Tag Archives: mercy

Seek First

Matthew 6:33

33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

It is so easy to get my priorities messed up. It seems life throws things at me so quickly I have trouble deciding what should come next. Even now, when I am not working full time, my time is in high demand from so many projects. It seems I flutter around like a honeybee goes to various flowers, trying to get a little from each one to take back to the hive. He never spends too long on one flower, and wants to get to many flowers before he heads back. This is me, project after project, one at a time for short amounts of time.

I have considered setting up some kind of schedule now that I am home all day, but have not come to any determination on that. The following things would have to fit into that schedule:

respond to email
respond to text messages
writing projects which include
Poetry when the Lord gives me something
This blog from the sermon on the mount
My next book project, which is about my cancer battle
Working on the maps that I update (this is my paying job right now)
Building my web site
Worship service for church each Sunday – this has several pieces:
Choosing the songs
Pulling sheet music
Printing up a word sheet (we do a lot of choruses)
Power point for the big screen
Checking Facebook
Taking care of our puppy – inside and out (he does not like to be left outside)
Fixing meals (my wife works 2 jobs, so I fix most meals for my granddaughter and me)
House cleaning
Grocery shopping

Now, let’s see, what am I forgetting? Oh yes, time with God. How could I forget that!

It’s easy to see how I could forget that with all the other things I try to work on each and every day. I am not even working again yet, and I am lost in a sea of constantly doing something. What is going to happen when I get back to my job as an independent insurance agent for Aflac? How will my time work out then?

Believe me, if I could afford to, I would not go back to work. God has blessed me with the ability to write, and much of that will have to be forfeited when I am on the road again. I can’t see how I will have the time. Right now, my days goes from 4:30 to 9:30 or 10 each day. I do take about 20 minutes each morning to spend in the word, dong a bible study with a friend of mine. We work out of the same book and text our thoughts back and forth, with a little prayer, every day. I am utilizing scripture many times in my writing through the day. My mind is on Him, praying or just meditating even as I go through my daily tasks. But is this putting Him first? Is my schedule designed to make sure God gets priority in my life each day? I am inclined to say no, it is not. I am inclined to think I should make a more precise schedule which would keep me on task each day. It might look something like this:

4:30-5:30 – Time in the word. Praying, reading, meditating on God and His words
5:30-6:15 – Take out the dog and check email, play a couple games
6:15-7:15 – Breakfast and time with my wife watching news
7:15-9:15 – Working on maps
9:15-9:30 – take a break
9:30-10:30 – Chores and errands, take dog out
10:30-11:30 – work on maps
11:30-12:15 – fix lunch for my wife and I
12:15-1:15 – writing
1:15-3:15 – work on maps
3:15-4:30 – email, games, talk with a friend, take dog out
4:30 – 5:00 – time with wife between jobs
5:00 – 6:00 – fix and eat supper
6:00 – 8:00 – work on maps or write
8:00 until bedtime – relax, take dog out

Would this work? Maybe. Maybe I should try it. I never have scheduled myself that thoroughly. I have some elements missing even from this. Exercising, whether it’s walking or riding my bike, will have to be fit in once the weather improves around here (March). More time with the Lord is something I need to work on and there is no room for that. Poems come up at all sorts of time and I need to write them down when God gives them to me or I’ll lose them. Phone interruptions come often.

And what will happen if and when I get back to my Aflac work? All this goes out the window and has to be condensed down to early morning and late evening hours. Aflac has to take primetime from 8 to 4 or 5 each day. Then there will be paperwork to do at night. It will all become quite a blur. I have thought about just ding Aflac part time but if I did it would not provide the income I need right now.

Why do I tell you all this? It is simply to say that life is busy for all of us. I am not working full time and I don’t have the time for anything extra. Much of this stuff that I do now I was not doing before I came down with cancer and stopped working Aflac. God has repurposed my life. Now I need to find ways to put Him first amidst the chaos of my day. How do I do that? How do you do that?

