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Basil of Caesarea: Give thanks to God

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

“When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking Him for being so generous to you. If you drink wine, be mindful of Him who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress, thank Him for His kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars, throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who in His wisdom has arranged things in this way. Similarly, when the sun goes down and when it rises, when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God, who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know, love and praise their Creator.”

Basil of Caesarea (c. 329-379) in Homily V. In martyrem Julittam. The new header photo is a shot of Bear Creek in Lakewood, Colorado, near our son’s apartment. Sammy is blessed with a beautiful trail on which to walk his dog, Hope St. Teresa.

For the next month leading up to Lent, we will locate kindness and generosity in the writings of the early church. I start with Basil of Caesarea as he is otherwise known as Basil the Great for his prolific writing coupled with care for poor.

Basil had a deep faith and lived it out with humble service. He’s was one of the Cappadocian Fathers and one of the four doctors of the Eastern Church. How did he have great impact in unleashing kind and generous disciples in his day?

He taught everyone to take a posture of dependence and gratitude to God for His generosity and kindness. Let’s try it. At key times in the day, stop to reflect with gratitude for God’s kindness and generosity toward you.

As you think about Lent, which starts next month, perhaps at the divine hours: 6am, 9am, 12noon, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm and 12midnight (or when you go to bed), consider setting an alarm on your phone to pause to give thanks.

Basil teaches us a keen insight for growing as kind and generous disciples of Jesus Christ. Pause to ponder God’s kindness and generosity with thanksgiving throughout each day. It just may transform you into a kind a generous person.

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Tim Chester: Jesus is the Father’s kindness in person

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:4-5

“I find the term “kindness” really helpful when I’m thinking about God the Father. “Love” is such a big word and it can embrace a rather formal caring. We could, for example, use it to describe a father who worked hard to provide for his family, but never showed any interest or delight in his children. Maybe this is how you think of God the Father. He’s good and He does the right thing. He loves you in the sense of providing for you.

But you think of Him as distant and detached. If so think of His kindness. Let the word play on your imagination. God is kind. He shows us kindness. Substitute it for other words you might use. Instead of saying, “God has answered my prayer,” say, “My father has been kind to me by answering my prayer.” Instead of saying, “Clara was a great help on Saturday,” say “God kindly sent me Clara to help on Saturday,” Each day reflect on how God is being kind to you.

And think of Jesus as the Father’s kindness in person… The Father’s kindness has “appeared” and it looks like Jesus. I you want to see the kindness of God, then look at the life and death of Jesus. This is the measure of God’s kindness. This is divine kindness clothed in human flesh. This is His kindness to you.”

Tim Chester in Enjoying God: Experience the Power and Love of God in Everyday Life (The Good Book Company: Purcellville, 2018) 63-64.

Today’s reading on kindness came to me from my Aussie mate, Tim Macready. Thanks Tim! We co-edited and co-compiled a book last year called Purposeful Living: Financial Wisdom for All of Life. Click to download it freely from Christian Super.

Because it can be hard to get our proverbial arms around the idea that God the Father is kind and loving toward us, Chester helpfully reminds us that Jesus is God’s kindness in person. That leads me to picture the times He stopped to minister to people as sweet demonstrations of kindness.

Here’s the interchange with Bartimaeus in Mark 10:51. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” That’s such an amazing picture of kindness.

Jesus frequently appears inconvenience Himself, to go out of His way, so that others might get what they need. As the Apostle Paul put it in today’s Scripture, He came from heaven to earth and saved us because of His great mercy.

As followers of Christ, we get to go and do likewise. We are the Father’s kindness in person, as “little Christs” (the meaning of the word “Christian”). So, what might it look like for you to inconvenience yourself to give someone exactly what they need today?

Ponder that generous idea with the Father. Reflect on texts where you see Jesus showing kindness in action. Then ask the Holy Spirit to guide your steps to go and extend kindness likewise.

