Friday, August 21, 2020

A Gesture of love and compassion

Hubert Humphrey was a former vice-president of the United States. When he died hundreds of people from across the world attended his funeral. All were welcome, but one – former President Richard Nixon, who had not long previously dragged himself and his country through the humiliation and shame of Watergate. As eyes turned away and conversations ran dry around him Nixon could feel the ostracism being ladled out to him.

Then Jimmy Carter, the serving US President, walked into the room. Carter was from a different political party to Nixon and well known for his honesty and integrity. As he moved to his seat President Carter noticed Richard Nixon standing all alone. Carter immediately changed course, walked over to Richard Nixon, held out his hand, and smiling genuinely and broadly embraced Nixon and said “Welcome home, Mr President! Welcome home!”

The incident was reported by Newsweek magazine, which wrote: “If there was a turning point in Nixon’s long ordeal in the wilderness, it was that moment and that gesture of love and compassion.” Jimmy Carter certainly knew that there is little to gain from kicking a person when they're down. After all, they're already down!  Creating a culture of civility of not kicking someone while they're down is to the benefit of everyone... you never know when you're going to be the one who's down.

This is not quite how it happens in everyday life, is it? But, things are different to what normally happens in everyday life when to comes to the gospel. A small, a very small gesture of love is just enough for the greatest reward to be bestowed, for the fulfilment of God’s promise to be with us always. 

God’s Word (the Bible) teaches us to show kindness and forgiveness not only to our friends, but to our enemies too. Here’s what Jesus said about it “Love your enemies, and pray for those who hurt you.” That seems hard to do. When people hurt us, we sometimes want to hurt them back. But the Lord Jesus teaches not to do that. He teaches us to be kind and loving, even to someone who is unkind to you. He teaches us to have mercy on others.

Why should we have mercy on people who hurt us? The reason is because God shows us mercy. We hurt God when we do things we know we shouldn’t do. But He still loves us even when we sin. Romans chapter 6 verse 23 tells us that ‘the wages of sin is death’. When we sin, our punishment should be death, but, thankfully, the Bible also tells us that when ‘we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’. That’s the wonder of the gospel, that God sent His Son to die in our place. All we have to do to receive God’s mercy is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and what He did for us on the cross to save us from the penalty, power and presence of sin. The scriptures record that if we ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’ we will be saved, Acts 16:31.

Isn’t that amazing? Even though we break God’s heart, He still loved and cared enough for us to sacrifice His only Son. God has a lot of mercy for us. He even went out of His way to meet us where we are. God’s mercy to us is a good lesson: Just as He forgives us, we should also forgive other people, even our enemies. 

God's love is not cheap, for it is so different to the world’s type of love. God's love is not cheap, but it is gratuitous. It is a gift that keeps on giving and multiplying itself. But most important is the assurance, the promise, that His act of kindness and mercy can be ours today. His gesture of love to us, which we didn't deserve, can be ours if we only believe.

Prepared by ‘Your Five for Today’ and used by permission 

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Did you enjoy Latin at school?

Latin was obligatory when I was at school. It was one of the standard subjects on the curriculum. I actually quite enjoyed Latin despite the old adage we used to repeat under our breath:

Latins a dead language

As dead as dead can be 

First it killed the Romans

And now, it’s killing me

It might have felt tough going at school, but it is actually very useful to know some Latin as a lot of Latin motto’s can be found over the entrance of many listed buildings. For instance, the motto of the University of Oxford is ‘Dominus illuminatio mea’. These are the opening words of Psalm 27 (the Bible) meaning The Lord is my Light. One of the long-established independent schools on the Wirral has the motto ‘Beati Mundo Corde’. This means Blessed are the Pure in Heart, again a quotation taken out of the Bible (the Beatitudes). It is quite significant that public institutions saw the value of quoting the Bible. This book was once the backbone of our nation’s progress and development.

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