If you don’t schedule like the above (which I don’t) it is still critical that you do schedule time with God each day. It can be anytime of day you desire, but I recommend first thing in the morning. There are several reasons for this thinking:

If you don’t take time now and you are busy, you can just set your alarm earlier to take time with God. It is easier to do that than to try to squeeze Him in somewhere in the middle of the day, or stay up later to do some reading and praying.

Taking time first thing in the morning seems to make the whole day go better, at least for me. God’s word is an uplifting influence no matter where you study. It will set the stage for your whole day, and you can carry the things you learned and read with you all day long.

If you are scheduling time in the morning, it is unlikely anything will interrupt that time. If you schedule during the day or evening, it is very easy for interruptions or other options to come up, and then your time with God will be diminished.

But seeking first the kingdom is even more than this. It is keeping Him in your thoughts all day long. The word tells us to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 4:4), pray without ceasing (I Thess 5:17) and acknowledge Him in all our ways (Prov 3:6). There should never a moment pass when we are not mindful of His mercy and grace toward us. There should never be a moment that we are not ready to praise Him, pray for others, or give an account for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). We must be instant in season and out (2 Timothy 4:2), ready to give a word to someone who needs to hear it. We must be ready, willing and able to show mercy whenever confronted with someone who needs mercy, as Jesus did. We musty make sure our words and actions are there to minister grace to those who hear and see them (Eph 4:29).

You see, putting God first is more than just scheduling Him into your day. It is more than just taking time to read scripture and study a book. It is a lifestyle. It is our “conversation” as the KJV puts it. Everything we do and say comes from our relationship to Him. If we are close to God, our words and actions will speak of Christ and His love wherever we go. My best friend has been close and has been drifting in His life. I can always tell when he is drifting away again because His language starts to get bad again. I will tell Him when I see this happening and sometimes he gets mad and defends Himself, and sometimes he takes the word of rebuke and thanks me for it. In either case, I will always tell Him. It is my duty as His friend and brother in the Lord.

We are to be a light that shines in the darkness (Matt 5:14-16), lighting the way so others will be drawn to the Lord. We are to be salt (Matt 5:13) making others thirsty for the things of God. We are supposed to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked and visit those in prison (Matt 25:35-36). We are to love one another because that is how we show we are His disciples (John 13:35). Everything we do or say reflects our relationship to God. Putting Him first means putting others first (Phil 2:2-4).

Not only are we to minister to others as a way of putting God first, this verse says we should seek out those opportunities to touch others for the Lord. We should seek out the lost and lead them to Christ, we should seek those that are sick and pray for them, or those in prison and minister to them. We should seek opportunities to feed the hungry and provide shelter to the homeless. There are opportunities to do these things all around us every day. Jesus travelled hundreds of miles during His ministry seeking ones who needed to know about the kingdom, preaching, teaching, healing and delivering every step of the way. He was our example, sent from God to show us the kingdom. He said the kingdom was here within us! When we first seek His kingdom, the rest of our needs will not be near as concerning to us. We will be walking as he walked, in harmony with God, knowing that others are being touched.

So do not think about seeking God first as putting Him into your schedule. I spent a lot of time on that just to show the futility of it. Think of putting Him first as your lifestyle, as a result of everything you do during each and every day. Seek Him in those you come in contact with and minister to those who have a need. Do take time in His word, in prayer and in meditation on the things of God, but don’t do only that. There is so much more to His kingdom.

Jesus said we cannot even see the kingdom of God unless we have been born again (John 3:3). He said except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. It is wonderful to seek the kingdom, but we will never find it if we have not done what Jesus told us to do, be born again. We have to put off the old man, and put on the new man (Ephesians 2:22-24). How do you do that? It is very simple.

Romans 9:9-10

9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Romans 10:13 says that anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Come into the kingdom today, seek Him first above all else and your deepest needs will all be met

Are You Forgiven?

