"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Raising the Standard: Kindness Is Using A Gift To Show The Worth Of A Person

The purpose of all giving must be to demonstrate your love for Christ. For "though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity [love], it profiteth me nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:3). When someone with the gift of giving sees Christ as the real recipient of his gifts, he or she is motivated to meet needs which other overlook.
"...Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." ~ Matthew 25:40
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." ~ Romans 5:8
Living Lessons on Kindness From the Pages of Scripture:
A warm, loving smile is a precious gift to a lonely person, and precise words, properly spoken, are often more appreciated than silver or gold. "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver" (Proverbs 25:11). Such kindnesses are usually learned during times of personal suffering. In those times God gives comfort and counsel which can then be passed on to others in their times of trouble. One who received and gave comfort during a time of deep sorrow illustrates for us the importance of using these gifts to show the worth of a person. An act of kindness is far more than meeting a physical need. It is emphasizing the worth of a person. It is honoring God's design for a life. Who was one that gave such an honor to Christ when He needed it most? Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross.
How Is Strengthening the heart of a Discouraged Person Illustrated in Scripture?
After His arrest in the middle of the night, Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court. During questioning by the high priest, a soldier struck Jesus across the face. The palace guards then blindfolded Him and taunted Him to identify them as each one passed by, spitting on Him and striking Him in the face. By the next morning, Jesus was battered, bruised, dehydrated, and exhausted from a sleepless night. He was taken to the Roman fortress and brought before an angry mob. They shouted, Crucify Him!" Pilate had Him beaten. The heavy thongs of the whip cut through the skin of His back and soon turned it into a mass of torn, bleeding tissue. The Roman soldiers compounded His torment by throwing a cloak over his lacerated back and by mocking Him. Sharp thorns were pressed into His scalp, producing copious bleeding. The cloak was then ripped off, reopening His wounds, and the heavy beam of the cross was placed on His bleeding shoulder. The grim procession slowly proceeded toward the execution site. At Golgotha, large, wrought iron nails were driven through His wrists and deep into the beam. While hanging on the cross, the searing agony of the nails tore through the nerves of the skin. Great waves of cramps swept over His muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. For hours, this limitless torture continued. Soon another agony began a crushing pain deep within His chest. His compressed heart struggled to pump thick, sluggish blood through His veins. His tortured lungs made frantic efforts to gasp in small gulps of air. His dehydrated body sent its message screaming to His brain, and He cried out, "I thirst!" He looked down from the cross, and in that dreadful hour He received something more refreshing than a drink of water --- a look of reassurance from one who believed in Him and who was committed to Him regardless of what others thought of Him. This friend who had been delivered from the bondage of tormenting spirits honored Him as a person by identifying with Him while others mocked Him and railed upon Him. She honored the great work which He came to perform by assisting with His burial and was the last to leave the tomb. The kindness of Mary Magdalene was singularly rewarded by Christ. She became the first one to whom He appeared after His resurrection. He returned her kindness by strengthening her heart with the truth of His resurrection. [From John 18:12-20:18]
Why Did Jesus First Appear to Mary Magdalene?
The resurrection appearances of Christ can teach us much. We learn that the risen Lord is just as tender, compassionate, and loving as He was while living among men. On that first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene missed her Lord greatly. The disciples, of course, felt great loss, but they were preoccupied with their fear of the Jews and remained in hiding behind locked doors. (See John 20:19.) It was Mary who had maintained a vigil at the tomb and stood there, weeping. In an act of love, the Lord appeared to her and gave her hope. Later that day He appeared to the disciples, who had refused to believe her report. (See John 19-20.) But Thomas was not present then; and in order to stimulate Thomas's weak faith, the Lord made another appearance eight days later. (See John 20:26-27.) The risen Lord chose not to over persuade men into His kingdom. Jesus appeared only to believers. Although He was crucified publicly and was subjected to the insults of His enemies, He did not show Himself to unbelievers in His resurrected body. How easy it would have been for Him to have appeared before the members of the Sanhedrin who had tried Him for blasphemy. But salvation is by faith. He gives men the evidence of His Word. "...Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29).