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Michael Card: Hesed, Hasids, and God’s lovingkindness

Who is a God like you, who pardons iniquity, and passes over the disobedience of the remnant of His heritage? He doesn’t retain His anger forever, because He delights in lovingkindness. Micah 7:18

“Finally, as the love of God defines us, so hesed provides the full meaning of that love. His lovingkindness radically redefines us — from fallen to beloved, from outcasts to daughters and sons. Hesed resonates in us because it is a part of who we were created to become; it represents what we are being transformed, recreated, reborn, redeemed to be. We must become hasids, not simply those who go about doing good works but men and women who are completely dependent on the hesed of God, conquered by His kindness, reborn to a life of unconditional love.”

Michael Card in Inexpressible Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness (Downers Grove: IVP, 2018) 138.

Today’s post comes from another Daily Meditations reader and friend, Carolyn Herbert, who is enjoying this study of the intersection of kindness and generosity. Thanks Carolyn!

Card teaches us that hesed, God’s lovingkindness toward us, does not merely make us people who do good things, but it conquers and transforms us. Think about that.

This is a profound idea. God does not need us to do things for Him. He loves us so much that He does not leave us fallen and broken but makes us His daughters and sons.

To become hasids, we are “conquered by His kindness” and remade into distributors of His unconditional love and kindness.

Often, and even when evil abounds, I proclaim, “Nothing can touch love!” It covers a multitude of sins. It’s the only good that overcomes evil.

So, the secret to God’s work in our lives is His hesed toward us. Sit with God for five minutes right now. Rest in today’s Scripture. Likely, you too will respond, “There is no God like our God!”

If you want to go live a generous life, let God conquer you with His lovingkindness. You will be reborn, become fully dependent on Him, and find that He makes you into a conduit of kindness.

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Melanie Svoboda: Unreflective loving

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 2 Timothy 2:24

“One day I came across this sentence: “Most people are kind, polite, and sweet-minded — until you try to get into their pew!” I like that for it acknowledges just how hard it is to be kind — even in church. Why is kindness so difficult?

For one thing, kindness is so darn close, so near at hand. It demands that I act in a selfless way to these human beings right in front of me or next to me: this coworker who cracks her gum all day, this elderly woman who talks incessantly, this teenage boy who is such a smart aleck, this next door neighbor who plays his music too loud…

Kindness is difficult because it is so concrete. It almost always makes some specific, personal demand upon us. Kindness says, “Help carry those groceries — now! Offer to change that tire — now! Run to the store for milk — now!” Kindness is usually obvious, too. There’s almost no mistaking kindness when you see it — or mistaking its absence when you do not…

Unreflective loving. That is a good definition of kindness. But how do we learn to be kind. How do we come to love unreflectively? We probably begin by seeing the kindness of others.

When I was growing up on our small farm in Ohio, for example, I was being instructed in the ways of kindness without even knowing it. My mother used to bake quite regularly. Two of her specialties were apple pies and rye bread. On many occasions I can remember her saying, “Take the Stevensons this loaf of bread,” or “Take this apple pie to Shinky” (the hired hand who lived on the farm next door).

When road workers were fixing our road under the hot summer sun, my mother sent us kids out with a pitcher of water or lemonade for them. Similarly, my father, who always had a big garden, was forever giving things away — beans, tomatoes, strawberries, corn. The example of my parents’ many acts of kindness of unreflective loving, made a lasting impression on me.”

Melanie Svoboda in Abundant Treasures: Meditations on the Many Gifts of the Spirit (New London: Twenty Third Publications, 2000) 58-59.

Special thanks to my good friend, John Stanley for his unreflective loving toward me. As a Daily Meditations reader, when he came across this gem of a post, he did not think twice. He scanned it and sent it over to me to enjoy and share. I love that guy. Such a kind brother!

As we are already into our second month on this topic, this post sums up what we have learned so far. Kindness is hard, and it may be best learned by watching it displayed in others. These people touch our lives deeply. Their behavior is second nature to them. To us, it is so beautiful it seems otherworldly.

The words “unreflective loving” particularly struck me.

Such people don’t calculate. Should I do a favor for a person? They just do it.

They don’t hold back. Will I run out of strawberries if I share some with my neighbor? They share the strawberries.