Matthew 6:14-15

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Jesus has just finished giving His disciples a prayer that will last through the ages.  He tells them how to pray, and still today many churches recite this prayer in every single service they hold  It has become a sacred prayer for all, and is learned by children from a very young age.  We call it the Lord’s Prayer.

After such a powerful, heart-felt prayer, what is the one thing Jesus pulls out of that prayer to expound on?  Not God’s holiness, not the kingdom, not God’s will, not provision, but forgiveness.  The wording in the Lord’s prayer is very interesting to me, and I believe many of us miss this.  A good friend of mine pointed this out in a comment on my last post, and it is worth taking a deeper look at.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are asking God to forgive us in the same measure that we forgive others. “Forgive us our debts AS we forgive our debtors”.  That word AS means in the same way, or to the same extent.  We are asking God to look at our track record in dealing out forgiveness, and asking Him to give us the same amount.  This begs the question “Are You Forgiven?”

While it is true that God promises forgiveness all through the Bible, these words of Jesus should be a wake up call to all of us.  Isaiah 1:18 says that our sins, which are scarlet, shall be white as snow.  ! John 1:9 says if we confers our sins God will forgive us and cleanse us.  Ephesians 1:17 says through Him we have forgiveness of sin. Isiah 43:25 says he blots out our transgressions. Psalm 103:12 says He removes our sins as far as the east is from the west.

Think for a moment about what Christ has forgiven you of!  Let’s start with the Ten Commandments.

  1. No other Gods before Him.  I have put plenty of things before God in my lifetime.  I have made many things more important than God.    Guilty as charged!
  1. No graven images. I have worshipped other things,  Drugs, alcohol, bowling, Toastmasters.  They have been like images I worshipped.  Guilty as charged,
  1. Do not take His name in vain. Thousands of times Guilty as charged!
  1. Keep the Sabbath Holy. I still struggle with this one today.  Guilty as charged.
  1. Honor Father and Mother. I rebelled as a teenager and disregarded my Mom for many years.  Hated my date for decades.  Guilty as charged!
  1. No murder. How many people have I said I wished were dead, or treated with such disregard they were dead to me.  Guilty as charged!
  1. No adultery. Before marriage, yes.  After marriage, with my eyes I did for many years.  Guilty as charged!
  1. Don’t steal. Over and over and over again.  From money out of the till when I was  a teenager to officer supplies as an adult.  Guilty as charged!
  1. Bear false witness. Who reading this has never lied?  Guilty as charged!
  1. Do not covet. Our lives are filled with covetousness, and I succumb to some of those enticements. Guilty as charged!

I would be in a world of trouble if not for the atoning blood of Jesus Christ!  I have been guilty of all 10 commandments and many other laws of the Bible.  Yet in His mercy, He gave His blood as an atonement for my sins, paying the price for me.  Not only that, He separated that sin from me and it is forgotten, and removed as far as the east from the west.  In God’s eyes, I am as white as snow.  He sees no sin that I have repented from and have covered with His blood.  He only sees Christ’s righteousness in me.

Isn’t that the kind of forgiveness we desire?  A forgiveness that removes all past transgressions and forgets about them,.  A forgiveness that will not remind us of our past, but only spurs us on to the future? A forgiveness that holds no ill-will against the sinner and only wishes the most for them?  Of course it is!

Now let’s go back to the Lords prayer.  “Forgive us as debts as we forgive our debtors”

Is this the way we have forgiven out debtors?  Forgotten the transgression?  Put it in the past?  Never brought it up again?  My intuition tells me we are a far distance from that model.  I know I am at times.  First there is the forgive and forget part of it.  I think all of us would admit that we are truly glad God forgives us and forgets it.  But do I do that for others?  Most of the time I think I do, but there are just some things I have real difficulty forgetting.  I hear it said all the time that a person forgave someone else, but they certainly won’t forget it.  Yet we expect God to forget our previous sins.  Jesus says God forgives to the extent we do.  How many people are in your life that you have something you have not forgiven them for?  Or maybe you have forgiven them, but you have not forgotten it?  Is this the kind of forgiveness that you want from God?  I am sure it is not.  God does expect us to forget those past hurts – to put them behind us and move on.  He certainly does that with us!

