Are you like a Mosquito?

The Night with a Mosquito

History is in many ways a story of influence. Leadership is about influence. Everyone influences someone. Therefore, in a sense, everyone is a leader. Sociologists tell us that even the most introverted individual will influence 10,000 other people during his or her lifetime. We all influence one another in all sorts of ways – from what to have for lunch and what films to watch, to more important matters of truth and ethics.

My life has been influenced by so many people – my parents, teachers, friends and family. Just as I have been influenced by others, inevitably what I do and say will influence others for good or ill.

As the African proverb puts it, ‘If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent the night with a mosquito.’ The mosquito makes a difference in an annoying way, but the principle is the same. One person can stop a great injustice. One person can be a voice for truth. One person’s kindness can save a life. Each person matters.

How can you maximise your influence and use that influence for good?

The Right Perspective

How to Worship God

In his book, The Vision and The Vow, Pete Greig tells of how a distinguished art critic was studying an exquisite painting by the Italian Renaissance master Filippino Lippi. He stood in London’s National Gallery gazing at the fifteenth-century depiction of Mary holding the infant Jesus on her lap, with saints Dominic and Jerome kneeling nearby. But the painting troubled him. There could be no doubting Lippi’s skill, his use of colour or composition. But the proportions of the picture seemed slightly wrong. The hills in the background seemed exaggerated, as if they might topple out of the frame at any minute onto the gallery’s polished floor. The two kneeling saints looked awkward and uncomfortable.

Art critic Robert Cumming was not the first to criticise Lippi’s work for its poor perspective, but he may well be the last to do so, because at that moment he had a revelation. It suddenly occurred to him that the problem might be his. The painting had never been intended to come anywhere near a gallery. Lippi’s painting had been commissioned to hang in a place of prayer.

The dignified critic dropped to his knees in the public gallery before the painting. He suddenly saw what generations of art critics had missed. From his new vantage point, Robert Cumming found himself gazing up at a perfectly proportioned piece. The foreground had moved naturally to the background, while the saints seemed settled – their awkwardness, like the painting itself, having turned to grace. Mary now looked intently and kindly directly at him as he knelt at her feet between saints Dominic and Jerome.

It was not the perspective of the painting that had been wrong all these years, it was the perspective of the people looking at it. Robert Cumming, on bended knee, found a beauty that Robert Cumming the proud art critic could not. The painting only came alive to those on their knees in prayer. The right perspective is the position of worship.

Giant Problems – A Devotional Thought

How to Face Giant Problems

Goliath was a giant. He was nine-feet tall, a champion, wearing heavy armour, standing and shouting, defying the people of God (1 Samuel 17:1–11). As well as physical giants, there are metaphorical ones. A ‘giant’ is a big, seemingly insurmountable problem or issue.

  • ‘Personal giants’ could include giant personal challenges in relation to your health, marriage, family, relationships or lack of relationships, job or lack of job, other work issues, or some sin, temptation, addiction, fear, loneliness, discouragement or debt.
  • ‘National giants’ in the UK include terrorism, gang violence, homelessness, the breakdown of marriage, family life and community, exploding prison populations, failing schools and the decline of church congregations. There is therefore the giant task of evangelising the country, revitalising the church and transforming our society.
  • ‘Global giants’ include extreme poverty (as a result of which thousands of children die each day), preventable disease (millions dying of diseases for which we have a relatively easy cure), the need for universal primary education (almost one billion people unable to read) and the need for worldwide water sanitation (which could be funded by the amount of money that Europeans spend on ice-cream every year).

There are two possible attitudes when facing a giant. One is to say, ‘It’s so big, there’s nothing I can do.’ The other is to say, ‘It’s so big, I can’t miss!’

Psalm 67:1-7

Think global

God loves the entire world. He wants all nations and peoples to know him, worship and love him.

The psalmist prayed for God’s blessing on his people in order that ‘your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations’ (v.2).

We see in this psalm that the global vision for the people of God beyond their own borders was foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

The psalmist prays for the entire globe (vv.3–5). If we are to tackle the global giants, we need a global vision. The words of this psalm are all about God. The size of your vision will be dependent on the size of your vision of God. As A.W. Tozer put it, ‘What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.’

Lord, be gracious to us and bless us. Make your face shine upon us. Make your ways known on earth and your salvation among all nations. May all the people praise you.

