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Love Who?!


How Do I Love My Enemy?

  • I destroy my enemy when I make him my friend. ~ Abraham Lincoln
  • Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.  ~ Nelson Mandela
    • If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22

Please click on the links below and read before going any further:

The news articles above leave me speechless.  Another one that I remember hearing, but couldn’t find reference to on the net went like this.  Parents of a child who was murdered forgive murderer…spend time with him weekly…pray for him…say that want to treat and spend time with him as though he was their own son.  Yes.  The news story was saying that the parents considered this enemy of theirs as their own…and he felt the same way after a time of healing.

Can you imagine?  Jesus asks us to love our enemies.  Let’s break this down.  Love in the Bible is not shown as a feeling…it is shown through action.  Jesus’ love for his creation was shown through His miracles.   Do you also remember His encounters with the woman at the well?  How about when He asked Zaccheus for lunch?  How about when He washed His disciples’ feet?  Jesus’ love for us was delivered through the cross and empty grave.  James writes that we should take care of orphans and widows to show are love for God…our pure religion (James 1:27).  James also writes that our faith, without works, is dead (James 2:14-26).  Love is not something you simply have for someone…proof of love is in what you do for them.  Jesus asks us to love our enemies.  Since it’s not a feeling…what does that look like?

Last week we looked at being nice to people who are against us…this week Jesus just continues this theme.  Not only should we be amicable, beyond the norm, to those who want or take from us, but now we are being asked to have a completely different attitude towards those that think evil towards us.  Did God ask any less of Jesus himself?  No.  While on the cross, Jesus forgave the men who drove the nails into His hands (Luke 23:34).  Last week we looked at how we should be meek, having a quiet strength, when taken advantage of.  This week we’re looking at the intentional, forward looking, proactive stance we should have for those we know are against us.

Jesus has a way of going deeper though.  He asks us to love our enemies.  If they need something, do something good for them.  But not only that.  We’re asked to think about them even when they’re not doing anything against us.  We’re to pray for them.  Personally, I don’t want to think about people who don’t like me.  I’d like to forget about them.  Jesus didn’t forget about His enemies though.  He died for them…and continues to work through His body, the church, to bring them over from the dark side.  Oh wait…we’re the church.  Ahhh…so now it’s making more sense.

We are to love our enemies because Jesus already died for them…and He needs us to show them His love.  They might know about His historical death on the cross…but maybe haven’t seen His love in action.  We’re His hands and feet.

As I’ve said before, it’s a Kingdom thing.  We’re acting and reacting on the King’s behalf.  We’re suppose to look like Him…behave like Him…pray like Him…love like Him.  Verse 42 of our section of scripture confirms this.  We are to be Holy like God is.  No.  We’re not perfect.  But even though we’re not, we’re still asked to act like Him who is making us perfect.  Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”  Do your actions show this process of being made holy?  This question can only be answered by you and your Savior.

Questions For Leaders:

  • Do you have any enemies?  If so, who?  Be specific if you can.
  • Now that you’ve named a few, what will you do for them this week?
  • I know…that last question might have been a bit forward…Jesus was forward too.
  • Remember, without intentional thought and proactive planning, our ‘Love our Enemies Actions’ will never take place.  Jesus doesn’t say for us to react to them, He asks us to pray for them.
  • Does Jesus really think we can do this stuff?  Why?
  • Why do we hesitate?  What will get us past this hesitation?
  • In the context of this lesson, what does this verse really mean?  Romans 8:31 (NIV) “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

love-serve-spread the Word,

ed

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So what about life?….

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment

I was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital after my wife had gone into labor and the nurse walked out and said to the man sitting next to me, “Congratulations sir, you’re the new father of twins!”

The man replied, “How about that, I work for the Doublemint Chewing Gum Company.” The man then followed the woman to his wife’s room.

About an hour later, the same nurse entered the waiting room and announced that Mr. Smith’s wife has just had triplets.