The second point is that we never bring that offense up again.  If we have forgotten it, we will not bring it back up.  But if we have not, we should never use that past hurt against them.  We should never bring it up to them again if we have forgiven them.  Imagine if God brought up all your past sins to you!  That is the devil’s specialty, my friend.  The devil is real good at reminding us of our past mistakes.  When we do that to someone else, we are on his side, not God’s!  Make sure you are never bringing up past hurts to someone, but instead spurring them on to good works.  Speak only those things that will minister grace (Ephesians 4:29).  Don’t help the devil out in his attempts to destroy someone else.  Instead, help God out in forgetting those past hurts and being a minister of grace.

The third point is that we hold no ill-will against the person that has hurt us.  If we have forgiven them (and hopefully we have) and forgotten that hurt (hopefully we have), than we have no reason whatsoever to hold ill-will against them.  We are commanded to love one another, and we must do that.  It is not a matter of choice.  Unforgiveness gets in the way of loving our brother.  I have heard people say “I love them but I just can’t forgive them for what they did.”  I say those two things cannot go together.  If you love them, you will forgive them and forget the incident.

The church just has to get in touch with these simple verses.  There are so many arguments in the church because of unforgiveness.  It ruins our marriages, our families, our churches and our witness.  If we would forgive those non-Christians who offend us, imagine what a great witness that would be!  Forgiveness is a key to truly loving people as Christ loved us.

If you have people in your life that you have not forgiven, do it today.  Don’t wait any longer.  If you do not, bitterness will set it.  Bitterness will eat you alive.  It will rob you of peace and joy eventually.  It will destroy your witness, not only to that person but to everyone else.  Bitterness can cause you to become argumentative and a complainer in all areas of life.  And it all stems from unforgiveness.  We are not talking about being sorry here.  We are talking about asking them to forgive you, and forgiving them.  Saying the words “I forgive you” is very powerful.  It frees the other person up.  Being sorry is the easy way out!

If you have people in your life that you have forgiven, but have held onto the hurt, I would first ask you to reconsider whether you have truly forgiven them.  If, with all your heart, you believe you have, then bring that hurt to God and ask Him to help you forget it and put it behind you.  There are times that only God can take away that hurt.

Examine your life and make sure you are walking in forgiveness toward others. Then you will be able to say “A am forgiven.”


Silent Mercy

Matthew 6:1-4 KJV

Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory ofmen. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.

Let’s face it.  We all like people to know what acts we do for others.  WordPress is full of such instances.  We love to read stories of heroic acts, good deeds and exploits that help other people.  We also like to write about the things we do because it makes for good reading and it makes us feel good.  It also brings nice comments from those who read our blogs.  I for one certainly do not want to see you stop posting these wonderful stories.

Jesus tells us at the beginning of Chapter 6 that we should not tell others of our good deeds, called alms in the KJV.  These acts of mercy are not supposed to be done for the eyes of men.  Jesus equates this to the hypocrites of His time who did their good deeds in the synagogues and streets.  They actually sounded trumpets before they accomplished their acts of mercy so that men would exalt them.  One can only surmise that Jesus was talking about the Scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees but He does not mention them by name.

So what is the difference between the good deeds that are mentioned in the first paragraph and those mentioned in the second paragraph?  There are two distinct differences that I see.  First, the writers of blogs on WordPress do not tell us what they are going to do by trumpeting the merciful act before they accomplish it.  The ones I read tell about the act after it has been done.  This way they are not drawing attention to the fact they are going to do something.  Second, the blog writer always turns their story back to glorifying God and teaching us something about His ways.  The hypocrite of the second paragraph does his acts to bring himself glory. This leads to pride, which is one of the things God hates (Prov 6:16-17)

Jesus tells us that the man in the second paragraph has received any reward he might get here on this earth.  He received the praises of men.  That is his reward.  Maybe he even gained financial means through his good deeds.  Maybe other things came his way because he helped people and told others about his merciful ways.  Whatever the case, they have received their reward.

