The Lady and the Knight in Shining Armor

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Eph. 4:32

“It’s unfortunate and I really wish I wouldn’t have to say this, but I really like human beings who have suffered. They are kinder.”

Emma Thompson

She has nailed down a thought here.  It is only a starting point, a beginning that one should work-out, over and over.  We begin at this realization that there can be a definite link between suffering and kindness.  It’s like two wheels of a bicycle.

I’m in love with kind people.  All the people I have met who were truly wonderful, had very kind hearts.  Kindness set them apart.

Historically, kindness was regarded as one of the “Knightly Virtues” of medieval times.  Having it was to be a mark of chivalry.  In theology, it was one of seven virtues, that mirrored the “Seven Deadly Sins.” It seems to me that believers who practice kindness are to be regarded as part of a spiritual nobility.

This connection between suffering and kindness isn’t so much as a “cause and effect,” but rather a ‘fruit’ which has to ripen, or mature.  Pain is not always this productive in our lives.  It can bring bitterness and loss as easily as it can bring kindness and gentleness.  And many of us who struggle with mental illness or substance abuse understand this all to well.

The apostle Paul was right to link his sufferings to spiritual growth.  If you can do this you are moving in the right direction.  It will not lift you out of the pain; you will still have the sense of being overwhelmed, but you will see through it with the eagle eye of faith.

Why is it that so many who have suffered, will go on to become kind people?

It may have to do with two dynamic principles. The first metaphor would have to be the smelter/the potter.  These are significant because they illustrate how believers are always in process.  We are in flux, either moving under the hand or under the heat.

The second metaphor is the grape vine dresser/bread maker.  These strike me as harsh, although it may not always feel that way.  But both are definite “hands-on” from a supervisory source–the Holy Spirit.

Suffering is a lot like learning another language.  Some days it will just click, and then other days you can’t remember your previous lesson.  But if you are really patient you will learn to speak the dialect of suffering.  Learning languages can open up the world to you.  If you learn to speak “suffering” you will be able to touch the hearts of millions.

But there needs to be patience.  You must wait for “kindness.”  Transformation will never be smooth or easy.  There are no switches for God to flip to make you Christlike.  You will not wake up tomorrow morning with the character of Jesus–his mercy, love, wisdom and kindness.  I’m sorry.  (Choose to dispute this, and I will let you.)

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“I prefer you to make mistakes in kindness than work miracles in unkindness.”

Mother Teresa’s counsel 

“God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So you should always clothe yourselves with mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

Col. 3:12, NCV 

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Our Gentle God Loves Kindness

His hands are gentle
His hands are gentle

When I think “gentleness”, what pops into my mind is my wife holding and caressing my infant daughter almost 20 years ago.  Her touch is soothing.  She softly hums a lullaby.  The farthest thing from her thinking at that quiet moment, is anything  harsh or cruel. 

One of my favorite verses telegraphs the wonderous news, “He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.”  (Isaiah 42:3, NLT).  God’s temperament is gentle and kind.  He is patient far beyond any human logic.  As a matter of fact, his love seems to be borderline ridiculous.   As believers, we need to get used to His strange proclivities of loving all and turning away none.  I really believe that harshness and cruelty are the furthest thing from His mind or heart.

I for one, am glad God is like this.  When I’m depressed or manic, paranoid or confused, I am so glad that God is not a man.  He doesn’t give up on me, others have marked me off as a discipleship failure, and let me go.  But He loves me even more than a mother loves the baby on her lap.

A.W. Tozer writing on Psalm 18:35: “Your gentleness has made me great.”

“God is easy to live with. Satan’s first attack upon the human race was his sly effort to destroy Eve’s confidence in the kindness of God. Unfortunately for her and for us he succeeded too well. From that day, men have had a false conception of God, and it is exactly this that has cut out from under them the ground of righteousness and driven them to reckless and destructive living.

Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God. Certain sects, such as the Pharisees, while they held that God was stern and austere, yet managed to maintain a fairly high level of external morality; but their righteousness was only outward.

Instinctively we try to be like our God, and if He is conceived to be stern and exacting, so will we ourselves be. The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure.

The fellowship of God is delightful beyond all telling. He communes with His redeemed ones in an easy, uninhibited fellowship that is restful and healing to the soul.

He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust. He may sometimes chasten us, it is true, but even this He does with a smile, the proud, tender smile of a Father who is bursting with pleasure over an imperfect but promising son who is coming every day to look more and more like the One whose child he is.”

………………………………

– A.W. Tozer in The Root of the Righteous, pp. 13-16. As quoted in the Banner of Truth Magazine (issue 531; Dec. 2007).

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I’m a Steamroller! [the Tongue}

steam-roller

“And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.”