Why Did the Lord Ask Mary Not to Touch Him?
When Mary recognized the voice of Jesus, she tried to cling to her Master and keep Him in her presence. But the Lord said to Mary, "... Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father..." (John 20:17). Nothing could prevent Him from completing His ascent and entering into His rightful inheritance. The very thing Mary desired, His comfort and companionship, would be frustrated if she held on to Him. The Lord would send the Holy Spirit to comfort, teach, and abide with Mary at all times. (See John 14:26-28.)
Why Did the Disciples Disbelieve Mary's Testimony?
When Mary told Peter and John that the stone had been removed and that the Lord's body had been taken, they believed her without any doubt and ran to the tomb to investigate. (See John 20:1-4.) But when Mary testified that she had seen the risen Lord, the disciples dismissed her claim. "And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not" (Mark 16:11). Later, when the Lord appeared to them, He "...upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen" (Mark 16:14). The same is true for us today. We have not seen the risen Lord with our own eyes, but we have credible witnesses like Mary and many others who did. He expects us to believe His Word and to act in faith on the basis of it.
Illustrated in the World of Nature:
The redpoll looks like a small brown sparrow. It is about five and a half inches long, with a bright red cap and black chin. It lives in the low arctic tundra in areas where the tree growth has been stunted. When winters in the Arctic are severe, the redpoll migrates to Canada and the northern United States. In summer it feeds on insects, while in winter it eats only seeds. It is against the law to keep a redpoll in captivity.
How is the Secret of Longsuffering Illustrated in the World of Nature?
An arctic explorer struggled onward against bitter cold temperatures. It was fifty degrees below zero. His strength was drained after battling unexpected storms. His food supply would barely sustain him back to the base camp. Icy winds cut through his clothes, and finally the exhausted man slumped to the frozen tundra. He cried out to God for help, although he did not know what God would do in this desolate wilderness. Suddenly, he heard an unusual sound. He listened more closely. The sound was getting louder. It was bright and cheery. He turned around, and there to his surprise was another arctic traveler. This one had gained far more experience than he had in traveling throughout the polar regions. During a two month period, this veteran traveler had covered thousands of miles of arctic territory. The weary explorer had heard about this famous traveler, and he recalled what he knew about him. He listened to him and watched him demonstrate the secret that kept him going while others gave up. First, he went over to a nearby bush and shook a branch until many of its seeds fell on the snow-crushed tundra. Then, he quickly picked up all the seeds and went over to a sheltered place and sat down, and one by one cracked open the seeds which he had gathered. He gained nourishment from each one. As long as he had a supply of seeds and slowly ate them, he had amazing strength and an unusual ability to withstand arctic conditions. As the explorer watched, he understood the life giving message that he had just received. He had learned many Scripture verses as a young boy but had failed to gain strength by meditating on them day and night. He had been depending on his own strength, and that had been exhausted. He remembered the words of Isaiah 40:31 which this arctic traveler had just demonstrated. "...They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings...they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." With that verse strengthening his heart and mind, the revived explorer stood up and walked on. God had answered his prayer for help by demonstrating the importance of meditating on Scripture. The more experienced traveler was the common redpoll. This arctic bird gave a valuable gift of kindness to the explorer by giving this secret of longsuffering.
The Characteristics of the Redpoll in Scripture:
The common redpoll's characteristic of storing seeds in an esophageal pouch and bringing them up again for nourishment is a clear picture of the process of Scriptural meditation. Scripture is compared to seeds, "...The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:11). The redpoll searches for seeds daily. The early Christians "...received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily..." (Acts 17:11). We are to do the same. Once found, Scripture must be taken and stored in the heart, as emphasized in the following verses.
"Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart..." ~ Jeremiah 15:16
"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" ~ Psalm 119:11
The redpoll's ability to bring the seeds up again day and night is a parallel to the command of God to meditate on His Word day and night.
"...Thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success" ~ Joshua 1:8
As the redpoll cracks open the seeds, it reingests them. We are to "crack open" the words of truth in order to gain the rich application and meaning of each one. (See 2 Timothy 2:15.)

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