John 15:1-16:4

Testify about Jesus

There is nothing more important and no greater privilege in life than to be a friend of Jesus. Jesus says, ‘You are my friends… I no longer call you servants… I have called you friends’ (15:14–15).

Having Jesus as your friend allows you to tackle the giants in your life, in the church and in society from a unique standpoint.

  1. Personal
    Jesus tells us that there are two secrets of Christian fruitfulness.

    First, there is pruning (vv.1–2). The purpose of pruning is so that you can bear even more fruit. Pain, sorrow, sickness and suffering, loss, bereavement, failure, disappointment and frustrated ambition are some of the ways your life is pruned.

    Pruning can seem cruel; branches are left jagged and exposed to face the harsh winter. But the purpose of pruning is to give way to newness of life. When spring and summer come, there is an abundance of fruit. The sharp pruning knife will, in the end, bring fruitfulness and blessing.

    The second secret of fruitfulness is closeness to Jesus (v.4). You cannot take on the giants by yourself. Jesus says, ‘When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing’ (v.5, MSG). You will only succeed in tackling the giants if you stay close to Jesus.

    Cultivate a growing friendship with Jesus (vv.14–15) by spending time with him, walking with him, praying and listening to him through his word, following his desires.

    Jesus says that if you stay close to him (‘remain in him’) three things will happen in terms of fruitfulness. First, your prayers will be answered (v.7). Second, God will be glorified (v.8). Third, your joy will be complete and overflowing (v.11, AMP).

    Jesus wants you to be filled with joy and fully alive. There’s no greater joy than to know you are valued, precious and loved by God and to love others as you are loved. There’s no greater joy than giving eternal life to others in and with Jesus.
  2. Church
    There are massive giants facing the church today. The biggest giant is disunity. Nothing is more of a hindrance to the message of Jesus than division between Christians. Disunity will only be overcome by love. Jesus said, ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends… This is my command: Love each other’ (vv.12–13,17).
  3. Society
    Jesus warns us that we will face the giant of a world that hates us (vv.18–19). He says, ‘If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also’ (v.20). He says, ‘Those who kill you will think they are offering a service to God’ (16:2). There are parts of the world where this is literally true today.

    But there are also other more subtle forms of hidden persecution. No one likes to be rejected, looked down on, made fun of or ridiculed. Jesus warns that, wherever you are, you should expect opposition, hatred and even persecution.

On our own we would have no answers but Jesus says, ‘When the Counsellor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify’ (15:26–27). The Holy Spirit enables you to testify about Jesus and to take on these giant challenges, to see our society transformed.

Lord, thank you that you call me your friend. Help me to love others as you have loved me.

1 Samuel 16:1-17:37

Trust in God

David was extraordinarily gifted – naturally as well as supernaturally. He was handsome and in good health (16:12). He was talented musically (v.18). He was a gifted speaker (v.18). He had athletic ability (17:1–37; 18:11). He was a leader (18:13). He was successful (vv.14,30). He was famous (v.30).

Yet it was for none of these reasons that God used him. The Lord said to Samuel, ‘The Lord does not look at the things people look at. Human beings look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’ (16:7).

David was outraged by Goliath’s defiance of the living God (17:26). He was a courageous leader. He says, ‘Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine [Goliath]’ (v.32). What lessons can we learn from the way in which David tackled this giant?

  1. Reject rejection
    Eliab said to David, ‘What are you doing here! Why aren’t you minding your own business, tending that scrawny flock of sheep? I know what you’re up to. You’ve come down here to see the sights, hoping for a ringside seat at a bloody battle!’ (v.28, MSG).

    Yet David ‘turned away’ from Eliab (v.30).

    The lesson we learn here is not to be put off if rejected or ill-treated. As Joyce Meyer writes, ‘God is not looking for someone with ability but someone with availability… keep your heart pure by refusing to allow hatred, offense, bitterness, resentment or unforgiveness to stop you.’
  2. Get involved
    David said to Saul, ‘Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him’ (v.32). He volunteered his services. I am always so moved and impressed by the way in which our congregation are willing to volunteer their services: praying, serving and giving.
  3. Trust God
    Saul says to David, ‘You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy’ (v.33). Yet David replies, ‘The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine’ (v.37a). He trusts God because he knows that God is with him (see 16:18; 17:37b; 18:14).