James 3:6, NLT

I have done many things in my 50+ years.  My resume is pretty broad and quite diverse.  I have been a corporate trainer, and I have been a commercial fisherman.  I have been an inner-city evangelist, and an Army medic.  I have been a senior pastor, and a missionary to Mexico.  But more than anything, I have been quite consistently, “a steamroller.”

Steamroller. I think I better explain myself.  I’m a man that has consistently used my words to crush other people, and this really disturbs me.  I have flattened people, smearing them on the pavement.  There was Vicky at the SOS- San Francisco Evangelism Ministry house.  She irritated me, so I went up and told her, the “Vicky, this is the Word of the Lord. Read Judges 16:16!”  And she melted before my words, torn and ripped apart by my twisting of scripture.  I steamrolled over her heart.  And I really don’t know why I did it. I wanted to be cute I guess.

As a pastor, I plowed over the hearts of “a children’s ministry.”  It was more subtle, but it had the same degree of a deep intensity.  (They would go on, but fizzle out in less than two weeks later.)  I was the steamroller that crushed their hearts and dreams.  Years before, at my Bible college, I stamped out and destroyed those who were not as precise as I was when it came to proper believing.  I steamrolled them as well.

Over the years I have become very grieved over my consistent crushing of those who were different, who saw ministry in a differing way.  When they would become “clear and obvious” to me, (their false doctrine and such) I considered it a scriptural necessity to “roll, baby roll” right over them.  But, I was oh, so foolish.  I harmed so many of His servants.  What I was doing was wicked.

My words–like weapons, were cutting and hacking and lacerating.  My words were crushing and stamping out the gentle hearts and their vision.  People, dear ones.  The things we say, go on to “burn and burn” and nullify the kind hearts of those who want to follow.  Often our “professionalism” as pastors and teachers very often cripple those who tenderly follow.  We go “nuclear” on them, scorching the earth, when all they needed really was a calm and directive word.

Brothers and sisters.  We have to stop this,  being right does not mean we are loving.  We divide the flock far too often.  We most likely will be right–but we don’t love.  We jump up in our steamroller in a split second.  We put it in gear, and we roll over those for whom Christ died–and we feel quite noble and holy, as we protect the Church from “bad thinking,” or bad examples.

Could it be, that what are you saying, wounds?

Be very careful.  You maybe right, and you just might be true, but if you are not loving, you will only hurt them, and undoubtedly you will regret what you have done.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14, ESV

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God Really Wants to Forgive You

forgiveness

“But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts.” 

Luke 7:42

When you are in debt, whether $50 or $50,000 there is that anxiety of being in slavery to the lender.  And when we begin to line up the spiritual with the physical we learn that we are all in debt.  We all owe more than we have. Most of us realize this, and many just “turn off the spiritual apparatus” that seems to keep harping on this, and then we tell ourselves repeatedly that it really isn’t true.

All are in debt.  Of course not everyone is the same, we have different sins.  Some have lived a deliberately dark, prodigal life (as in “drugs, sex and rock-n-roll”).  Others, embracing a strained moralism of some kind, have apparently sinned less (think choir boys, “Snow White”).  But no matter, for “all have sinned and fallen short.”  All means all. Fallen means a complete collapse.

In this parable, Jesus adroitly tells the story of two men who were indebted to a very rich man.  One owed a relatively small amount, but yet it was significant enough for this man to worry and to hope maybe for some mercy.  He knew that he owed, and knew he lacked the means to pay what was required.

The second man owed far more, many times beyond the first man.  This guy was very deep in debt.  The modern equivalent was close to $50,000, and in ancient times this would have been a staggering amount of money.  But he too held out for mercy; and hoped for the forgiveness of his debt (stranger things have happened). The astonishing thing is that the rich man completely and unreservedly forgave both. 

Kindness alone was that which motivated him.  These two men would be released without any conditions, liens or liabilities.  They walked into the room expecting imprisonment, and they walked out with all their debts forgiven. Plain and simple.jail-free The amazing fact for you and me is this– we have been released from the ponderous weight of our sins, and yet we are really confused.  The sins have been taken from us and we bear them no more!  The guilt of your transgressions has been cut away from your soul.

The work of Jesus Christ dying on that cross, not for His sin, but for mine, ours and theirs, allows even the most vile of us to walk, scot-free.

Some who read this have committed spectacular sins. You have piled up more sin and evil than others around you.  But no matter, it’s all forgiven.  It’s time to believe this, take your pardon and walk out into the bright sunshine as a free man or woman. There is no record of your sins, you can scour heaven and earth looking for it and there is no evidence.  Except for His nail-prints. &

ybic, Bryan

 

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