Mr. Smith stood up and said, “Well, how do ya like that, I work for the 3M Company.”

The gentleman that was sitting next to me then got up and started to leave. When I asked him why he was leaving, he remarked, “I think I need a breath of fresh air.” The man continued, “I work for 7-UP.”

Life.  Life is precious.  Many who will read this no doubt have been on both sides of the word “precious.”  Because life is precious, it can bring both extreme happiness and extreme sadness.  Life is a gift of God.

 

Life began in the Garden of Eden.  Specifically, human life became the crown jewel of creation when on the 6th day God formed man and woman and breathed into their lungs.  They were alive.  Hearts were beating.  Blood was flowing through their veins.  Their eyes could see.  Their hands could feel the touch of God’s hand in them.  You know how it feels to walk out on a cool morning and take a deep breath.  Adam and Eve took the very first refreshing deep breaths ever.

 

God created them.  That’s where we start with the subject of life.  We cannot start anywhere else. All of our ideas about human kind have to start here.  All of our considerations towards the value of life have to start here.  God created.

 

We do, however, have an adversary that wants to alter where we start when we think about ‘human life.’  Satan would rather us start thinking and feeling with our own thoughts of humanity…based on our emotions, experiences, selfishness, and the worldly values that often seep into our hearts.  Satan would want us to forget Who it was that began life itself.

 

David, the ancient King and Psalmist, said that God knew Him before he was formed (Psalm 139).  David wrote that God formed him and watched him as he grew in his mother’s womb (Psalm 139).  Incredible insight.

 

We also see how important life is through the life of Jesus.  Christ died for humanity.  If humanity was something that could be defined by science or evolution theories, I’m not sure we’d need a buried and risen savior.  Jesus died for our very existence.  God created…Jesus saved.

 

Next…again, based on what we know and believe…there is a place in Heaven being prepared for us (John 14:2).  God Created.  Jesus Saved.  God is planning on us being with Him again.  I’m not sure about you, but through the eyes of God…human life is precious.

 

The 10 Commandments speak also of God’s feelings towards His creation.  We are not to kill one another.  We are not to lie to one another.  We are not to steal from one another.  We are to respect each other possessions and family as well as our own.  God Created…and created a life plan.  Jesus Saved.  God is planning for us to be with Him again for eternity.

 

If we base all of what we believe about human life on just these things, we see why Jesus said the greatest commandment is in two parts…Love God, and Love the others that He created as well.

 

I’m so glad there’s forgiveness when it comes to how I/we treat each other. From abortion, to lying, to hate, to selfishness, to jealousy, to adultery, to murder, to stealing…we have all fallen short of God’s plan for life.  Adam and Eve had a taste…they lost it.  We now have a chance to taste the forgiveness that will lead to a life with God again…hand in hand.  The greatest thing is that we have the privilege of being asked to participate in passing this blessing around (Genesis 12:2-3).

 

Love, Serve, Spread the Word,

ed

Are we making a difference?

February 5, 2011 5 comments

“Relevance is a consequence of kingdom living, not a cause.” Rick McKinley

 

Salt and Light

I’m not much in the joking mood today.  Sorry.  I’m not in a bad mood, just…well…you’ll see.  I’ve been watching the news for the last few weeks, and to tell you the truth, there are some things happening that will mark this period of history.  The thing I’ve been struggling with the last few years, as I’ve written about in the past, is what does Christianity look like day to day…in normal life?  We in America have set up our own little version of Christianity that looks like this:  A church building, 2-3 consistent meetings per week, 1 main service on Sunday morning, occasional fellowship times together, Sunday School, and meetings.  Now, before you write me nasty emails, haha, there’s nothing wrong with those things.  Are those things the main focus of God’s Kingdom?  I’m afraid they’re not.