Ultimately, the reason that David was able to tackle Goliath was that he was anointed by God: ‘Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life’ (16:13, MSG). The only way you will be able to tackle the giants in your life, in society and in the world, is through the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Lord, as I face the giants, I need the anointing of your Holy Spirit upon me and your presence with me. Give me courage not to run away, not to lose heart and not to give up.

When You Don’t Understand God – A Deviotional Thought

John Newton mentored a man called William Cowper (1731–1800). Cowper had experienced tragedy. His mother died when he was six. His father died while he was still young. He qualified as a barrister. Outwardly he was successful. However, he suffered from serious depression. When applying for an administrative post in the House of Lords that entailed a formal examination, he was so disturbed by the prospect of the exam that he attempted suicide. For the rest of his life he suffered from mental illness.

When he was in his thirties, John Newton encouraged Cowper to begin composing hymns. He wrote powerfully of the joys and sorrows of everyday life. In 1774, he suffered such a severe episode of mental illness that he was prevented from entering into his intended marriage to Mary Unwin. He was crestfallen. Shortly afterwards, in perhaps his most famous hymn, he wrote:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform

God is good. God is love. God loves you. God has revealed himself supremely in Jesus. All this we know. Then you read passages in the Bible that don’t seem to fit with your understanding of God. You may also have experiences in life that don’t seem to fit either.

You cannot put God in a box. He is far greater than you could ever conceive. Some passages in the Bible are mysterious. Jesus said on one occasion, ‘You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand’ (John 13:7). Sometimes that understanding may come in our lifetime. Some things we will only understand when we meet the Lord.

How should you respond when you don’t understand God?

Psalm 74:1-9

Be honest with God

Are there times in your life when you simply do not understand why certain things are happening to you? Does it almost feel like God has rejected you? If so, your experience is common in the history of the people of God. This psalm opens with this question: ‘Why have you rejected us forever, O God?’ (v.1).

Sometimes it may seem as if God is silent and not intervening to help you in any way. As the psalmist says, ‘There’s not a sign or symbol of God in sight, nor anyone to speak in his name, no one who knows what’s going on’ (v.9, MSG).

When you go through times like this, you never know ‘how long’ this will be (v.9). You might have questions about why a part of your life is working out as it is. Or perhaps you just feel that God is distant. St John of the Cross (1542–1591) referred to these times as ‘the dark night of the soul’.

What should you do in times like this?

  1. Ask the questions
    The psalmist does not beat around the bush. He pours out his heart to God. He asks God the difficult questions. ‘You walked off and left us, and never looked back. God, how could you do that? We’re your very own sheep; how can you stomp off in anger?’ (v.1, MSG).
  2. Ask for answers
    ‘Refresh your memory of us… you actually lived here once! Come and visit the site of disaster…’ (vv.2–3, MSG).

You are not alone when you have these kinds of experiences and emotions. One of the great blessings of the Psalms is that you can turn to them in times of mysterious suffering and echo these prayers in your heart.

Lord, thank you that even when I can’t understand what is happening to me, I can be honest with you when I pray and pour out my heart to you.

Acts 9:32-10:23a

Be open to God

Jesus told his disciples to heal the sickraise the dead and preach the gospel. The early church got on with doing exactly what Jesus told them to do. They must have been very surprised by what happened. Yet they were open to his leading.

  1. The mystery of healing
    They continued to see God’s extraordinary power at work. Peter said to a man who was bedridden for eight years, ‘Jesus Christ heals you’ (9:34). He immediately ‘jumped right out of bed’ (v.34, MSG). ‘Everybody… woke up to the fact that God was alive and active among them’ (v.35, MSG).

    Yet not all are healed. Why doesn’t God heal everyone? I don’t know. Sometimes it is really hard to understand why God has not healed someone we have prayed for so much. It is a mystery.
  2. The mystery of raising the dead
    Next, Peter raised the dead! Accounts of the dead being raised are rare in the Bible. It happened twice in the Old Testament – once with Elijah and once with Elisha. Jesus raised the dead three times, Paul once, and Peter raised Dorcas from the dead. The command to raise the dead occurs only once (Matthew 10:8).

    In almost every case, it was a young person who was raised from the dead. None of them lived forever – but their lives were not cut off prematurely. Very occasionally God intervenes in this way. We don’t know why. It is a mystery.