They don’t pick and choose who they will bless. Does that person deserve my sharing with them? They know that none of us deserve the kindness Christ showed us.

I think this is what the Apostle Paul meant when he instructed Timothy to “be kind to everyone” in today’s Scripture.

You can’t think before being kind or you will think your way out of kind living. While it may be hard at first, it actually gets easier as our role models show us.

I am convinced that the best way you and I can become unreflective lovers of people is to reflect on the love shown to us by Christ.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

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Horatius Bonar: Kindly simplicity and special kindness

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21

In today’s post, Horatius Bonar speaks about the kindness of a famous Scottish preacher named John Milne of Perth (a city in Scotland on the River Tay). He caught my attention in researching Scottish preachers because Jenni and I are teaching in Perth, Australia, later this month. While this post differs in style from most posts, it beautifully illustrates kindness from a generous dispenser of it.

“He had far more shrewdness and insight into character than many, judging by his kindly simplicity, gave him credit for. He was a most unsuspicious man; and yet with discerning eye. He might not be the best at giving counsel in an emergency; but even then, as well as at other times, his fruitful active mind would suggest thoughts, or bring up a text, out of which you could extract the advice needed…

A peacemaker everywhere, he had his own ways of making peace; sometimes he would take hold of the hands of the parties and put them into each other; and sometimes, as in meetings of session or meetings for consultation, when any heat threatened to arise, he would stop and say, let us sing Psalm 133: ‘Behold how good a thing it is,’ etc. He belonged to that ‘candid school’ which ‘hopeth all things’ (1 Corinthians 13:7), but not to that whose charity consists in palliating evil, or pleading for error, or excusing departures from the faith.

If any one showed him any slight, or injured him, he made it a matter of conscience to show special kindness to the injurer. Not as if he did not feel the unkindness, for he was acutely sensitive, but as if bent on overcoming evil with good, and on refusing to be affronted in any effort for the welfare of a soul.

As he and I were walking together one day, we passed a gentleman, who bowed. Detaching himself from me, Mr. Milne went after him and talked kindly to him. Rejoining me, he said, ‘That man does not like me, and frequently shows this, but I must win him over.’ He frequently bought articles in a shop where the master was surly… He was asked, ‘Why do you go back to a shop when your custom is not desired?’ ‘I do it on purpose,’ he said; ‘I am trying to soften that man by kindness. He would scarcely speak to me at first; but I’m getting round him, and hope to come to close quarters some day.'”

Horatius Bonar in Life of the Rev. John Milne of Perth, Fifth Edition (New York: Robert Carter Brothers) 92-93.

We can learn a lot from watching godly role models. Today, John Milne gives us insight by watching his “kindly simplicity” and “special kindness.”

Milne’s “kindly simplicity” as described by Bonar appears as always prepared to give counsel and fruitful assistance to people. For us to do this, and do it with generosity, means we need to have space or margin in our lives and our calendars for others. So, “kindly simplicity” means we cut out what is unnecessary in live to make room for loving people well. Do you have this space in your heart and this margin your schedule for others?

Bonar tells us that Milne also extended “special kindness” toward detached or difficult folks so that through love they would be softened over time. As we mix generosity and kindness we start to realize, as God’s servants, that this is God’s highest desire for us: to be known by our love. Instead of avoiding such people, how might you move toward them with special kindness?

Father in heaven, help us to live with kindly simplicity and teach us to extend special kindness to even the most distant people, remembering how you drew near to us. Do this by your Holy Spirit we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Alexander Maclaren: The Most Powerful Solvent

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

“Kindness. A wider benignity, with which some are so dowered that they come like the sunshine. But all can cultivate it. When we come out of the secret place of the Most High, we shall bear some reflection of Him whose “tender mercies are over all His works.” This is the opposite of that worldly wisdom which prides itself on its knowledge of men and is suspicious of everybody. It is the most powerful solvent of ill-will and indifference.”

Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) in “The Garments of the Renewed Soul” a must-read short sermon by a prolific Scottish preacher.

I confess. I did not know what “benignity” meant, so I looked it up. I found that it means kindness, good deeds, or favor in action. Notice, for Maclaren, that this generous action starts with stillness with the Most High.

