Love Your Enemy

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4‭-‬7 NLT

God didn’t tell us we could pick who to love. No, He sent His Son to us, Who taught us these lessons:

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your GOD with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” – Matthew 22:37‭-‬39 NLT

Short and to the point. Jesus is referring to a passage in Leviticus 19, verses 9-18 when He says to love your neighbor as yourself. Read it – it may help with your understanding the point. I’ve read Bible scholars who say that Jesus is referring to fellow believers when He says ‘neighbors’; I think they should read the story of the Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37. This terribly injured Jew was left for dead by robbers, and a priest and then a temple assistant passed him and left him to suffer rather than sully their hands. A Samaritan, a people despised by the Jews and who in turn hated the Jews, picked up this man, his enemy, and cared for him and provided for him. Who was the real neighbor? Certainly not the man’s fellow Jews! The Samaritan showed love to his enemy. Shouldn’t those of us who have experienced the Love of the Savior lead by example in loving our enemies; our neighbors? Both Luke and Matthew record several instances of Jesus talking about loving our enemies.

“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.” – Luke 6:35 NLT

Even as Jesus showed His love as He was dying, by asking God His Father to forgive those who tortured and crucified Him, so we need to forgive those who hurt us. Yes, I am all too human and know EXACTLY how difficult it is, especially when the hurt is new, or the person is completely unrepentant. In fact, I’m currently dealing with it, even as I write these words. Knowing that the LORD has forgiven me for much, I know that He expects me to forgive others the same…. and more. There are many, many scriptures that talk about forgiveness. Not forgiving, and fostering anger and hurt in my heart, doesn’t do anything to my enemy, it only harms me. The greatest thing we can do, after prayer for our enemy, is to love them. Most times it has to be done at a distance, especially if that enemy caused us physical harm, and we shouldn’t forget, lest we get into another bad situation. Forgiveness is only through Jesus Christ and His Love.

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have Loved you, you should love each other. ….”If you love Me, obey My commandments.” – John 13:34; 14:15 NLT

A Story of Faith

What is faith? One definition says “Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” Whenever I think I about faith, this scripture from Mark comes to mind – “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NLT) This seems to be my state of mind much of the time. I want to believe without question; I know that God is stronger than the enemy and that He is in control. Why is it so difficult?

“When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people, he returned to Capernaum. At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.” So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!” And when the officer’s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.” – Luke 7:1‭-‬10 NLT

Here is a man, a Roman officer, enemy to the Jews, and he believes. He has a truly remarkable faith to believe that a man despised by both Jews and Romans, this man Jesus, can heal his servant with just a word…. from a distance! Could I do this? I can tell you that no, I couldn’t. When faced with life-threatening illness and injury, I need a hands-on, physical touch to reassure me. What does that say about someone who grew up in a Christian home, with the teachings of Christ instilled in me from the time I comprehend, and even before that, as an infant? A Roman soldier had more faith than I do? Seems almost inconceivable, doesn’t it? I struggle to rest in the Lord; to believe that He sees the end of this quagmire I find myself in.

The faith of a mustard seed is all we need, according to Jesus. With that minuscule amount of faith, literally about the size of the period at the end of this sentence, we can move mountains. Not a figurative mountain; Jesus was speaking of a literal mountain. Hear him: “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” – Matthew 17:20 NLT

Where is my mustard seed, LORD?

Poverty or Plenty

“Better to have little, with fear for the LORD, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil.” – Proverbs 15:16 NLT

Jesus modeled this proverb during His ministry on earth. But what about His life before His ministry? We know very little about His earthly father, except that he raised Jesus in the small town of Nazareth, and we know that Joseph was a carpenter. We know that Joseph was an “upright” man, a righteous man (Matthew 1:18-25), who followed God’s instructions for his life. As a carpenter who was displaced from his home, and with a young wife and small child, Joseph took his family and traveled to Egypt. They lived there until the Judean king, Herod, died and they could return to Judea safely. We don’t know if Joseph was very poor, or middle class, or wealthy. I like to imagine that Joseph mentored his eldest, Jesus, in the art of carpentry, and that he took good care of his family. I imagine that he was a kind and loving husband and father; a good example for all of his children. I like to believe that Joseph lived out Proverbs 15:16, not necessarily wealthy but an adequate provider, and the religious leader of their home. I wonder if he was disappointed that Jesus didn’t take a wife and settle down to live in Nazareth and to work with him. We don’t know if he was alive during Jesus’s ministry, or present at His death on the cross, or His resurrection from the grave. We don’t read about these things in scripture, because the wealth or poverty of Jesus’s parents isn’t really relevant to the story of His ministry. His earthly father doesn’t have the importance, or the significance, that His heavenly Father does. We know where Jesus really came from, and His heavenly home would make any situation on earth look like poverty!

