Years ago someone once said, “What this country needs is more of the milk of human kindness in the cream of society.” While the analogy may be a little dated the idea is still so very relevant. We live in a very violent and divided time. People are on edge and are quick to tear one another down. Rudeness and cruelty have become the norm. Yet in the middle of all of these hard times, what people so desperately need is kindness. While one would be hard pressed to cause an entire society to become kind to one another, it is not out of the question for individuals to stem against the tide of angst. Those that claim Jesus as their Lord are called to be kind and loving to their neighbors. We are even given a golden rule from our Lord on how we ought to conduct ourselves around others: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” – Matthew 7:12a NLT. Therefore, if we want to see a kinder world, then we must start with being kind ourselves.
Someone wisely said, “There is a lot of history that isn’t fit to repeat.” While that is defiantly true about world history, it is just as true about our own personal history. Sometimes we repeat actions from our broken past because we dwell on them. Instead of embracing the new creation that we are now in Christ, we allow our minds to wonder on those past sins. Thus it should be to no surprise for the Christian when he finds himself repeating the sins of the old self. However, there is a way to overcome in this life. The apostle Paul gives us a great example of winning when he wrote; “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” – Phil. 3:13b-14 NLT. Like Paul, we need to see this new life that we have in Christ as a race. The key to running it effectively is to be “looking forward.” So instead of focusing on the sins and mistakes of yesterday, let’s keep our heads up because there is something far greater worthy of our undivided attention.
It’s been said, “Many people suffer poor health not because of what they eat but from what is eating them.” If we were honest, we have all had times where worry and anxiety have affected our health. We’ve lost our appetites, our sleep, and even our joy all due to fretting over a matter. We’ve experienced that gnawing feeling of uncertainty and it fills us with a sense of helplessness. Yet as people of faith we are not to be people of anxiousness but of trust. We are told in the Scriptures; “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Pet. 5:7 NIV. Instead of walking around under a shadow of worry, we need to leave the matter in hands of God. When we do this we are exercising our faith, because we trust that the God who cares for us will bring about what is best for us. Yes, I know that this is easier said than done, but if we truly want to live with the peace that only He can give, then we must trust Him in all areas of our lives.
I read a statement the other day that said, “Happiness adds and multiplies as we divide it with others.” We are drowning in a world of negativity. Everywhere we turn there are angry, irritable, and unhappy people spewing out their opinions and harsh criticisms. We hear it on the news, social media, from our co-workers, and sadly even in our churches. However, as followers of Christ, we are to be people of Good News. Yes, there are certainly times when we must be negative, but joy is supposed to be a natural characteristic of the Christian. No, life is not full of rainbows and sunshine, but even in the hard times, we have a mandate to remember our joy. The Bible makes a staggering exhortation to Christ followers; “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” – James 1:2 NLT. Did you catch that? We are to consider any kind of trouble that comes our way as an opportunity for great joy. Now that kind of command goes against the grain of our natural inclinations. When troubles come we naturally want to vent, mope, lash out, or at the very least find an escape from the pain. Yet, we are called to find joy in such times. James explains in verse 3 that such troubles are testing of our faith. Thus, we can have joy in hard times, because it pushes us to run into the very presence of the One who can give real joy and happiness. We Christians can take joy in hard times because we know that God will take care of us and He always has a plan for us in our troublesome times. Therefore we must come to the conclusion that if we are living with a joy that only God can give, why not spread that joy to others?
Someone once said, “A man spends the first half of his life learning habits that shorten the other half.” As I thought about that statement it made me think about the power of choices. God has made each of us volitional beings that have the power to make choices. With each of our choices, we reap the results of blessings, consciences, others reactions, and life changes. We may choose to do things that are helpful or things that are hurtful; things that are rewarding or things that damaging. It is a wonderful gift from God to have the freedom to make choices, but it is a gift that we must be careful with. The Bible gives is a very practical warning: “Do not deceive yourselves; no one makes a fool of God. You will reap exactly what you plant. If you plant in the field of your natural desires, from it you will gather the harvest of death; if you plant in the field of the Spirit, from the Spirit you will gather the harvest of eternal life.” – Gal. 6:7-8 GNT. Like a farmer who chooses what crop to plant, our everyday choices harvest results based on those choices. Therefore, if we make foolish choices, we will reap painful results, but if we make choices under the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will reap the blessings of eternal life today. So remember, don’t take the freedom of choice lightly, the results can be costly.