    Here God did intervene. Dorcas, ‘who was always doing good and helping the poor’ (Acts 9:36), became sick and died. Peter got down on his knees and prayed. She opened her eyes, sat up, and Peter took her by the hand and helped her to her feet! As a result, ‘many people believed in the Lord’ (v.42).
  3. The mystery of the gospel
    The apostle Paul was later to explain, ‘This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 3:6).

    Up until this point in the book of Acts, all the followers of Jesus had been Jewish. In fact, they did not think it was possible to become a Christian without being a Jew. But God surprised them. He prepared Peter with a vision. In a trance he saw heaven open and he was told to kill and eat ‘impure’ and ‘unclean’ animals and birds. His response was, ‘Surely not, Lord!’ (Acts 10:14).

    The vision, and God’s voice that accompanied it, challenged Peter not to make distinctions between clean and unclean food (vv.13–15). However, Peter also realised that this vision meant that he should not make distinctions between ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ people – that is, Jewish and non-Jewish people. In tomorrow’s reading, we discover that Peter says, ‘No race is better than any other’ (v.28, MSG).

    At the time, it was a mystery. ‘Peter, puzzled, sat there trying to figure out what it all meant’ (v.17, MSG). He did not realise what God was doing. Only later did he understand. God had plans that were far bigger than theirs. The good news of Jesus was not to be confined to the Jewish people – it was for everyone in the world. Thankfully, Peter was open enough to respond to God’s guidance, whether through a vision or even when ‘the Spirit whispered to him’ (v.19, MSG).

Lord, thank you that even if we do not understand some mysteries in this life, we can trust you and know that you always have a reason.

2 Samuel 23:8-24:25

Be mystified by God

This is one of the most mysterious passages in the whole Bible. All seemed to be going well. David had good people around him. He was greatly helped and supported by his three mighty men, as well as a wider inner circle of ‘the Thirty’.

Yet something terrible happened. Who incited David to count his fighting men? In this passage it appears to be God. Yet in the equivalent passage in Chronicles we are told, ‘Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel’ (1 Chronicles 21:1). This is one of only three times in which Satan is mentioned in the Old Testament.

David apparently knew that what he was doing was wrong (‘because he had counted the people, replacing trust with statistics’, 2 Samuel 24:10, MSG). He was ‘conscience-stricken… and he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, O Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing”’ (v.10).

Given the various options, spoken by the prophet Gad, he chose to fall into the hands of the Lord, for ‘his mercy is great’ (v.14). He refused to offer a sacrifice that cost him nothing (v.24). After his sacrifice, ‘the Lord answered prayer on behalf of the land’ (v.25).

There is still much here that is difficult to understand. But the passage finishes on a note of hope and renewed relationship.

Lord, help me to trust you even in the midst of confusion and uncertainty. Thank you that, one day, your wisdom will be fully revealed. Thank you that you are good and that your love endures forever.

Trials. How Useful Are They?

Your Trial Will Become Your Triumph

‘Houston, we’ve had a problem,’ were the words of Jim Lovell on the evening of 13 April 1970. Nearly fifty-six hours into the mission to the moon, an explosion aboard the spacecraft plunged the crew into a fight for their survival. Within less than a minute there was a cascade of systems failures throughout the spacecraft. ‘It was all at one time – a monstrous failure,’ said NASA’s flight controller.

The spacecraft looped around the moon, using its gravity to return to earth. Millions of people followed the drama on television. Eventually, the capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean near Tonga.

In an article headed ‘Apollo 13: From Disaster to Triumph’ the BBC science reporter wrote, ‘Although the mission was not a success from a conventional perspective, it was a triumph of ingenuity and determination’. Jim Lovell said it showed the people of the world that even if there was a great catastrophe, it could be turned into a success.

The supreme example of triumph coming out of apparent catastrophe is the cross. What seemed to the world to be the ultimate defeat was in fact the ultimate triumph.

Black, White or Grey?

No Shades of Grey

Back in the 1960s, the band The Monkees sang about how no one seemed to believe in absolute morals anymore. In Shades of Gray they sang:

When the world and I were young,
Just yesterday.
Life was such a simple game…
It was easy then to tell right from wrong…
Today there is no black or white,
Only shades of gray.

Now the expression ‘shades of grey’ has come to be associated with the notorious and controversial books and films with that name.

