your sin is forever paid, and His gift to you is receiving His righteousness (perfectness) applied to you for believing in Him: that He is the Son of God who became a man, lived a blameless life, gave Himself up for us to die on a cross, and defeated death and the grave on the third day by becoming alive again. HE LOVES YOU! It does not matter what kind of life you have lived thus far. He loves you. Your sin is already paid for. Believe in Him. Trust that His gift is true and sure, that He is who He says He is and did what He said He’d do (and IS doing)!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
This is easily one of my favorite songs.

Splinters and Logs

“I’m right and you’re wrong, I’m big and you’re little, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” If you’ve ever seen the movie Matilda, you might be familiar with that line. But you may be familiar with it in another sense too: in your own thoughts.

When someone else, whether it’s someone we love or a perfect stranger, says something contrary to what we think or believe, common first reactions usually entail either a defensive comment or strong critique of what the other person has said or done. How easy it is for us to think of ourselves as superior to others in both word and deed. Quite rarely do we find ourselves biting our tongues and considering what the other person has said or done as possibly correct. More often than not we feel that we are right in our assumptions and beliefs no matter what the other person has to say.

Harsh judgment and critique of others is not a new concept to the current generation. Jesus himself spoke about how we judge, or critique, other people in Matthew chapter 7:1-5: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brothers eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’ and behold the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Exactly what did he mean by this statement?

A whole host of topics can fall under the umbrella of Jesus’s statement on criticism and judgment.

In my own experience I know what it’s like to be on both ends of the spectrum. I have been the hypocrite that looks at other people and their sin, cocking a haughty attitude as if my shortcomings weren’t nearly as awful. I have been the recipient of judgment and harsh criticism of my shortcomings by others who failed to see their own. Neither position is a good one.

How can we, then, take stock of our own problems and sins before casting judgment on others? First, we must identify them. How do you do that? READ THE BIBLE! God’s Word is living and active, and it won’t fail to convict you of the areas that you need to correct. Second, LISTEN! God tends to put people in our lives that will tell us like it is and call us out on the aspects of our lives that need fine-tuning.

If we can’t actively seek to change our own minds and habits (these are our “logs”) to align more with Jesus, we will be hard-pressed to find anyone who will listen to the things we say when we highlight their shortcomings (their splinters). We will be called hypocrites, and the love and correction that could potentially be beneficial to our friends and neighbors will fall on deaf ears.

Along with being conscious of the content of our conversations, it is necessary for us to consider the presentation of our grievances and complaints against others. If I walked into my house one day and just let loose railing at my husband or kids for something they said or did, they would probably immediately go on the defensive. What I had to say wouldn’t matter at all because of how I said it. I wouldn’t even have to yell to come across poorly. If I was a bit too snarky or passive aggressive, I could encounter the same results.

The Apostle Paul made a point to instruct Timothy, a young pastor, to correct others in gentleness: “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26)  He was speaking about when Timothy spoke to people who opposed the truth of God’s Word, but the same concept applies to how we approach any confrontations. Paul also mentions speaking the truth in love to those we encounter in Ephesians 4:15.

The Apostle Peter makes mention of speaking with gentleness in 1 Peter 3:15: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” Again, Peter is speaking about when we speak to unbelievers, but the same principle works in our disputes over things we dislike or don’t approve of in others.

So, how can we best approach sin when talking with others? First, make sure you have addressed your own shortcomings and made things right between you and God (and your family, friends, and neighbors when necessary). Second, if you need to point out a flaw, failure, or misconduct in someone else, don’t hit them like a freight train with a barrage of condescension. Use God’s Word as the means to point out the error, but do so with gentleness, kindness, and love. The whole point of addressing someone’s sin isn’t to make them feel horrible and worthless (while making yourself out to be perfect and superior), but to correct and heal the wrong and restore the person in question.

Join me in taking your thoughts captive and taming your tongue so that when the need to confront another person arises, we will be well received at the fault can be corrected, and the person restored. For if we “fix” our own failures first according to God’s Word, others may be more receptive to listening.

Wrestling with God

23244064_10154804645976566_8726418287531572848_nHave you ever thought about what it’s like to wrestle with God?  After all, in Genesis 32:24-32, Jacob had a wrestling match with God just prior to reuniting with his brother, Esau.  It could happen to any of us, too.  And right now, that’s exactly what I feel like is happening in my heart.

It’s as if I have to choose between a good thing and something better.  The wrestling part comes in when deciding which decision belongs in which category.  I value both deeply and have to decide which treasure carries greater weight in my heart.  One has to do with self-sacrifice.  One has to do with self-preservation and gain.  One has to do with those dearest to me, the other with complete strangers.  One revolves around the familiar, the other around the unknown.

What is this decision weighing so heavily on me?  It’s that of missions.  My husband has felt God calling him to the mission field, probably that of the foreign variety, specifically to unreached people groups…likely for the long term.  The trouble is that I haven’t felt that strong tug toward foreign missions like he has.

We would probably have to leave everything familiar, with limited visits back.  It would probably require doing a little more schooling and learning a new language(s), facing loneliness (even if only for a short time), missing being present for our extended families’ major events, our nieces and nephews possibly not knowing us or our children very well, our parents missing out on their grandchildren growing up and our kids possibly not knowing their grandparents as closely, and our siblings not knowing their nieces and nephew well.  It might mean learning to home school my kids and working out our day-to-day lives in close proximity to each other (I can only imagine our stress sometimes).  It would mean complete dependence on God’s provision for our finances (something we should already be doing…but might not be very good at doing).  It would probably mean a “downgrade” in our comfortable, American way of living.