When we spend time with our kind and loving God, and then we go forth with kindness. His “tender mercies” or His proverbial fingerprints will be literally all over the works that we do. We will be shining.

Notice the impact. We can be generous with time or money, but when we cloth ourselves with kindness, we engage “the most powerful solvent of ill-will and indifference.” God help us dispense this solvent richly!

Make a generous gift to all of humanity, since there is so much ill-will and indifference in the world today. Spend time with the Most High daily. You will go forth radiantly shining with kindness.

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Andrew Murray: First instinctive

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:6

“Blessed Saviour! With my whole heart I do bless Thee for the appointment of the inner chamber, as the school where Thou meetest each of Thy pupils alone, and revealest to him the Father. O my Lord! strengthen my faith so in the Father’s tender love and kindness, that as often as I feel sinful or troubled, the first instinctive thought may be to go where I know the Father waits me, and where prayer never can go unblessed. Let the thought that He knows my need before I ask, bring me, in great restfulness of faith, to trust that He will give what His child requires. O let the place of secret prayer become to me the most beloved spot of earth.”

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) in With Christ in the School of Prayer (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1895) excerpt from “Lord Teach us to Pray” in lesson three.

Ever feel overwhelmed? There’s more work to do than hours in the day. You don’t even know where to start. All of us have felt that way. I do right now.

And, since we are being vulnerable, perhaps your response to stress leans toward sinful reactions or maybe you stuff it inside and have a troubled spirit.

Welcome to being human. In my case I try to figure everything out, and I have learned that I must give it all to God and ask Him to sort it.

Where do you go in challenging times? Our “first instinctive” must be to go to the secret place of prayer. It’s at the intersection of generosity and kindness.

Only there do we find reward! What will the reward be? I can tell you with confidence. It may not be what you expect, but it will be what God knows you need.

Go there, so you know the way to point others. There are many stressed out and overwhelmed people out there who may need directions.

For those who prayed for my board meetings up here on Whidbey Island, thanks for your gift of intercession! We made much progress over the two days.

Should you tackle a task like starting an organization, set up camp in the secret place of prayer. Set everything before God and see what happens.

We did not envision how things would go and yet God knit our hearts with His heart. We learned that we need to go slow to go fast. And to keep praying.

We left with unity to pursue a long list of objectives and to make preparations for an exciting future that appears to be unfolding before our eyes. More on this later.

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Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The sweetest oblation

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 2:1-2

“As an encouragement cheerfully to offer intercessory prayer, remember that such prayer is the sweetest God ever hears, for the prayer of Christ is of this character. In all the incense which our Great High Priest now puts into the golden censer, there is not a single grain for Himself. His intercession must be the most acceptable of all supplications — and the more like our prayer is to Christ’s, the sweeter it will be; thus while petitions for ourselves will be accepted, our pleadings for others, having in them more of the fruits of the Spirit, more love, more faith, more brotherly kindness, will be, through the precious merits of Jesus, the sweetest oblation that we can offer to God, the very fat of our sacrifice.”

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) in Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (Grand Rapids, MI: CCEL) evening reading for 6 February.

Spurgeon reminds us that praying for others is not only a generous way to show kindness, it’s actually the sweetest oblation we can offer to God. It’s what God chooses to put before His throne (see Revelation 5:8). Ponder that for a moment. God hears our prayers. He sees our giving too. For example, read Acts 10:3-4.

One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.

No wonder that the Apostle Paul urged Timothy “first of all” to teach the Church in Ephesus (and us) to start with prayer for others! I am thankful that my Global Trust Partners board meetings are going well on Whidbey Island, WA (pictured above). I am confident it is because so many people are praying for us.

What does intercessory prayer look like in your life? Sometimes you say, “I will pray for you,” to someone, and then you forget. I know I have done that! What if, instead, we stopped and prayed for them on the spot? It’s a sacrifice of time and energy, but God sees and hears.

The sweetest, most generous oblation we can give, that is filled with kindness and love, is intercessory prayer.