Jesus understood poverty in the earthly sense, too. During His three years of travel and ministry on earth, He stayed with wealthy people like Lazarus and his sisters, and He ate with Zacchaeus and other wealthy tax collectors. We don’t know, in fact, that He was poor and homeless during His ministry. He said “The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ ” – Luke 7:34 NLT

Does this mean He was wealthy? Poor? Homeless? We know He camped with His followers, and He performed miracles to feed the crowds who followed Him, rather than purchasing food for them. Does it matter? At times, He had plenty, and at times He experienced poverty. I understand that, too well. I have had plenty, shopping when and where I wanted, and going out to eat at nice resturants on a frequent basis. I have also experienced poverty and homelessness, staying with friends and also living in a vacant house for a time. Jesus knew what it was like, even though His real Father’s wealth exceeds anything we could possibly imagine. He reminds us:

“You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have Me.” – John 12:8 NLT

And then He also reminds us that we are blessed and loved by the Almighty LORD of the universe:

“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” – 2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT

He doesn’t promise to give us everything we want. He promises to provide for our needs. I am clinging to His promises today, not knowing how I will meet my financial obligations beyond today. Mortgage, utilities, car payment, insurance…. no job and no financial cushion because I have used it to survive thus far. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief! All I ask is for enough. Enough to survive and to live on. That’s it. Amen.

Safe….?

“(10) The Name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to Him and are safe. (14) The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit? (19) An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars. (24) There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:19‭, ‬24 NLT

A crushed spirit. That’s what happens in a relationship and a marriage when one leaves, physically or emotionally. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to study on this; too many opportunities. Currently, I find myself again feeling betrayed by a friend, a person I took at his word that he would not abandon me. A crushed spirit. Knowing a person for almost 20 years, being friends and going through good and bad times, helping each other through emotional times, doesn’t guarantee anything. I wanted to believe the best, but everyone lets down their friends at times. Why do we do this? Why make promises we know we won’t keep? Why do we lead others on, letting them believe something in error? Safe? No, there isn’t anyone on earth who is safe, who won’t disappoint you.

No matter how long or how much effort we put into the study of human behaviour, I believe we will always be disappointed, simply because we are human and full of flaws. Knowing that, studying that, doesn’t make it any easier to get past the hurt. The only way to really get past it, to find forgiveness for those who hurt us – and that includes forgiving myself for the hurt I have caused myself and others – and that way, the only way, is through Jesus Christ. Can I still forgive while being treated with disrespect and disdain? Do I want to? I study the scriptures for guidance, because I cannot find forgiveness in my heart. Instead I find sarcasm and anger flooding me, along with the hurt and the disappointment. All of those feelings come straight from the enemy, and they don’t help me at all. In fact, if I let them go, these negative thoughts and feelings can overcome and actually, physically, cause me to be ill.

With Jesus, and through the healing of the Holy Spirit, I can get through this. Study the words of Jesus for forgiveness. He taught us this: “But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Matthew 6:15 NLT

Jesus was betrayed by a friend, a close friend who He loved, one who gave Him over to be tortured and killed in the most horrific ways know to man…. and before He died, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34 NLT

Even while dying; beaten, bruised, and humiliated, Jesus forgave us. Are we beater than the Son of God, that we can hold judgement and unforgiveness over another person? Let the chains of hatred, unforgiveness, anger, and hurt go. Let God have it. He can handle it.

He Ain’t Heavy…..

If you were in the pop culture of 1969, you’ll remember a song that hit the charts in September by the British group the Hollies, and again in 1970 by Neil Diamond, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.” Part of it goes like this:

So on we go
His welfare is of my concern
No burden is he to bear
We’ll get there

For I know
He would not encumber me
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

This is just what Christ taught His followers, and they in turn taught others. It’s a message that is easy to ignore as we go about our lives, wrapped up in the drama of everyday living.

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.” – Galatians 6:2‭-‬3 NLT

I don’t mind helping those who need help when I can, even though I find it really difficult accepting help for myself. The needs aren’t always financial. Many times, the best way we can help is through prayer for that person. It doesn’t seem like much, and I’ve said, along with countless others, that “All we can do is pray.” ALL we can do? It is absolutely the BEST thing we can do! God knows everything, including our deepest hurts and desires. Nothing is hidden from Him…. so why do we need to pray?