Many today no longer believe there is such a thing as absolute right or absolute wrong. Stark contrasts and black-and-white distinctions are not always easy to swallow in a society in which relativism is the order of the day. Everything is relative – a matter of degrees.

As followers of Jesus we cannot give in to these relativistic ideas. We must be open to the prophetic voice of Scripture, which often traces stark contrasts, urgent ethical choices and diverging paths in the midst of complex problems and situations.

A Hymn’s Story

Troubles Do Not Have the Last Word

George Matheson was born in Glasgow, the eldest of eight children. He had only partial vision as a boy. By the age of twenty he was completely blind. When his fiancée learnt he was going blind and that there was nothing the doctors could do, she told him she could not go through life with a blind man. He never married.

He was helped by a devoted sister throughout his ministry. She learnt Greek, Latin and Hebrew in order to aid him in his studies. Despite his blindness, Matheson had a brilliant career at the Glasgow Academy, University of Glasgow and the Church of Scotland Seminary.

When he was forty years old, something bittersweet happened. His sister married. Not only did this mean that he lost her companionship – it also brought a fresh reminder of his own heartbreak. In the midst of this intense sadness, on the eve of his sister’s marriage, he wrote one of the most popular and best loved hymns of the Christian church – ‘O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go’. He completed the whole work in five minutes and never edited, corrected or retouched it. ‘This came,’ he wrote, ‘like a dayspring from on high.’

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

Troubles are part of life. Jesus faced trouble and so did the apostles, David and all the people of God. However, as Matheson’s hymn beautifully articulates, troubles do not have the last word.

Anxiety & Depression Linked to Abuse

Disclaimer: I am merely someone with some life experience (now including some anxiety and depression) and have NO medical or psychological degree. A professional, such as a doctor, should be consulted if anyone has symptoms like anxiety and depression to a noticeable, serious degree. I do believe there is a spiritual component to these health issues, as I’ll address in this blog.

We often treat symptoms.  There isn’t anything particularly wrong with that, but it does little to get at the real reason behind the source of the issue causing the one or myriad of symptoms.

Just as a physical ailment or sickness is accompanied by symptoms of fever, shivers, and other out-workings, so can physical or mental hurts or wounding’s show symptoms indicating that deeper issue. 

I’ve had cause and reason to reflect on anxiety and depression lately.  Anxiety and depression are, in fact, two symptoms of physical and mental abuse.

“The Link Between Verbal Abuse And Anxiety That No One Talks About” is the article link here.  It was thanks to a friend who brought it to my attention.  (I rather recommend reading this article.)

What’s the fix? There’s no ready, immediate, one-size-fits all solution. It is a process, as with so many things.  

Yes, anxiety and depression is treatable.  There may be ways people cope, mechanisms that people employ.  Treatment could be medical, dietary, altering routines and habits, etc.  Those approaches and means may certainly be useful for some; yet, there may come a point when the root of what led to that anxiety and depression should be addressed, or at least recognized for what it is, if one is pursuing health and healing. 

Thinking back to those times – specifically when and where – have I been …  (And these things are connected to what’s in the article)

1.     Unappreciated?

2.     Been called names (was it persistent?)?

3.     Had my interests (passions or dreams too) attacked?

4.     Felt a huge need to be alone?

5.     Been the butt of persistent jokes?

Yet, I think I’ve done that enough and have grieved enough over those occurrences.

If I were to examine the unintended Swiss cheese of my formative years, I’ll find …

1.    I’ve felt unappreciated at times!  “Seen but not heard” was spoken often, too often it seemed.

2. Yes; I was called names at times. I was bullied as a kid, and thankfully became friends with him eventually. Even name calling happened later in life too. Fortunately, this was not persistent.

3.    Not sure about my interests being attacked but felt that talents, maybe dreams and pursuits weren’t validated or encouraged.

4.    Yeah, felt rather lonely several times.  Well sure, I’m an ISTJ according to Myers-Briggs type indicator – an introvert.  Though I know I reverted at times more into myself.

5.    My Self Confidence had been greatly stunted, likely because of trauma in receiving some form of abuse.  Had a hard time with my confidence. 

6.    I lacked in affirmation and encouragement. Some of my skills and talents were recognized, but it was more like “oh, that’s nice that you have that” kind of comment.

