“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (Matthew 5:43–44)

Sometimes I think human nature tends toward conflict with others.  Though I might half-heartedly complain, “Why can’t we all just get along?” that doesn’t stop me from getting angry and upset when someone comes along and upsets my little apple cart.

I wonder if some of us hide from Jesus’ difficult words about loving our enemies by simply declaring that we don’t have any enemies.  Still, if you’re honest with yourself, there are people that rub you the wrong way.  There are people that cause you trouble.  There are people who break your heart.

So how do I “love” them when I don’t particularly like them?  Start by returning their “curses” with your “blessings”.  Jesus said we ought to work at doing good things for them. He also said we ought to pray for them.  I find that when I’m praying humbly and honestly for someone over a period of time, my heart tends to melt towards them.  Even though I don’t feel like doing good things for them, the act of doing good draws out the love that needs to be there.  Live dangerously.  Love your enemies.

Fight the Power

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Pastor Dan Looney:

When I was a child, the “Power” was my parents. They had control of me, and I trusted them. I would fight them over things like bed time and vegetables, but they would win in the end (most of the time).

As an adolescent, the “Power” became something different. It became “The Man” (the police, the government, or whoever was stopping or hindering us from doing whatever we wanted). We were young, worldly men and woman struggling against worldly authority.

When I became a man and a father, things changed. I started eating my vegetables and going to bed on time (most of the time). I began to see selfishness and sin as corrupting powers in the world.

When I became a Christian, I realized that the “Fight” is not my fight at all, it belongs to Jesus. The “Power” is not “The Man”, it is Satan. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life.” 1Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

Brethren, our selfishness and sin nature make us vulnerable to Satan’s influence in this world. Our path is not to “Fight the Power” but to apply Truth to power. Trust Jesus, the Truth.

1Cor 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. but when I grew up, I put away childish things.” Eph 2:2, “in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience”

A Good Name

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, Loving favor rather than silver and gold. (Proverbs 22:1)

Have you ever caught yourself thinking, “What if I just had a little more money”?  Sometimes I’m not even daydreaming about a little more money, but a LOT more money.  Of course, I tell myself about all the good I would do with all that loot.

Solomon was a man who had experienced what it was like to have all the money he ever needed.  Solomon warned that having a “good name” was better than having money.

Having a good name implies that I am a person who is known for being “good”.  Doing the right thing, doing things with integrity, doing things with wisdom, these are not common qualities in the world today.  They are also not easy qualities to come by.

I think I’d also like to be known as a loving person.  I’d like for people to say, “He’s quite a loving guy”.  Why is that important to me?  Jesus said that all men would know I am His disciple if I have love for others (Jn. 13:35).  Come to think of it, the “good name” I’d like most to be known for above all is the name of Jesus.  I’d like for folks at my funeral to say, “My how he loved Jesus”.

Here we are in the season of “stuff”. Is there something better than “stuff”? How about a good name?

Asleep in the Storm

So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:9)

A huge storm was hitting the Mediterranean.  The sailors taking their ship from Joppa to Tarshish were terrified at their prospects of survival.  Jonah wasn’t terrified, he was asleep. Perhaps it was because of their pagan, superstitious view of the world, but they had a sense that there was for a reason for the storm.  They were right.  When they “cast lots” to try and figure out “whose fault” it was, the lot fell to Jonah (see Prov. 16:33). Earlier in the voyage, perhaps over a dinner of pita bread and hummus, Jonah told them that he was “fleeing from the Yahweh”, but hey, anybody might want to flee from the God of Israel.  When they found out that Jonah was not only fleeing from God but that he was an Israelite who knew and worshipped Yahweh, they knew things were serious.  I’m not sure these men realized the depth of Jonah’s rebellion. He was a prophet of Yahweh, and he was running from the mission God sent him on.

Isn’t it interesting that sometimes others are more aware and even more concerned about our faults and shortcomings than we are?  And they don’t even know God?  They were taking this storm more seriously than Jonah was (after all he had been sleeping during the storm).  They were correct.  Believer, is it time to wake up?

Redeemed from Death

“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be your destruction! (Hosea 13:14)

This gem comes in the middle of a chapter speaking of the judgment coming on the nation of Israel.  Like an adulterous wife, the northern kingdom of Israel had turned her back on her husband (God) and sought many lovers (other gods).  Hard hearted and rebellious, the nation was heading straight into a disaster of their own making.

In the middle of all of God’s warnings, God continues to hint at His love for Israel with words like “ransom” and “redeem”.  God speaks of a future when He would conquer the power of the grave and death. Paul takes this verse and explains the ancient prophecy as being fulfilled when Jesus redeemed us by dying on a cross for our sins.  Paul goes on to say that when Jesus rose from the dead (1Cor. 15:55), He conquered death and hell.

Isn’t it amazing that God would offer these words of grace and hope to a people whose hearts were cold and hard?  That’s just who our God is.  Even while we were sinners, Christ died for us.  Are you struggling with guilt and condemnation from the sin in your life?  Turn to Him.  He is ready to forgive.  He is ready to give hope.