On the flip side, going means that those who haven’t heard the name of Jesus would finally have heard the good news that impacts their eternity.  It would be an adventure of a lifetime…and I do love adventures!  I and my family would be able to witness changed hearts and point the way to Jesus to who knows how many people!  We would be able to teach others what we have personally learned through God’s Word and through our experiences walking with and wrestling with Him.  We could love the unloved, serve the needy, and be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Such a mission would give us such great, fulfilling purpose!

The eternity of others should matter more than my personal wants.  But I can’t yet come to grips with the notion of leaving those I love behind.  If I could bring them all along I’d be on board in a heartbeat…but that isn’t reality.  I love them all so deep and so hard!  I get emotional at the distance between us where we currently are that I have a difficult time thinking of it being broader.  Scripture tells us that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Matthew 6:21)  So does this mean I treasure my extended family and my comforts more than the eternal state of the souls of others simply because I can’t bring myself to say yes I’ll go?  Possibly.

I find myself between a rock and a hard place.  I want to be a help-meet to my husband and be on the same page with him, wholeheartedly following after him and serving with him.  Yet I want to be here, in my homeland, when our parents get to the point where they need care regularly.  I witnessed first-hand the joy, hardship, and blessing that comes with caring for the aged full-time as my parents cared for both sets of my grandparents.  I want to be that for our parents.  Both are great and wonderful things.  How can I choose between them?  These years are precious to me for so many different reasons.

And then I began to contemplate a decade from now when our children are grown and would possibly move stateside and start families of their own.  Would I have to miss that too?  My heart breaks in a million different pieces.  I do not want to miss any of those moments.  God tells us not to worry so often in Scripture, and every tough situation He has walked me through has always resulted in His taking care of circumstances just right.  There is nothing saying we’d have to miss these things a decade (or whenever) from now.  It’s just my constant, fruitless worrying over things that may or may not happen.

So how do I decide?  I’m not sure.  I’m not at that point yet.  God and I are still wrestling and working this thing out.  I don’t know how long our match will last.  I do know that He is patient, kind, and good.  I know he is just and would not ask something of me if He would not provide for the needs of my heart.  I know He will guide me as I look to Him for wisdom and guidance.

Forgiving Hearts

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Maintaining a forgiving heart and attitude is essential, y’all.  Catherine Marshall said it well: “Our relationships with other people are of primary importance to God. Because God is love, He cannot tolerate any unforgiveness or hardness in us toward any individual.”  If believers are called to be becoming more and more like Christ – and we are – we must strive toward a constant and continual attitude of love and forgiveness.

We cannot set a limit on what we are willing to forgive. After all, did Jesus say he would only forgive so much? Nope! And thank the good Lord He didn’t, for we’d all be up a creek.  Because we aren’t perfect, we have a goof-up moments…our moments of weakness and yielding to our fleshly desires to hold grudges and remain angry.  But we cannot stay in that place.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:26-27:  “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”  He is referring to a passage in Psalm 4:4-5: “Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.  Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the LORD.”  What is Paul really wanting us to remember?  God is the ultimate judge, and our petty grievances with one another pale in comparison to the wrath of God which is reserved for the devil and his demons, and for those who choose to turn from Him, or who choose to not believe in the gift of saving grace.  If someone makes a decision deserving of judgment, leave that to God to do:  “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

God IS love.  It is a part of His nature and character, not simply and action He takes on a frequent basis.  He IS love, just like He IS just, peace, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and good.  It is a part of what makes Him God, and He will accept nothing less from His children.  In His act of ultimate forgiveness, Jesus – the God-man Son of God Himself – sacrificed His earthly body on a cruel Roman cross, endured the wrath of the Father and the loneliness of the Father turning His face away, all to forgive the sins of the entire human race from beginning to its future end, which brings Him ultimate glory.  He then rose from death and the grave victorious over sin and Satan, and when we believe, He gives us the Holy Spirit with whose power we are able to overcome our fleshly habits of sin.

Our sins are completely forgiven.  It can’t get any better than this.  How, then, can we justify withholding forgiveness from others for words spoken and deeds done that are less than a slight against the living God?  We simply can’t.  God desires relationship.  He desires relationship with His children, and He desires to reflect that relationship with the people he places around us – be they our family, our friends, our acquaintances, or the stranger on the street or in the grocery store.  To refuse forgiveness to another person is to refuse to become more like Him.  It is a smite in the character of God, in essence declaring Him to be imperfect and unworthy of imitation.

We must make a choice.  Will we choose to grow and become more like our Savior?  Or will we declare by our choices and our actions that He is unworthy of our complete devotion and imitation?  Choose this day whom you will serve:  Yourself…..or the Living and Holy God of Creation.

A Little Hope for the Day

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If you are in need of a little hope this morning, look no further than Psalm 130!  God hears us when we cry out to Him.  He cares about the intricacies of our lives, and has forgiven us our faults.  Seek the Lord with all that is within you, for He has done great things with us and for us, and all of the circumstances in your life – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the in-between – will ultimately lead to His glory…because that’s just how He rolls.

Psalm 130

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD.  Lord, hear my voice!  Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.  If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?  But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.  I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning; indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.  O Israel, hope in the LORD; for with the LORD there is lovingkindness, and with Him is abundant redemption.  And He will redeem Israel for all his iniquities.