Then Jesus makes an interesting statement.  He tells us not to let our right hand know what our left hand is doing.  How can I do that?  After all, both hands are controlled by the same brain, so it is next to impossible for one hand to ignore what the other is doing. The idea here is that we should forget the good deeds we do after we do them.  This will prevent us from bragging about them afterward.  No one needs to know what we did for our neighbor, or who we support with our tithes, or what foods things we have done for our church.  Our left hand doesn’t even need to know!  When we keep this things in secret, the Father is glorified and we will receive our reward from Him.

What kinds of rewards will these be?  I believe these rewards can range from financial blessings to good health to peace and joy.  God can give us anything we need and He will give it to us in His time.  When we do things that glorify Him, He does things that help us grow in our relationship with Him and with others.  He always knows exactly what we need.  Why would we ever want to boast about our good deeds and receive our rewards from men?  It is very reminiscent of the Pharisees who would not acknowledge Jesus because “they loved the praises of men more than the praises of God (John 12:43).  Wouldn’t your much rather receive what God has in store for you when you glorify Him?

To those who blog about their good deeds, please don’t stop.  It is very obvious that your intent is not to draw glory to yourself, but to give the glory to God.  We are all blessed by your wonderful stories and how you relate them so poignantly.  Your wonderful words fill our hearts with praise and thanksgiving.  I for one can remember times that I was brought to tears by the unselfish compassion you showed, and how you bring God the glory.  Keep it up!  As long as your motive is not to bring yourself glory you are doing the will of the Father, and that is always a good thing.

The silent mercies we do need to remain silent, both in our own minds and in the minds of others.  There is no reason to talk about these merciful acts unless our intention is for God to be glorified.  There is no reason to bring it back up to the recipient again.  That person knows you have shown them mercy.  It is not something you hold over their head to make them feel indebted to you.  We are to put them behind us and move on.  Do not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing, or has done.  It is finished and it is time to move on in pursuit of Christ (Philippians 3:11-12)

I know someone who fits the second paragraph.  He is always telling other people about gifts he is going to give them or someone else ahead of the fact.  I would call this the trumpeting part.  Then after the deed is done, he tells people that it was accomplished and wants to receive praise from them.  I know this because I am one of the one he tells.  He also keeps bringing up the good things he has done for me and others.  It’s almost like he wants to receive our praise again, or like we now owe him something.  I often want to tell him how wrong this is but am reluctant to because I do not want to hurt our friendship.  And I know how stubborn he can be to others advice.   Do you know anyone like this?  Did you confront them, and if you did how did you handle it?  I would really like to know.


May Christ be Exalted

Children of the Father

Matthew 5:45-47 King James Version (KJV)

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Children of the Father! Isn’t that what we all want to be. Here in Matthew Chapter 5, we learn what it is to be Children of the Father. It is not just the previous few verses that are referenced here. It is the entire chapter in my mind. All of Chapter 5 teaches us to treat others with a proliferation of gentleness, mercy and justice. We are to treat all the same, Christian or non-Christian, friend or enemy. No matter what their race, sex, religion, favorite football team or what type of car they drive. We treat all the same, because our Father in heaven sends rain on all, not just some. I have never seen God single out just one field of a farmer to rain upon, or one house to keep protected from the rain. God has the ability to do that, but He does not. He rains on all. He brings the sun up for all, and He paints a beautiful sunset for all. He brings the flowers out of the ground to bloom, puts the birds in the air to sing, brings the wind to cool or warm. He places the stars at night, makes the moon take flight and makes the sun shine bright. He does this for everyone, good or bad, evil or righteous, if our Father in heaven treats all the same, why should we treat them differently?

