kindness

Get Your Garden On

“But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” – Matthew 13:23 Jesus tells us in simplistic terms that our life is a garden. In life, we’re always planting seeds around us that in their season will bear fruit. We tend to think of “you reap what you sow,” in a negative way, but in the Bible, there’s a positive aspect as well. When you sow by planting seeds in the ground and no one sees them, that’s building up a real harvest. When you do positive things, you’re growing yourself a better garden, a life that’s improving for you and others over time. I just started gardening with my kids and I’m terrible at it. I have a brown thumb; everything I touch

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It’s Just Saying “Yes”

“As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.” – Mark 2:14 The way you get into heaven is by trusting your life to the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ. That’s the Gospel, by the way. Every religion in the world has some sort of balance sheet for your life. If your good works in whatever cosmic way outweigh your bad works, you go to heaven. That’s actually considered heresy in Christianity. We believe that no one’s good enough; that’s how we’re all equal — that we’re all a bunch of sinners and we need Jesus. And when we’re saved by Him, our life is a response to the fact that He loves us as children.  You see, He loves us just as we are, not as we should be. And

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Soften Your Heart

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” – Ezekiel 36:26 In my own life experiences, I have struggled with addressing various issues with a hardened heart. In our world today, we know how to power up, and to tell it like it is, feeling like we have to always be tough on the outside. Today, I want to challenge you to soften your heart! First soften your heart to God, then to your friends and co-workers. If you are married, soften your heart to your spouse, your kids if you have any, or your parents. God has good things in store for you, but our hearts must be softened to fully receive them. Suffering through bad experiences can indeed make us feel despondent and discouraged. Maybe in

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Radical Mercy

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” – James 2:12,13 I believe it was Rick Warren who once said, “Hurting people hurt people.” As a pastor who has seen a lot of pain, I don’t know of any truer statement than this. So today, I want to invite you to consider what would happen if you purposefully adopted this view of the ones who wrong you? Do you have any idea how life changing it might be if someone blatantly offended you and you purposely show them the Kingdom of God instead? What if someone cuts in front of you in line at the store or at Disneyland? While your natural inclination might be to read them the riot act, do you

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Filled to Overflowing

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” – Luke 6:38 Yesterday we talked about living life with open hands. Today, I want to build on that idea by sharing with you a somewhat spiritual law that enables you to maintain this posture of openness: give away what you desire most.  I firmly believe that one of the best ways to invite God’s blessing into our lives is to give to others the thing that we feel we most lack. To some of you, this may sound like a radical proposition. In light of what the world teaches, it just may be. However, the idea behind it is that the more you give away, the more room you have to be filled

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What’s Your Battle?

“Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer, you shield my head in the day of battle.” – Psalm 140:7 The late actor Robin Williams once paraphrased Plato in saying: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, so be kind, always.” And as cliche as this expression sounds, I think it’s important to understand how true it is so that we allow it to shape our interactions with others. The reality is that life is hard, and humanity is struggling with all kinds of issues — some people are just better at hiding it. No one has it all together, and the mistaken belief that they do is what causes many of us to feel alone in our pain. Nevertheless, we’re not flawed because we’re going through stuff, and it’s important to give ourselves grace so we can heal and extend mercy to our fellow brothers and sisters. Nobody

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The Fruit of the Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22,23 The fruit of the Spirit is something that we talk a lot about, but what does it really mean? While much is written and theologized on the subject, I’m inclined to look at it more simply. First of all, the list of characteristics that Paul gives in Galatians do not define multiple fruits, but components of the same fruit. In other words, it’s one fruit that is multi-faceted and manifests in different ways. Some days love will be the dominant flavor, and other days, peace and gentleness will be primary, but all of them will be evident in some measure. In fact, the different characteristics crossover, and one tends to give rise to the others. This is why I’m leery of religious people

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The Allure of Gentleness

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” – Philippians 4:5 I don’t know about you, but the world we’re living in wears on me sometimes. Especially since the dawn of the pandemic, it seems like there’s an angry energy that’s permeating society. While I believe it’s fueled by political tensions, a barrage of fear, and the pressures put on us by an increasingly media and image-driven culture, at the end of the day, it’s draining. Sharp edges and harshness seem to be all too common in interactions and reactions, and this is precisely why the children of God need to step up and be the antidote. Like Dallas Willard once said, there’s an “allure in gentleness,” and especially in times like these, we can be a source of healing and comfort to people. Because we’re filled with the Holy Spirit, we have the power to forgo

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A Place to Belong

“Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” – John 8:35 The powerful heart of the Gospel message is that God made a way for us when there was no other way. No amount of good or righteous deeds could build a bridge back to right standing with Him — we needed Him to do the work, and He did. We were infected by the poison of sin, and we were helpless to heal ourselves until He stepped in and made Himself the antidote; all we had to do was say “yes” and partake. At the moment we received Jesus as our Lord, we belonged to His family, and our souls breathed a sigh of relief. No longer did we have to seek a place to call home, for as His children, we inherited the love of a perfect Father and

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Who Are Your Untouchables?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:43-45 As we wrap up our discussion about the four groups of untouchables whom Jesus readily touched, we do well to ask ourselves, “Who are the untouchables in my life?” So today, I invite each of us to consider the answer to this question and to look beyond the obvious before we respond. While it’s easy to reply categorically and to list populations such as vagrants, criminals, or drug addicts, I believe we all have a more personal application…if we dare to admit it. Truth be told, for some of us, it would be easier to walk into the middle of a homeless encampment and sit down and eat lunch

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