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Robert Smith Candlish: Proffered Kindness

Meanwhile His disciples urged Him, “Rabbi, eat something.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then His disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.” John 4:31-34

“When our Lord, in answer to the invitation of His disciples, “Master, eat,” says with seeming abruptness, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of,” He does not mean coldly and rudely to reject their proffered kindness, but rather He would turn that kindness to higher and holier account than they themselves intended. It was not their care for His bodily necessities was to Him impertinent or offensive, but that He would engage and interest their care in what to Him was far more urgent than any supply of His temporal necessities — His finishing the work on which His heart was set, and doing the will of Him that sent Him.”

Robert Smith Candlish (1806-1873), a famous Scottish preacher, in Sermons of the Late Robert S. Candlish (New York: R. Carter Brothers, 1874) 1, from the opening to his sermon entitled, “Sowers and Reapers.”

The term “proffered” means to hold out, tender, or offer something for acceptance. In this case, the disciples proffered kindness, or more specifically, they suggested that He take nourishment.

Notice the response of Jesus in today’s Scripture. When the disciples show this care from their hearts for His physical needs, Jesus takes the opportunity to raise they perspective to higher things.

This is an important idea for every follower of Christ to grasp. Sometimes we hold out something to the Lord, and His response to us is not necessarily as we expect. Often He stretches us.

Here, Jesus does that with them. There is something greater than food that drives Jesus. That is, doing the will of the Father and finishing His work. What does this have to do with our generosity?

As we grow in our generosity journey, in part by adding kindness to it, we must be prepared to be stretched. We too may proffer kindness to God, and it might seem abrupt as He lifts our eyes to see bigger things.

Today’s board meetings in Seattle are foundational for Global Trust Partners. Pray for wisdom and discernment. May God turn our kindness and service into something higher and holier for His purposes.

May He do the same for you. But consider yourself warned. It will likely thrust you out of your comfort zone. He may call you to sacrifice your agenda for your life in order to do the will of the Father and finish His work.

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S. Dryden Phelps: Something for Thee

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

“Something for Thee”

Savior, Thy dying love
Thou gavest me,
Nor should I aught withhold,
Dear Lord, from Thee:
In love my soul would bow,
My heart fulfill its vow,
Some off’ring bring Thee now,
Something for Thee.

At the blest mercy seat,
Pleading for me,
My feeble faith looks up,
Jesus, to Thee:
Help me the cross to bear,
Thy wondrous love declare,
Some song to raise, or pray’r,
Something for Thee.

Give me a faithful heart,
Likeness to Thee,
That each departing day
Henceforth may see
Some work of love begun,
Some deed of kindness done,
Some wand’rer sought and won,
Something for Thee.

All that I am and have,
Thy gifts so free,
In joy, in grief, thro’ life,
Dear Lord, for Thee!
And when Thy face I see,
My ransom’d soul shall be,
Thro’ all eternity,
Something for Thee.

S. Dryden Phelps (1816-1895) in “Something for Thee” (1862).

The lyrics of this old hymn touched my heart. I found them as I am looking at kindness back through church history.

In the first stanza, we are gripped by the sacrificial love of Christ for us. Our response is to give our lives in service to Him.

In the second one, we are reminded that our risen Christ is interceding for us as we live out our feeble faith. Our purpose is to make known His love.

By the third one, we find a prayer. It’s a prayer for a faithful heart to stay the course, day by day, in showing love and kindness to the lost and wandering.

Then in the last stanza we see unbridled generosity. We give all we are and all we have to God. He was the gift for us, and we are a gift back to Him.

Father, thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus. Strengthen our feeble faith by your Holy Spirit. Show your love and kindness through us. Receive us as something for thee. Amen.

Today I fly to Seattle for a prayer and discernment retreat with the founding board of Global Trust Partners, the international entity formed by ECFA on 11 December 2018.

We will seclude ourselves on Whidbey Island for a few days, thankful for God’s love, that Jesus cares more about this work than we do, and that the Spirit will guide us.

Take this “Something for Thee” posture before the Lord today. Afresh, take up your cross. Give all you are and all you have to Jesus and make known His love and kindness to the world.

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