We have a responsibility as Christians to show people who our Father is. Our choices are simple. We are either children of God or children of Satan. When the Scribes and Pharisees said the did not believe Jesus, He said they were of their father the devil (John 8:44). It’s simple a matter of who they believed. The same goes for us. If we believe God, we will do what God asks us to do. If we do not believe God, we believe the devil and that makes him our father. It all goes back to Adam, where the serpent convinced them God lied to them and was withholding something that was good for them. In fact, he convinced them that they could be just like God if they would listen to him. They listened and soon found out they had made a big mistake. Boy, I’ll say they did. It has been carried in the seed of man since that day, passed down from generation to generation every time the seed of man impregnates the egg of a woman. The only way we rid ourselves of that seed of sin within us, that seed of disobedience, is to accept the sinless sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He was born without the seed of sin because Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, not by man. The seed of sinful man was never a part of Christ’s body as it is in every one of us. He came as the sinless Lamb of God, gentle, loving, full of mercy and grace, healing all who came to him regardless of who they were. He died on the cross free of sin, but took on your sin that you might be free. Free to love as He loved.

We miss the mark so much when we don’t love all those around us. Not just those that love us, but those that do not as well. Our love needs to extend to all, and it is expounded beautifully in Matthew Chapter 5. Be humble, mourn over sin, be meek, be hungry for doing right, be merciful, have a pure heart, be a peacemaker and don’t get rustled by persecution. As we put all these things into practice, we become the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Jesus said He is the light of the world, and He also said we are the light of the world! We must shine that light brightly and at all times for all people. This is our testimony and our witness of the Father. It will draw people to Him.
We still have a responsibility to follow the commandments, not get angry, seek reconciliation and do all we can to stay away from any offenses. We must keep our most sacred covenants of marriage just that, and not fall into adultery with our eyes. We must not commit ourselves to things we won’t fulfill and instead do more than is expected of us. That is what love is – all of the above. Jesus has outlined in this short chapter how we can be Children of the Father. Lesson after lesson, line after line brings us closer to that achievement. All we need to do now is to follow what He has told us. The Children of the Father do what the Father asks, just as Jesus did. His will must prevail in our lives, not our will.

This is the defining different between whether we are His children of not, Do we do His will? Many will ask what His will is. I would say it’s pretty well defined in the Bible and showed to us by Jesus life on this earth. His will is mercy. Mercy for all, not just the pure and just, but for the downtrodden and ignorant. Jesus had mercy on all, even the religious rulers who came against Him. His words against them were to draw them back to God, not to drive them away. It was to encourage them to consider their ways and return to the heart of the law. It has always fascinated me that the second greatest commandment is buried in the middle of the book of Leviticus (19:18). It is not in a place where it stands out for all to see. It’s in the heart of the 5 books of the law. Love your neighbor as yourself. Simple and to the point. This is the will of God.
I wrote a chorus last year that expresses my heart in relation to doing God’s will and am going to link you to the music. Not the best production, but you can see my heart. Here are the words:

Wherever you ask me to go, I’ll go
Whatever you ask me to do, I’ll do
Whatever you ask me to say I’ll say

Whatever you want me to give, I’ll give
However you want me to live, I’ll live
Whoever you want me to love. I’ll love

Because I am yours, all yours
I have given all my heart and soul to you
Eternally yours, all yours
Help me live my life to glorify your name

Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-44 (KJV)

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

There is an interesting shift here that I have not caught before. In the last three cases where Jesus says “Ye have heard it hath been said”, the references He gave were all scriptural from the Old Testament teachings. But there is nowhere in the Old Testament where they are told to hate their enemies. Instead, we are told to not take vengeance, to consider their afflictions and to help them when we can:

Leviticus 19:18
”You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord,”

Exodus 23:4-5
“If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him,” 
Proverbs 25:21
“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,” 

One has to wonder who was saying to hate their enemies! It is true that the Old Testament commanded them to rid their land of all who were of other religious, but it was not out of hate that they did this. It was to keep themselves pure before the Lord and avoid turning to those idols themselves. They failed miserably at this most of the time though! They regularly would turn back to the groves and idols of the heathen and God would have to step in with judgement to turn them back. It was a continual process in the nation.

