Kindness Is Free

January 30, 2021

My recent experiences have suggested to me that we need more kindness in our world. The opposite of kindness is evident: being rude, insensitive, derogatory in language, and self-centered. The absence of kindness can make work, school, and home life burdensome.

So what is kindness? This is where dictionaries can disappoint. Kindness is often defined by a long list of qualities. But I think we can focus this broad beam of light to some basics. Kindness is sympathetic of other people’s plight. It is helpful to other people’s needs. It is forbearing and gentle in dealing with people. It involves a warm heart towards others rather than a cold and indifferent one.

Kindness is a Christian virtue. It is component of the fruit of the Spirit. As Christians we shouldn’t ignore developing it in our lives. Reflection on Christian teaching aids us in understanding the virtue and hopefully making it real in our lives. Why are we called to kind?

All human beings are created in the image of God and are to be treated with dignity. They are also people for whom Christ died. We are not to treat people as things but as persons. Yes, we will face difficult people maybe even enemies. Evil is not overcome by evil returned but by good.

Paul teaches us that love fulfills the law (Romans 13:8-10). All the various commandments can be summed up in love your neighbor. Love will not harm others. But the ethic of love will go beyond: do no harm. The Golden Rule extends this: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, ESV). Love will do positive good for others. Christians are to live this ethic of love.

We are the recipients of kindness from God. God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). God’s kindness toward us in Christ is seen in the immeasurable riches of God’s grace (Ephesians 2:7). Just as we love because God first loved us, we are called to kindness because of the great kindness God has shown us.

Kindness is free in the sense that I can freely bestow it on all I meet. Certainly, kindness may cost me something as a I do a good deed, but most of the time it is a matter of how I treat people. I want to see a lot of free kindness in my world because kindness is transformative. The walk with the Spirit must include kindness. This is something to which we’re called.

— Russ Holden

What Can the Righteous Do?

January 22, 2021

David raises the question, “… if the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do” (Psalms 11:3, ESV)? His advisors seem to give him the solution, “Flee like the bird to your mountain” (Psa 11:1). There may be times when flight is a sensible precaution. I suspect we all wish at times for a place to hide when the world seems like it’s falling apart. But David’s answer has less to do with location and more to do with devotion.

Psalm 11 is a chiasm. Chiasm refers to its literary structure. In chiasms, the author addresses topics leading to the center of the poem which is the most important part and then does the parallel topics as the movement of the psalm goes from the center to the end. This leads to a pattern of topics that go like this: A, B, C, C, B, A. It is instructive to see the structure of Psalm 11. A corresponds to A, B corresponds to B, and C is the central, most important thought of the psalm.

A — God is refuge, 11:1
B — The righteous suffer, 11:2-3
C — God is still ruler of all, 11:4
B — The wicked will be punished, 11:5-6
A — God is righteous, 11:7

David acknowledges the crumbling foundations and suffering of the righteous. But the answer to his question, “what can the righteous do?,” is found in the center of the poem.

The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’S throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man. (Psalm 11:4 ESV)

The reason that devotion is more important than location is that David still has faith that God is on his throne. God is still sovereign. He is in control of history even in those times when it doesn’t seem like it. Yes, there is wickedness, but it will not ultimately escape judgment. And the upright will see God’s face. (11:7).

What do the righteous do when the foundations are destroyed? We are to remember that God is still on his throne. He hasn’t abdicated. The wicked can’t overcome God. Judgment will ultimately come. And we, the upright, have a promise: we will see God’s face.

— Russ Holden

It’s Not Too Late to Start a Bible Reading Plan!

January 1, 2021

You may be reading this between January 1st and 3rd. Even though 2021 has started, it is not too late to start a Bible reading plan!

First, you need to choose the Bible that you are going to use which includes the translation and the format — traditional book format or a device like a smart phone or tablet. No one needs a device to read the Bible, and many people may be happier without one. But for some of us devices provide convenience, compactness (a library of books in your pocket), and the one that means the most to me — I get to choose the font size.

Choose a translation with which you are comfortable. I prefer a formal equivalent translation (that’s more literal) like the ESV, KJV, NKJV, or NASB. But I must admit that the first time I read through the New Testament was in a functional equivalent (more thought for thought and in everyday language) like the NIV, CSB, NCV, or NET. You can always compare translations as you go, and over the years, you may choose different ones to read. As the quip goes, “What’s the best translation? The one you read.”

Second, find a plan. Reading through the Bible in a year is a great thing to do, and I’ve been doing it every year for decades, but that’s not where I started. Starting with that big of a goal may end up being frustrating. Maybe you start with something more manageable like attempting to read the New Testament (Matthew – Revelation) or the narrative portions of the Bible (Genesis-Esther and Matthew – Acts). Short plans on various Bible subjects exist as well. What is important is developing the habit of Bible reading. Once you have a consistent habit, you can add more reading or adjust your reading for the next year according to your needs. has a great app to begin with on a smartphone or tablet. The big plus is that it is free. It has lots of translations. It has lots of audio Bibles that can play along when you read. It allows highlighting, note taking, and it has lots of reading plans. has my favorite mobile app. You can start for free with the NIV, ESV, NKJV, and KJV. It also allows highlighting, note taking, and Bible reading plans. But for a fee, you can add additional study books like Bible dictionaries, atlases, study Bibles, commentaries, and audio Bibles. It also has a large selection of Bible reading guides. I consider YouVersion a great Bible reading app, and OliveTree is a great Bible study app because it offers more Bible study resources although at a fee. Both are excellent places to start.

Other serious Bible study apps to consider are Logos and Accordance. I use Olive Tree, Logos, and Accordance on a regular basis on my tablet, phone, and laptop.

A great number of guides can be found on the Internet by Googling. It’s not too late to start a Bible reading plan!

— Russ Holden