The Problem with Rebirth is YOU (and Me)…-And The Journey There-

The night had grown dark as the shadows fell upon the buildings of Jerusalem like thick blankets, cool and sleepy. Creeping along the side roads and alleyways, Nicodemus made his way to the house where he knew Jesus was staying. He did not want to be seen, after all, as a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council, he had a reputation to uphold…and yet he felt compelled to seek out this Rabbi.

Perhaps Nicodemus witnessed Jesus, red faced and angry as he cleansed the Temple when others had turned it into an ancient Walmart; Or perhaps he had witnessed or even heard through second-hand knowledge of Jesus’ miracles. Regardless of the ‘why’, Nicodemus had to seek Him out.

Nicodemus stands sheepishly at the door momentarily seconding guessing himself before finally knocking. He hears someone stir from within, and the voices that had been loud and jovial only a moment ago, quiet down as if to wonder who could be at the door at such a late hour. Wide eyes peer out as the door cracks open, for a moment there is silent, shell-shocked surprise as the homeowner recognizes Nicodemus standing there. Why would a Pharisee come here, and why so late?

As if in reply to the silent question, Nicodemus asks politely, “Is the teacher Jesus here?

I can almost envision a flurry of questioning and worried looks from within. Questions like, ‘Is this Pharisee here to harm the Master?’, and ‘What could he want?’, or even, ‘What can we say to make him leave?’ Finally the owner leads Nicodemus to the roof, where the cool breeze of the evening makes this space the most desirable place in the house.

Jesus is seated there, perhaps looking out upon the city, pondering…or perhaps He knew Nicodemus would come and so he was simply waiting.

Nicodemus, nodding gratefully to the owner seats himself beside Jesus. In a way of greeting, Nicodemus, a teacher of the law and Rabbi in his own right calls to Jesus, ‘Rabbi’ in a manner of respect.
Rabbi, we know that you are a teach who has come from God…”
-(John 3: 2)

Such a public declaration in the daylight would most certainly have tarnished his reputation or worse, and yet here in the privacy of the dark Nicodemus pours out his heart and speaks plainly to Jesus. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Imagine the scene, as Nicodemus declares that which is nearing blasphemy to the ears of his fellow Pharisees, and yet here in this quiet evening space, he speaks to what He knows in his heart is true. He has arrived at “God must be with this man – Jesus”…and Jesus is about to take him to the very feet of God himself. For a moment there is a pause in the conversation as Jesus collects himself and then looks at Nicodemus with the wisp of a smile, and he says, “This is the truth that I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

For a moment this puzzles Nicodemus.
What could that even mean? How can one be physically born again? It is not possible! A Rabbi who is used to telling stories to teach a point is completely lost when Jesus uses a very similar method. Nicodemus finally speaks and asks his question, “How can someone be born when they are old? Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!

Then Jesus looks at Nicodemus as if he can see into his very soul…and perhaps he could. Perhaps in all of his many years as a Rabbi and religious law enforcer, Nicodemus has never seen or heard of such wonders from one man. Perhaps somewhere in his heart and soul, the words of Jesus are being heard in a much different frequency. It is the frequency of truth, life and the source of all love. Perhaps in this very moment the creation has caught a glimpse of the Creator and there is a skipping of a heart beat and an inward ‘leaning in’ as if in response to a hunger that has been reignited once more that was only known in his younger, more eager days.

Jesus speaks to Nicodemus, and this time Nicodemus physically leans in, as if to catch this moment and words with his hands, mind and heart. Jesus speaks of the heavenly things and Nicodemus barely grasps the earthly ones, and yet from this night on, he will never be the same. Soon, the truth of Jesus’ words will reverberate in his mind as he witnesses Jesus’ crucifixion and death. The truth has set Nicodemus free this night. Where there was once doubt, certainty begins to grow. Where there was once earthly wisdom, heavenly wisdom is now craved. Nicodemus may have come under the cover of night, but will soon perhaps declare in the daylight his new found hope.

I wonder where we are in all of this.
Do we have all of the head knowledge the earth can give us and yet we come up short when it comes to grasping this faith that Jesus offers to us? How do we comprehend so new life? Is there room in our understanding of faith to find rebirth?

Perhaps some of us are still figuring things out.
Maybe others have begun that late night stealthy walk towards Jesus, hoping no one will see us as we explore. Still, perhaps others have met Jesus and have put their trust in Him.

Wherever you are on this journey, please know that Jesus is waiting patiently for you…but don’t wait too long. Don’t hesitate. Don’t procrastinate…because one day it will be too late. Grace truly does have an expiration date.

So where are you on your journey today?

Something more to ponder today.

The Death of a Fallow Prayer Life…

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:14

I was cleaning our kitchen yesterday.
With four children this is almost an everyday occurrence. If not, dishes tend to pile up and creates a chaotic leaning tower of Pisa sort of mess. Anyway, I digress…As I was washing off dishes and putting them into our dishwasher, I looked up at the windowsill and noticed our non-thriving plants. They were all dead. We might make excuses about these dead plants. Perhaps we might say that they are simply dormant in the winter. Or maybe they just needed to be pruned back for the season. A few more excuses come to mind, but in reality these plants are simply dead. They were once promising green, thriving plants in pots and sun lamps. Many on the cusp of producing some sort of fruit or vegetable. Yet, due to our travel schedule and our lack of green thumbs, they have shriveled up and were husks of their former living selves.