This seems to be a continual process for many of us in the church, me included. There are idols in our lives that we turn back to over and over again. An idol is anything that we worship more than God. It can be an area of disobedience in our lives that we keep turning back to, or just a part of our loves that pushes God out. When this happens to us, God will allow things into our lives that will cause us to turn back to Him if we will but listen and open our eyes. We are not to bring hate into our lives to get rid of the sin. That will only draw attention to the sin. The way out of sin is to love God and turn to Him, because that automatically turns us away from our sinfulness. If we try to get rid of sin by hating it, we concentrate on the sin and not on God This is a critical lesson we must learn before we can move forward. Love is always the answer!

The command is to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is not love the neighbor that is good to you, or that is a Christian, or that has similar likes and dislikes. It is your neighbor. Any neighbor. When Jesus is asked who our neighbor is, He gives us the story of the Good Samaritan, where the enemy of the Jews is the neighbor who does good to the Jew, his neighbor.

Have you ever noticed how sometime non-Christians are much more loving and helpful than Christians? They will go out of their way to help you out while the committed Christian always has an excuse not to help. We have had this happen numerous times in our lives, especially during this cancer crises the last two and a half years. Almost all of our transportation has been provided, most of it by those we would call nominal Christians if really saved at all. They go to church, but do not really live a committed Christian life. However, when it comes to helping someone in need, they are there quickly. This has been such a blessing to me and my wife. I am not their enemy, but you get the idea here. We as Christians always need to do the best we can to help our neighbors when they ask.

Our enemy is even more important to love. If we show disrespect to them, or try to get revenge, or come back at them with some snide remark, we are no better than the world. We bring ourselves down to their level of communication, and the word tells us that our mission is to edify those around us (Eph 4:29). We are to lift people up. We are to be a light in this dark world. Shining brightly with love and compassion. We are to be the salt of the earth, seasoning it with good flavor and preserving it for heaven. We are to be humble, meek, mournful over sin, merciful and peacemakers. We are to endure any persecution that comes our way, any hurtful comment, any gossip, and wrong, and only return love.

We are also told to do good to those that use and abuse us. Don’t recompense evil with evil, but overcome evil with good (1 Peter 3:9). We overcome the wrongs done to us by returning good to those who have hurt us. A loving remark said to someone who says something hurtful really throws them for a loop. Most can’t understand that kind of love. It gives us a stage to witness down the road. But more than that, it keeps us from getting bitter over the situation. Our anger is removed by love. We will start to love them despite their hurtful ways, and our heart will be more aware of what is going on.

The truth is that we do not know exactly what is going on in a persons life that they would say or do hurtful things to us. They may have a situation in their life that is dragging them down so they need encouragement. They may have been hurt deeply and want to lash out at someone and you just happened to be the target. Whatever the case, we should be agents of love to them. Saying things that would only lift them out of their problems and help them see the brighter side of life.

On top of that, we are to pray for those who hurt us. Earlier in these studies, I shared with you the Mercy prayer . This prayer is perfect to use for those who have wronged you and offended you. It prays mercy over that one who has hurt you and it works to change your heart as well as theirs. The power of prayer cannot be overlooked in our human relations. It is the most powerful force in the universe because it brings into action the power of God Himself. I would urge you, if you struggle in this area, to go back and print out that prayer. Keep it handy for future use. It will change your life. This world can be hurtful enough. Let us rise above and be the agents of love to a lost and dying world.

Jesus, worthy of our praise!