Outside our buildings.  Here’s just a short list of things happening outside of our facilities.  Egypt, Pakistan, Lebanon, Israel, China, North/South Korea, Healthcare, the economy, homelessness in our state, around 115,000 children waiting to be adopted in the US, joblessness in each of our towns, AIDS children in Africa, Haiti refugee camps…the list could go on.  And each of us have our own lives and circles of influence as well.  Each of us could list things like hurting families we personally know, people who are ill, kids who are neglected, young moms needing support and direction, hunger, illiteracy, divorcing couples, … and you could add so much more to this list.

Salt and Light.  Jesus discusses these two simple things and applies them to His followers’ lives.  Jesus wants His followers to be like usable salt.  In that day and age, people would have used salt for food flavoring and preservation.  We don’t want to head into a discussion about salt here, but Jesus wants us to be used like good, usable salt is.  There is corruption in the world…we can prevent corruption.  Sometimes people don’t see the fullness of life possible in Christ.  They’re stuck in the ‘day to day.’  Salt flavors.  Can we bring flavor…maybe a smile or a sense of happiness…maybe even peace to someone’s life?  Light is mentioned next.  Jesus states it plainly by saying that you don’t light up a candle and then hide it.  Light is used to see, to find, and to guide.  Are we helping people see through the darkness of their lives?  Are we helping them find the new life that Jesus has planned for them?  Are we guiding?  The light is in us…are we hiding it?

To tell you the truth, being salt and light to the world where we live…our school, workplace, church family…takes huge commitment and sacrifice.  Jesus said that people will know Him through our love.  Our love is salt and light to a world that seems to be caving in.  Being salt and light will take huge sacrifice.  It will take changing how you look at the world.  It will take changing how you see yourself in God’s Kingdom…right now…today.  It will take action and trust and forgiveness and a large dose of grace.

A picture that has spoken to me…and caused me to struggle…is of Christians in Egypt guarding Muslims during their time of prayer.  Here are direct links to the pictures.  http://yfrog.com/h02gvclj & http://yfrog.com/h24n34j Rioters were present and Christians devoted themselves to the Muslim’s safety as they knelt to the East to pray.  I know…we have huge differences.  I know that we worship the one true God.  I know that they, Muslims, need forgiveness through Jesus as anyone else does.  Is this grace in a photo?  These Christian men are risking lives to guard someone…I’m not sure that it really matters who.  Obviously it doesn’t because Christians and Muslims are usually debating and arguing and fighting.  But here we see Light and Salt.  My wonder is how many Muslims looked at these men and ask, “Why would they do such a thing?”  Answer?  Jesus said to be salt and light in a dying world.  “…Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).  Their good deed?  Protect their neighbor…even if they don’t worship Jesus as Lord.

Who are the people you are guarding this week?  Who are the people you are sacrificing for?  Who are the ones you are praying for?  Who are the ones you are spending extra time with?  Who are the ones that you feel God is asking you to serve?  Will you be open to God bringing to your awareness the people He is wanting you to love, serve and extend grace to?  Will you be ready to give?  Who will know more about God because of your love?

This is not easy.  I’m not saying I have all the answers.  But I believe God is beginning to move the American church into places we haven’t been before…places we haven’t chosen to go.  I believe there are a bunch of us out there wanting those moments where we stand in love, like those Egyptian Christians.  I picture a Kingdom that is moving without hesitation.  I want to be part of something like that…and I believe each of you do as well.  Jesus said that there is nothing that will stop His church, His family.  We have absolutely no reason to be afraid. The battle has been won.  Victory is already ours.  Our eternal life started the minute we confessed our belief in Jesus.  We have nothing to lose.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word,

ed

No Plan B

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment

“Relevance is a consequence of kingdom living, not a cause.” Rick McKinley

 

How did Jesus get things done?  He was the master organizer and the ultimate project analyst.  He had a plan…The Plan…and 2000 years later that Plan is still going strong.  If we would take a few minutes to peak into His Plan and how He is accomplishing it, we might see that we all have a part to play in this Master Plan.

 

First we need to know what the plan is for.

 

Goal:  Everyone has the opportunity for full forgiveness so they can be in Heaven forever with their Creator.

