Devotional Thoughts: Love Your Enemy!

Missionary friends tell me what Jesus taught here has rocked lives in the Muslim world so much that this teaching of Jesus has brought Islamic believers to faith in Jesus. The Holy Spirit uses this to draw people into A conversion experience of salvation and a lifetime and beyond of walking with God.

Loving your enemies… this is such a wild concept! Jesus certainly modeled this for us when he prayed for those crucifying him on a cross. This is something only the godly think about and do. This is the opposite of what comes naturally to all of humanity. Holy Spirit power is essential to love our enemies.

In practice this means we do not seek retaliation. We pray for the one who has offended us. We’ve all heard stories of families who have lost loved ones who in turn forgive the one responsible for their loved one’s death. Taking someone’s life is way at the top of what we consider terrible sins. Lives have been transformed through the power of forgiveness and loving who is supposed to be our enemy. This is how God works.

I think Americans are so consumed with political differences they have taken differences to the extreme and consider the other political party to be the enemy. This is so immature, uneducated and off base. An example of taking this to the extreme is a white supremacist shooting up a group of people from another race, an attack on an abortion clinic, and all the lies we hear politically. Evil leads us down roads we don’t want to be on. If we take the advice of Jesus in this instance we will never find ourselves on that road! We don’t even need an outside enemy because we are killing ourselves. I’m already hearing dread of the upcoming political season. Evil eventually destroys itself. We are starting to see this on American soil. We are so far away for living God’s principles!

Lord, have mercy on us! Lord forgive us! Lord, may we turn and follow You! May we each love our enemies so where we live is a greater place!

Devotional Thoughts: How to Love God

I struggled as a young person because I wasn’t sure I loved God. I’d sing songs of love to God in church but I knew I didn’t love God like I love my family, friends or my teen crush. How do we love God.? What’s love for God look like?

This verse hits the nail on the head. Love for God is obedience. Love for God is keeping the commandments God has given us. Obeying God is expressing my love and commitment to God. When I learned this my heart settled. I learned God’s love language!

God promises those who love Him will receive God’s great love in return. God loved us even before we even thought of loving Him. He pursues us. We ask for forgiveness, repent and commit to living our lives God’s way. What we receive in return when we do these things is so much greater than anything this world has to offer.

We cannot begin to experience this love until we begin to obey. Just like when a child lives in disobedience, going against their parents; this brings strife into the home. All who live under that roof feel it. An obedient child brings peace. When we disobey God we bring discord into our lives. When we obey we invite a flowing stream of God’s love into our lives and this too affects those around us. God desires to bless our obedience. God will not bless our sin.

This verse also says God will reveal himself or manifest himself to those who obey. What we lack when we choose disobedience! Yes, there should be an element of fear and respect when it comes to seeing God, having a deeper understanding of God or a leading of God in our lives. Do not fear! God is safe. God is loving. God is fierce. I dare you to obey!

Devotional Thoughts: True Love

If we do not know who God is we cannot be imitators of God. I’d even go as far to say that if we do not know God we do not know love. We only know something that falls very short of true love like some grand emotion our culture calls love that isn’t love at all. Some are even addicted to this rush of emotions when they meet someone new. They are mistaken. This is not love. Love is commitment. Love is sacrifice. These are not fun rushes of emotions.

Others mistake sex for love. Sex is not love. Those seeking sex before marriage seek to satisfy themselves. This is not love. This is selfishness, the opposite of love.

Jesus Christ shows us what true love is. This love cannot be understood by someone who hasn’t surrendered their life to God. All other things we call love in our culture fall short of this true love, sacrificial love, the kind that cannot even be explained. To the one who doesn’t know God this probably sounds like you’re setting yourself up to be taken advantage of: “giving yourself up as a sacrifice.” As a follower of God, as one who seeks to walk in God’s ways sacrifice actually brings joy.

To know God is to know love. Without this relationship we cannot walk in love or be an imitator of God. All other attempts at love will fail and fall short of this great love God has intended for us.