It’s been said, “The trouble with being a grouch is that you have to make a new set of friends every few months.” We all know grouchy people. Some are grouchy due to circumstances and others are grumps for physical reasons. However, there are a few that claim their grouchiness is just part of who they are. That type of attitude though flies in the face of the true Christian spirit. To follow Jesus means we are to be people of love. We are to have a love for God and a love for those around us. But to have a love for others means we have to show it in our actions and in our words. Listen to the words of Paul, “Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not arrogant, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs” – 1 Cor. 13:4-5 CSB. If love is not supposed to be arrogant, rude, self-seeking, or irritable, then it rules out grouchiness as a simple character flaw. There may be plenty of reasons to be in a grouchy mood, but we are without excuse for expressing it towards others. After all, love should be “kind” all the time.
It’s been said, “You can’t believe everything you hear – but you can repeat it.” There is no doubt that we are surrounded by a constant flow of negative and useless information. Daily there are shocking headlines, Facebook rants, and talking heads that seek to fuel us with juicy tidbits, just to impact our opinions and entice us to carry on their messages to those around us. Yet all of these forms of information are not truly beneficial to the follower of Christ. I am not saying that we shouldn’t stay informed about current events, but I am saying that we need to be careful about what we bring in to our minds and how much of it we take in. Actually, the Bible makes it clear that believers are to have a daily consideration of things that are good and right. Listen to the words of Paul, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Phil. 4:8 ESV. So we must guard what we feed our mind and we fight the temptation to repeat useless information.
It’s been said, “A lot of people are willing to give credit to God, but not too many are willing to give Him any cash.” Why is it that when we talk about faith and money, many Christians gloss over the topic? Many believe that their faith has nothing to do with their money. Thus they departmentalize the topic and feel that they have free reign to use their money however they see fit. Some Christians say they believe that honoring God with their passions is important, but their habits of doing just that reveal otherwise. The truth is God has blessed us with our wealth, but He has also warned us against serving that blessing. In Matthew 6 Jesus makes is clear that you can’t serve both God and money. He warns that we cannot have divided loyalties to God and our money. It’s just not possible; we will eventually become more loyal to one over the other. When we look around at how many American Christians live, it is pretty clear that their loyalties don’t lie solely with God. If we find ourselves falling into such a trap, then now is time to repent. We should offer God our whole being, all passions included. We must ask God where each dollar should go first and live like we don’t really own it because in all reality we don’t! Remember this staggering warning from Jesus: “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?”- Mark 8:36 MEV.
Years ago someone once observed, “Freedom not to listen is just as precious a right as freedom of speech.” Even years later, this statement holds great wisdom. Daily we are bombarded with voices and outlets wanting us to lend them our ears. People are constantly spewing out opinions and beliefs that are vile, vulgar, or just plain void of any truth. Just because we live in a land where we are free to say whatever comes to mind, doesn’t mean that we should always use that freedom. As followers of Christ, we shouldn’t be listening and consuming such garbage either. The Scriptures make it clear that we should not always be quick to listen; “Go from the presence of a foolish and self-confident man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips.” – Proverbs 14:7 AMPC. Instead of wasting our time entertaining our ears to all the talking heads in the world, we need to simply get away from it. There is one voice that we must always be attentive too, the word of God. Only sweet rivers of blessed truth flow from our Savior’s lips. When we listen to Him, we are allowing our minds and hearts to be transformed from the opinions of this world to the life-changing truth of God.
Someone wisely said, “A friend whom you can buy can be bought from you.” Sometimes it can be very hard to find a genuine friend. It seems that the older I get, the more this reality has proven true. Too many times it seems very easy for people to walk away from us, especially when life gets a little difficult. What was believed to be a close and nurturing relationship suddenly stops for one reason or another. It is at these times we are tempted to either close off from the world or maybe even worse, “buy” new friendships. This buying may not actually have anything to do with money, but it does call to question our motives. We might set out to impress people with what we have to offer them; talents, abilities, possessions, you name it. However, this is an empty trap. Real friendships are not bought or manipulated. They are earned. The Bible says, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – Prov. 18:24 NKJV. Did you catch that? Gaining real friends requires us to be friendly. The effort starts with us. It is hard and it is risky. To open your life up to another person leaves you vulnerable and could result in rejection. Yet when we find that true friend, they will accept us with all our flaws and it will bloom into a wonderful relationship; a relationship that can be even closer than family. No, there are no magic bullets that will gain you instant friendships, it takes hard work. But the dividends of a lasting friendship are well worth the effort.