 

Adam and Eve had no clue what pain or time or frustration or sin was until they were hip deep in it.  They were in a place where they were wholly with God, face to face and hand in hand.  Jesus is the final piece of a huge strategy to get us back in a position so this can happen for each one of us.  Sin must be done away with…evil defeated.

 

Jesus begins his ministry around the age of 30 after His baptism and a short time of temptation in the wilderness.  In the passage, we read of Jesus beginning by preaching about repentance in Galilee.  My guess is that most people in Galilee had heard the news about Jesus preaching, healing, and forgiving many.  Obviously, lots of people were accepting Him as the one the prophets had talked about.  He had instant fame by human standards.  His message was not just popular though…it made sense if He was who He said He was.  It made perfect sense to the first men that Jesus approached, because when He said, “Follow me,” they did just that.  His message had been clear.  He was who they were looking for.

 

Given that, Andrew, Simon, James and John’s friends probably thought this a huge deal…rather than a weird thing they were doing.  It made sense.  Their decision to follow made sense with the message they had heard from their forefathers and Jesus’ own lips.  Jesus’ message was understood.  It lined straight up with what they had been told since they were little boys.  Thus, if this was really God’s own Son…why NOT follow him?!

 

Jesus’ plan wasn’t really His.  It was His Father’s (John 5:19)…and He said that He can only do what God the Father was doing.  This movement started long before He was born in human skin on planet Earth.  The plan for salvation began when God’s first children walked away from Him.  Therefore, God is not only clear about this plan through His Son, Jesus, He is very un-changing all the way through the Bible.  He’s been committed to this plan for a very long time.  Jesus is committed to this plan as well.  He calls us to join Him and commit ourselves to the plan too.

 

This is a plan that has been clear since the beginning.  Now…not all of it has been revealed since the start…but each step was clear.  Examples:  “Abraham, you’re going to have a kid,” “Joseph, you’re going to be OK…you’re one of mine,” “Moses, just go back to Egypt and help me free my kids,” “David, one from your family is going to be The One,” “Micah, tell everyone that He’s coming …specifically to Bethlehem,” “Mary, you’re going to be a mommy,” “Zachariah, your soon to be son will be like the one called Elijah,”  “Hey shepherds, He’s here…go check it out,” “Yes, Herod, be very afraid,” ….and on and on and on.

 

Each one of these people had a point of either committing to truth or walking away from it.  Truth stands…it was their decision to mark their part of the story with the rest or not.  And here we are today.  We’ve heard Truth.  It is consistent with what the Bible says from beginning to end.  It is also consistent with much of human written history…go figure.  So what do we do?

 

We have a choice to make.  Do we join this earth age movement, which hell can’t stop, or do we … well you fill in the blank.  From my perspective, this makes sense.  Life is short.  We are privileged to be invited to have a part to play in this plan.  Like those first disciples said, “Let’s go!”

 

Sometimes we ask ourselves if we’re being relevant as a church family or even individually as a disciple.  I love the first quote by Rick McKinley from his book The Beautiful Mess, “Relevance is a consequence of kingdom living, not a cause.”  We can have a part … just live like we’re really part of this Kingdom plan.

 

I like the way Manafest puts it in the band’s new song No Plan B, “I know that this road is my destiny, I’ve got to stick to the plan, cause there’s no plan B.”  Jesus has only a plan A because it is working and it is perfect and it is from His Father.  We don’t need a plan B.  Only plan A will work.  Are you in?

 

ed

 

Grow Questions:

  • What holds us back from simply saying “Yes” like Peter, Andrew, James and John?
  • Is our/your message “flock worthy”?  (See Matthew 4:23-25)
  • How do you live this message daily in your schedule wherever you are?
  • Does your daily message sound/look like you follow someone who came back from the dead?