Devotional Thoughts: Love and Sin

www.bible.com/111/1pe.4.8.niv

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8

What a beautiful thing. Our love for one another can cover our sins that divide us . I believe this verse is referring to the relationships we have with one another. The verse that comes before this one, verse seven, says, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” Verse nine then says, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

I’ve learned that I cannot genuinely love some people without God’s help. Some people have hurt me, offended me and it doesn’t come naturally to love them. I cannot do this without God. Only God can change my heart. Yes, sometimes we need to pray and ask God to help us love someone. Love is doing what’s best for that person, not what’s best for me. Love apologizes. Love sacrifices and eventually love heals.

I don’t think it’s coincidence that verse seven, the verse that preceded this one tells us to be self-controlled. Self control will keep us from sin. It also commands us to be sober-minded. There’s a lot of terrible things that can happen when I’m not sober. I can neglect my children and something bad can happen to them. I can hurt myself and someone else when I’m not sober-minded. Clear mindedness is the best place to be where I’m well-aware of my words and my actions towards others. The sober-minded sin less.

I think the point of this verse today is that we have all hurt someone and we’ve all been hurt as well. Love heals what our sins have done to one another. If I choose to love I choose to do the hard thing that sometimes feels very unnatural. Our minds tell us to place ourselves above others but this isn’t the way of our Lord. We are to love, even when it’s hard. Verse nine tells us we are not to even grumble about loving or showing hospitality to others.

Love, the kind that comes from God can stay the course, finish the race and even bring others into the Kingdom. What sins are we aware of today in our relationships with our fellow believers? Choose to love them today. If we don’t know what to do we need to give that to God and ask for guidance, commit to obey and keep walking.

Devotional Thoughts: Fear of God

Once we understand who God is we develop a healthy fear of God. Healthy in that through wisdom we respect God. This verse isn’t talking about the kind of fear that cripples is or causes us to act in haste. This kind of fear is gained through our relationship with God. It’s like the fear we have if we have loving parents. We seek to obey our parents and we fear hurting them if we go against their wishes. This kept me out of a lot of trouble in my younger years. I follow my parent’s ways because I know them and love them. My fear has evolved from fear of consequences to a respectful fear that is love. As we learn what great love God has for us we respect God and wish to please Him.

Awhile back my pastor mistakenly said, “Perfect fear casts out love.” We laughed as he corrected himself. We knew he meant to say that perfect love casts out fear. As I thought about what he said I realized there is truth in his first statement. Fear can cause us to be unloving. It can keep us from experiencing all God has for us. Fears hit us where we are vulnerable. We fear what we don’t know. There so much we don’t know about God but as we walk courageously towards God our fear changes. It’s no longer a fear that I’ll be zapped out but the deepest kind of respect, the kind that only God deserves.

C.S. Lewis depicts God as a Lion in his fictional works The Chronicles of Narnia. This Lion, Aslan, is the one that will make right all that is wrong. He is fierce but kind. He can be trusted. He is powerful but only uses his power for good. I’d approach him with my head bowed acknowledging my shortcomings. This is respect. This is fear.

So many in our world today have never heard God loves them. What Good News this is!! When we learn God has provided a way of forgiveness and redemption we are humbled and grateful. We want to serve God out of our gratitude. No matter what I do for God I can never fully repay what He has done for me. I’m grateful. I’m humbled and I seek to obey.

The one who fears God has been given a holy understanding and this is the beginning of wisdom, the kind that only comes from God. Can you approach God today and experience the kind of fear you have for God?

Devotional Thoughts: Love

This verse is like southern comfort food! I have a Good Shepherd! I’m just a dumb sheep and I don’t have to worry because God takes good care of me.

Jesus has already given His life for me. What does this mean? God loves me so much my shepherd laid down His life. There’s no greater love than this!

We need to stop seeking this kind of love from other human beings. This can only be found in the Divine. John 15:13 says this same thing, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husband, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” We are to love one another like God loves us.

Here’s a further definition of love from the Bible:

1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

We are constantly told everywhere that love is something else. Here’s what I hear our culture communicating about love: love is more money, love is gifts, love is having more stuff. Love is giving me what I want. Love is sex, meet all my needs. Love is anything that makes me feel better. Love is letting me do whatever I want even if it’s destructive. Love is for myself first. It’s about me!

Lord, help us love one another the way You love us. So many don’t know Your love. May we love in such a way that others can see You. We get it wrong in so many ways. Forgive us Lord for we are a selfish people. Help us to love one another. In Jesus name, Amen.