The Smart Thing

Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3)

At the end of his book, the prophet Daniel is describing the condition of those raised from the dead to eternal life.  In contrast to the unrighteous who will be raised to an eternal future of shame and contempt, the righteous will receive resurrected bodies, described in such “glowing” terms as “brightness” and “stars”.

The language Daniel uses follows the rules of Hebrew poetry, with parallel lines describing parallel thoughts.  In applying these rules, “brightness” is equivalent to “stars”, just as “wise” is equivalent to “those who turn many to righteousness”.

Did you know it’s a wise thing to be a positive influence on others?  Sometimes we would rather not speak up or risk causing conflict. Yet wisdom says we should say something.  Solomon said, “he who wins souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30)

You don’t have to be obnoxious when you share your faith. We need wisdom and grace when we talk about Jesus.  We are called to be salt and light in this dark world.  Give them a glimpse of Jesus in you. Help them find the One with the answers they need. His name is Jesus.  It’s the smart thing to do.

From One End to the Other

“But when the people of the land come before the Lord on the appointed feast days, whoever enters by way of the north gate to worship shall go out by way of the south gate; and whoever enters by way of the south gate shall go out by way of the north gate. He shall not return by way of the gate through which he came, but shall go out through the opposite gate. (Ezekiel 46:9)

Ezekiel wrote of a day in our future when there would once again be a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  Ezekiel goes into great detail as to the dimensions of the temple and the conduct of the priests. When Ezekiel mentions the practice of the common folk, he makes the point that the people were to enter the temple on one side and exit on the opposite side.  Worshippers didn’t just stick a foot into the temple courtyard and turn around.  They were to work their way from one end to another.

God doesn’t want you and me to be shallow believers who just dabble a little here and a little there when it comes to the things of God.  God wants us to fully experience all that He has for us.  He wants you to be fully immersed in His presence.  He wants you to learn the full counsel of God, the sweet as well as the difficult, and not just dabble in your favorite Bible verses.

From one end to the other.  The whole enchilada. No picking and choosing what you’ll believe, but believing the whole thing.

Over Under Sideways Down

This week’s Pastor to Person was written by Dan Looney.

Over Under Sideways Down is a song from the late 60’s that has been on my radar lately. This song is about worldly distractions and life’s choices. In this song, the singer is expressing distress and depression with it all.

I recently found myself in a similar place. My problem was not over under sideways or down…but with the “right” versus “left”. Last year, I became captivated with the election. The excitement was great in the beginning, but with all the social unrest, violence and unhappiness being expressed, I was becoming depressed and worried. The right versus left, liberal versus conservative…It was taking a toll on my happiness.

Seeking wise counsel is a tool all Christians need to use.  My wise counsel directed me to Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 

Don’t worry about over under right or left. UP is our direction. Put your eyes on Jesus and the things of this world will fade.

Truth, Love and Dare?

This weeks Pastor to Person was written by Daniel Grant.

Be careful beloved, don’t receive and believe everything you hear. The second Epistle of John is a short, but sweet reminder of two very important things: “walk in the truth” and “love one another”. Be careful that you are, “persevering in” and “walking in” the truth. It is the truth that will guide us in bearing much fruit. These two things sound so easy and so simple, walk in the truth and love people, they are both very important and yet can be so very difficult!

Let’s be honest, loving people can be difficult and messy and downright hard work, but we are called and reminded to do it over and over again.  John is reminding the church and us, of this critical part of our DNA as Christians, that we are to be the ones who lavishly love.  John gives us two instructions concerning the truth. Walk in the truth AND be careful that you are NOT deceived.  Walking in the truth means saying hard things (lovingly), and being careful to receive and give Biblical counsel.  The warning is to walk in such a way as to NOT be deceived! Also, be very cautious of people that intentionally deceive.  Don’t be fooled, and refuse to partake in ANY falsehood.  Continue to love those that deceive, but be on your guard!  I dare you to practice those things!  May your joy in the Lord be beautifully FULL!!

The Teacher

But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. (1 John 2:27)

Beloved, when you opened your heart to Jesus Christ, God came to dwell inside of you through the person of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is that “anointing” that teaches us.

The Bible says that there is a place for “teachers” in the church (Eph. 4:11), and we are to “teach one another” (Col. 3:16), but don’t forget that God wants to and is able to teach you all by Himself.

Often God chooses to teach us through our personal reading and study of the Bible. The Scriptures are God’s main tool to help us grow (2Ti. 3:16-17).  The Holy Spirit helps us to understand God’s Word in a way an unbeliever is unequipped for (1Cor. 2:14).

Sometimes God teaches us throughout the day, as the Holy Spirit brings certain Scriptures to mind.  Jesus said the Spirit would “remind” us of what He has already taught us (John 14:26).

Sometimes the Holy Spirit will put a “check” in our hearts when we hear someone teaching something that seems a little bit off.  Pay attention to those “checks” and dig into the Word to see for yourself.

Let God teach you.