“Who is the Almighty, and why should we obey him? What good will it do us to pray?” – Job 21:15 NLT
Jesus said: “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” – Mark 11:24‭-‬25 NLT

We need to have conversations with God. The person on this earth who knows us best still wants to have conversations, so why do we think God our Creator wouldn’t want to hear from us? Sometimes we just don’t make (or have!) any sense……

You’re A Fool… Or No, It’s Me.

Will the prayer I am praying change anyone else’s life besides mine? Be careful with your words!! Am I praying for revenge on someone for hurting me, or am I thanking God for my blessings? Do I ask the LORD to bless those who have caused problems for me, or am I cursing them while asking God to bless me?

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly. The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” – Proverbs 15:1-2,4

Will Rogers said it pretty well, I thought: “It is better for some one to think you’re a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” My Mom always said “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything.” Lately, I find myself struggling to keep my mouth shut, and harsh words regarding the most recent hurt slip out instead. Thank God I am a work in progress!

I especially like this sentence: “The soothing tongue is a tree of life…” Think about that! A tree of life. We can do more damage with our tongue than with a knife, because wounds of the spirit are difficult to heal – I know, because I lashed out for years, hurting others because of the pain I felt. I will forever have to guard my tongue in this life. There is only ONE Healer for your wounded, broken spirit, and that is Jesus Christ, the Great Physician. Through Him, and Him alone, are my wounds healed. He can bring healing to you as well, and through your healing, you can reach out to to those you have hurt. In the 12 Step programs, it’s called making amends.

  • Step Eight: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Step Nine: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

In our lives, we will have to work these steps over and over. I have opportunities to ask for forgiveness. Most are graciously accepted, but there will always be those that are not accepted. I also have opportunities to forgive – and when I forgive, or struggle with forgiveness, I gain understanding of the consequences of hurt I inflict on others. In some instances, we will need much more than an apology. We need to make a physical or monetary amends in some cases. Sometimes it is impossible to forgive, and that is when I give it to the Great Physician so that He can work His healing power. Revenge for things people say and do is for GOD to deal out, not for us to do.

So be careful of your words. Even in jest, we can (and do!) hurt others.

Fake News

“Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.” – 1 John 4:1 NLT

Fake News. I keep hearing this phrase, like it’s a new thing for people to be spreading false stories. Well, it’s not new. Since the beginning of time, we have been battling fake news, starting in the Garden with Adam and Eve. Remember this? God is speaking to Adam:

“But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” – Genesis 2:16‭-‬17 NLT

Fast forward a few verses to Eve, who is having a conversation with the serpent, who was not the same as the serpent as we now know them. In fact, it seems to me that this serpent was probably beautiful to look at…. and aside from his beauty, did you catch that the serpent could talk? Do you imagine, like I do, that all of God’s creatures could converse in the Garden???

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’” “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” – Genesis 3:1‭-‬5 NLT

Wow. Talk about fake news! Does hearing the enemy’s lies about something you are considering evoke the feeling that it is okay to do whatever it is in spite of knowing it is wrong? Throughout the scriptures, we are repeatedly warned and admonished for following false leaders and listening to the lies of that serpent, the enemy of mankind. Just like with Eve and countless others throughout the ages, the enemy knows just what to say to entice us into sin. Have you ever said this to someone about the music you listen to? “I don’t listen to the words, I just like the music.” Really? I’m definitely guilty. Whether you are consciously aware of the words or not, they are soaking into your brain, so the obscenities and sex and violence are getting in, and that is EXACTLY what the enemy wants. Drinking to excess is glorified, as is adultery and sex outside of marriage. You are watching TV and a Victoria’s Secret fashion show or commercial comes on. Do you turn it off or let the jmages soak into your brain? Not only is it intended to arouse sexual feelings, they send a horrible message to our girls that these are the bodies they should strive for rather than loving the body God gave them. I’ve been caught up in all that garbage, and still struggle with my appearance and behavior because of all the lies. Most women and men are also in the battle.

Fake news is designed to evoke feelings so that we respond viscerally with our feelings instead of considering it for any truth it might contain. How do we ascertain that it is fake news? Research. Just because something is online or in the news doesn’t make it true. There are a lot of flagrant lies out there for us to hear and see. The best test is to know the scriptures and to stay in a conversation with the LORD. He won’t steer us wrong, ever, but we have to hear Him and listen to Him.

LORD, today my prayer is that we, your people around the world, will be more aware of Your Presence in our lives. I pray for our eyes and ears to be opened to Your guidance, and for less reliance on questionable news…. and I think all news is questionable until we test it through You. Thank You, LORD, for Your care and watch over us as we go about our days. I pray for the faith of a mustard seed that You will deliver me and continue to provide my needs in this time. You are Awesome, LORD. Amen.