I never exactly identified or thought of myself as a victim of verbal or mental abuse; yet, it may in fact be true in looking at myself and in explaining past trauma and wounding.

These questions only start to get at details and specifics. We each need to understand our own stories in depth! It is important to be able to spell out those things with care.

*Sigh*

What next? Fact is that this type of healing simply cannot happen inside one’s head. It requires that shame be silenced by the empathy of others in the healing process!!

For myself though, I can also:

Encourage myself some.

I have good friends and a wife who also can help encourage me.

Do things, because I have accomplished things! My skills have grown. I can hone my talents and skill sets.

Can enjoy company of friends and family, while knowing when a “me” time can be refreshing for my introvert self. I know with whom I can be real and vulnerable, assured that they’re a safe and trusted person.

Though affirmation or appreciation isn’t an everyday occurrence, I know friends and family have shown it to me every now and then.

What’s in a name? Yes, I have learned and can and to take a playful joke. I won’t tolerate though someone who will consistently belittle my name.  That’s an insult to anyone regardless.

What’s more though, there’s plenty that God has for me in His word.  He has promises, encouragement, and loves me! He loves us all.  

He has given us talents and gifts by the very nature of you being you. No one can do you since only you can.

You think you’re alone? You are not, simply by the fact that you’re reading this.  Others have felt this way and dealt with the same exact stuff!  What’s more, there are your friends and family who should be able to be there for you. However, in the case that that might feel inadequate, there are support groups, counselors, and people at church.  

Even better and even more, there’s Jesus! Whether you believe in Him or not, He’s ever present. God is right there, willing to hear and help. He waits for engaging you in love and patience and kindness.  He is full of grace and mercy.

God’s truths and promises are better than the lies and inhibitors with which that I have lived.

If I remind myself of those truths frequently, even daily, that’d be a sure way to attack not just my depression or anxiety but also those areas of hurt from formative years.

I can be confident in God because He’s been there and knows the way through.

I should realize just praying won’t magically, immediately fix me or take away feelings or things I’ve carries for so long.  Yet, that will not limit my expectations and hope!  For I have seen God work in my past experiences and know nothing’s impossible for Him.

Where is my faith and trust in these things?  To where am I looking?

I’ll try not to levy undue expectations on friends and loved ones. 

Though my faith may be little, God is so much greater; I’ll look to and trust in Him.

I will need to remind myself to try to see things with His perspective, knowing how He sees me.

God is love. God loves me.

Kindness

Steve Sjogren wrote a book called Conspiracy of Kindness. He started a church in Cincinnati, Ohio, that grew rapidly to an average attendance of over 7,000. Their motto is, ‘Small things done with great love are changing the world.’ They carry out random acts of kindness like paying for a stranger’s coffee or writing a ‘thank you’ note to a shop assistant.

Kindness is love in work clothes. Showing God’s love in practical ways, they have discovered the power of kindness to effect positive change, both in their lives and in the lives of people around them. Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly and most underrated agent of human change. When kindness is expressed, healthy relationships are created, community connections are nourished and people are inspired to pass on kindness.

Crazy Love

Francis Chan’s mother died giving birth to him. The only affection he can remember receiving from his father lasted about thirty seconds when he was on the way to his stepmother’s funeral aged nine. When he was twelve, his father also died. Francis cried, but also felt relieved.

Francis is now a pastor. He and his wife, Lisa, have seven children. When his children were born, his own love for his children and his desire for their love was so strong that it opened his eyes to how much God desires and loves us. He said, ‘Through this experience, I came to understand that my desire for my children is only a faint echo of God’s great love for me and for every person he made… I love my kids so much it hurts.’

Calling his first book Crazy Love, he wrote, ‘The idea of Crazy Love has to do with our relationship with God. All my life I’ve heard people say, “God loves you.” It’s probably the most insane statement you could make to say that the eternal Creator of this universe is in love with me. There is a response that ought to take place in believers, a crazy reaction to that love. Do you really understand what God has done for you? If so, why is your response so lukewarm?’

The word ‘zeal’ implies an intense or passionate desire. It can be misdirected, but as Paul writes, it is right to be zealous provided that the purpose is good (Galatians 4:18). Elsewhere he says, ‘Never be lacking in zeal’ (Romans 12:11). Perhaps a good modern translation of the word ‘zeal’ is ‘crazy love’.