Holy Week thoughts on Luke 22:19

Early Christians we’re accused of being cannibalistic, eating of Jesus body. Jesus calls us to walk this road of suffering with Him. Friday his body will break and he will die. The earth will shake. We remember there’s no resurrection without suffering. He suffered because of what we have done. We take communion or The Lord’s Supper to remember. His body was broken for us. This is obedience.

In seminary I helped with a church plant in a poor neighborhood. We advertised The Lord’s supper for the first time. One person called asking what they should bring to this supper. Obviously we hadn’t prepared them enough! We explained they should eat before they come and just bring themselves.

To communion we bring ourselves, our suffering, our pain, our sin.

We also bring our commitment, our obedience, our loyalty and anything else. Jesus wants it all.

Last night I took communion with my church family to remember. Let us never forget!

On Love

Sometimes this is easy, sometimes this is hard. Thomas Merton, a famous spiritual writer rocked my world years ago when I read his book. This is horrible but I read it so long ago that I do not recall the title but I copied one chapter, the chapter on love.  He calls it charity.

Merton says, “without my love for them they may perhaps not achieve the things God willed for them.” If we do not love one another, others cannot become who God intended because we didn’t do our part.

Merton has such wisdom in this chapter called, “charity.” He says,”Selfish love insists the he conform himself to us, and it works in every possible way to make him do so.” This is all over our world! We call it love but it’s really far away from love. This is manipulation, requiring someone to conform to us.

Merton continues, “our friend’s exist only in order that we may love them. In loving them we seek to make pets of them, to keep them tame.” How ugly… There’s truth here that if people are as we wish for them to be we accept them. We withdraw love if someone doesn’t measure up.

As a foster mom I’ve loved in the trenches. Some have been harder to love than others. Some have rejected my love and shut me out. Loving is hard especially when we feel hurt.

God never stops loving and asks the same of us. “So, Love can be kept by being given away, and it can only be given perfectly when it is also received.”  – Thomas Merton. We receive from God and then we can fully love others.

 

Signing Up to Get Your Heart Broken, This is Ministry

Some of our kids are dead:  gang shootings, domestic violence, a hit and run at night where he was left for dead like he was trash.

Some of our kids are in jail:  gangs, violence, drugs, theft, fraud.

Some of our kids are in foster care: Mom chose her sex offender boyfriend over her children, domestic violence, addiction.

Some of our kids we’ve lost contact with, they moved away out from under our wing.

Some of our kids had a baby while they too were just a baby.

One 5 year old told me he has 5 daddies and is getting a new Mexican daddy.  “Aren’t I lucky?”

 

ALL of our kids heard the Gospel from us.

It is our greatest gift to them: The Gospel Message.

The Greatest Hope of all.

The one thing we know we can stand on, trust, hang our lives upon: The Gospel.

 

God is good all the time.

Unwavering,

Solid,

Overwhelming Love, the kind that loves even when we fail.

 

Humans are unfaithful.

Humans are sinful.

Humans are selfish.

Humans want to be God.

 

How can dirty mankind come together with a Holy, unblemished God?

This seems impossible, but God did it!

God provided a way.  Why?   He loves.

He sacrificed Himself, He died, He arose on the third day, He heals, He restores, He guides and directs.   He can set us FREE.

 

The Gospel is alive and will never die.

May we never keep it to ourselves!

May the seeds we share grow into beauty that will spread out other seeds that will grow too.

To God be the glory!

 

Our children pray for the salvation of their parents.

Our children pray their families will go back to the way they were before all the bad things happened.

Our children pray for a parent in jail.

Our children pray they can save their mom from killing herself.

Our children pray for us, they thank God for us.  They thank God for all He has done for them.

 

Some of our kids graduated high school!

Some of our kids are working and supporting themselves.

Some of our kids are in college.

One did his senior project on how to share the Gospel.

One plays football for a well-known college campus on full scholarship.

One is married, has children and attends church regularly.

One is headed to Hawaii in the Marines and asked for prayer to live out his faith in the military.

One wrote us a note thanking us for laying the foundation for him to find Jesus Christ.  He expressed his faith has brought him great joy.

Signing up to get your heart broken:  It’s what Jesus did. Ministry does this to us too.

All experiences cited in this poem are fruits of Multi-Housing Ministries of Asheboro that was birthed in 1997.

 

 

 

 

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