 

What if ?’s for the American Church

October 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Here’s what’s behind this new “What If?” page.  I recently was challenged…probably by God…at a conference.  I was sitting in the back in a dark corner so I could think away from the noise of 13,000 people.  Guess what?  It was anything but quiet.  I should say it this way.  I think everyone in that small crowd of Jesus followers could hear God loud and clear.  God was not letting anyone get away to a small corner to just think.  There was a real question/challenge/gut wrenching move of God going on.  I’ve done some study since, and I’m not satisfied with something.  Below you’ll get an idea of where I’m coming from.

I did some research online recently about the American church.  I did this alongside looking into the Scripture at what God considers “true religion” as James writes.  I have to say that I’ve been feeling very guilty since looking into this stuff.  Gasp.  Cough.  Ugghhh.  This feeling is not good.  But guilt, if used right, can be a good thing.  So here are some things running through my cranium.

To begin with, there are well over 300,000 church families in America.  That’s pretty incredible!  Picture it.  There’s a ton of people bowing to remember Christ around us each week.  Oh, the number of church membership…just under 145,000,000…in America.  Let’s assume that 1/3 of them are not active. They are just on a membership card somewhere.  Let’s simply go with the number of 100,000,000.  That’s a ton of energy, muscle, dollars, dreams, talent, passion, grace, salvation, and blessing.  The number of money given to individual church families, not organizations like Salvation Army, equals near 100,000,000 (yes, that’s billion) dollars.   Lutherans alone count for 16 billion, which would put them at number 152 on Forbes 500 just above AFLAC.

Now here are some other basics to set beside those simple numbers pasted above.  There are nearly 149,000 children on the adoption roles within the USA.  What if the church decided to do something about it?  There are 300,000 congregations.

It takes about $5000 to drill a well in Africa for a village.  What if the church decided to do something about it?  We gave over $100 Billion…much of it going to infrastructure and building maintenance.

It takes between 25 and 40 dollars per month to support a child in a 3rd world nation.  What if the church decided to do something?  The Lutherans’ giving alone would take care 400 million children.  Nothing against my Lutheran friends…just a number for all of us to think about.

Habitat for Humanity, in 34 years, has helped put 350,000 new homes on the planet.  What if the more of the church, Jesus hands and feet, got behind projects like this?

About 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year in the USA.  Just imagine what the church could do if we asked and acted one the question, “What if?”

 

Just some things for you to think about.  Help me struggle with this.  It’s a good struggle.

 

ed

 

 

Little Platoons


Some quotes that you may want to put in your cranium:

•”Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” ~Richard Bach
•We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. ~Mother Teresa
•Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. ~The Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 4:7-11

There’s a bunch of us out there. We are Christians and we are all over the planet. Some of us are nearly living by ourselves simply because there aren’t many of us in a giving region. Some of us see each other daily because there are thousands of us living freely to express our faith in our city. Some of us express our love for Jesus underground because our personal ministry to our village would end with our death. Some of us are missionaries to a tribe who’s language has not yet been translated. Some of us have mission fields called office spaces, classrooms, manufacturing plants, recovery rooms and Tupperware parties. Some of us have children that we’re raising in the faith. Some of us are discovering untold mysteries in a lab and others of us are changing diapers and giving the feeling of security and love to not only infants in child care but to parents as well. We are called Christian and we are all over the planet building the Kingdom of God.

“The end is near…” is what Peter says. There is a day that God will say, “It’s over. Let’s close up shop Son.” We have as much knowledge about that day as Peter did. But for all of us, as each day goes by, we are one day closer to the end. Therefore, where ever we are, we need to serve and love others into the Kingdom. We are an army that is not to go unnoticed. We are not undercover agents for God. We are meant to be seen and heard and questioned. We are positioned in different areas and in different families for different purposes, but all for the same goal.

Our goals is to add to the Kingdom. To love people into the Kingdom. To help others know the saving love of Christ. We are all part of smaller groups, maybe groups of 20’s or 100’s or 1000’s, but we all have our little platoons in one vast army that have great parts to play in God’s grand plan.

Love-Serve-Spread the Word, ed

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