I am reminded that this is a living parable (pun intended)…for myself. I feel as if the Lord teaches us through the world around us – like my plant pots holding dead things in them. Caskets containing death instead of nourished soil of growth. I am drawn to this life lesson. It is something simplistic and yet stark in its reminder to me. For I am sometimes this casket containing death, when I should be a vessel containing life.

Image result for desert land


In my prayer life…
My un-uttered words.

Image result for dried cracked lips male


my parched lips and forgotten promises to God.
My prayer life can look like husks of its former self.
Dried up.
Dehydrated out of lack of spiritual water and nourishment.
Neglected and empty.

How many times have I forgotten to go back to the Living Water?

Image result for dying of thirst

How many times have I gotten so busy in the concerns, fears, transitions and schedules of life that I have simply left my conversations to God to go fallow life I harvested fields? And before I know it, the once rich, dark vibrant soil is now cracked and as dry as bones in a desert. From this neglect enters apathy, harsh words spoken out of frustration and shallow roots.

Have you stood on this fallow ground?
Is this you? I know that I have found my shamed identity here.
what are the conversations that you have neglected with God? He desires to nourish your life again.
He longs to shine on the soul-soil and help you grow once more.

For me?
I am convicted here.
I find myself licking my parched, cracked lips in longing for that Living Water once more. I feel the guilt and shame of leaving Him out of my life…and I must seek Him out again. I must return to His living water and replenish my mind, body, soul.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, create in me a clean heart once more.
Renew in my a right spirit again.
Re-hydrate my broken, crumble soil.
I long to find rest and rejuvenation in you anew.
Re-ignite your passion and compassion in me.
Take away the casket of death and flood my heart with life and love.
Here I am, spark in me the joy of your salvation once again.
Lord, bring your Living Waters once more.

Something more to ponder today.
Be Blessed and thrive not just survive!

10 Ministry Tools for the Non-Musically Inclined Pastor.

YouNot all of us pastors have the luxury of having a full worship band, pianist and an ear for music. Let’s face it, some of us reading this article right now can’t carry a tune in a bucket…and that’s okay. We don’t all have to have the gift of music. Scripture even points out the various gifts that we are all given and appointed with (Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10-11), and just as the focus on speaking in tongues can become an issue, so too then use of music. Don’t get me wrong, music in worship can be most beneficial to the body of Christ, but it should be viewed as a conduit to deeper worship, not the desired end result.

Today, let us focus on this element of worship with the non-musical pastors in mind. If you fit this mold, then take note. My wife is very, very talented in other areas of ministry, but she will openly admit that music is not one of those talents.

There are many, many pastors in small churches or corps that do not have a musical bone in their bodies, and that’s okay. I want to help you find some tools to use within worship that will assist you and your congregation within and even around the conduit of music on Sunday.

1) YouTube Videos/YouTube Video Downloaders.
55DD4B47-D218-46B0-964F-701ACC9576E8
If you are not musical at all, you might utilize a plethora of Christian worship music on YouTube. There are even Youtube downloaders that you can use to have the videos accessible in places of worship where WiFi and the internet are sketchy or nonexistent. Using a video on YouTube could include modern top 40 Christian songs, a movie clip, or numerous other topics other than just music.

Don’t neglect the power of videos and or worship songs in your Sunday services. Feel free to be creative and intentional in the planning of your service theme too. Caution: This will take time, so don’t just throw everything together on Saturday night and expect amazing results…intentional planning takes time and hours. We are all busy people, but not taking the time to find the appropriate videos and/or music, is noticeable in our services (I’ve been guilty of this too).

2) iSing Worship (app)
This is a great app that does cost a little bit, but is a tremendous tool if you have a portable device like an iPad or iPhone. The app is free, but the songs will you about $3 a piece, which is only a dollar more than what you would pay for songs you currently buy on Google Music store or the apple iTunes Store. When you buy these songs, you then have the ability to include all of the elements of the song (i.e lead vocals, guitar, drums etc.). So, for instance, if you wanted to lead the song you could turn the vocals down and sing with the music like it was Christian Karaoke hour. Or iSing worship could become your worship band in a box by simply hitting play. Be sure, however that you plan the songs you are going to sing ahead of time and have the words either printed or displayed on the screen for the congregation to sing along.

Just some of the songs I have purchased and used in my services.The nice thing about iSing Worship is that once you select the songs you want to present on Sunday, it comes up on the display in front of you with the Lyrics as you lead the song.I highly recommend this app if you are willing to invest a little bit of money for the songs.  It adds an element of intentionality into your worship, even if you’re not musically inclined.
3) Recruit & Delegate
One of the challenges for many pastors, regardless if they are musically inclined or not is the use of other people in worship services.   Do not be afraid to ask other people to help out, or lead elements of the service.   In fact, a shared worship experience with other people leads to a better all around worship service.  If you’re at all like me, perhaps you are a control freak and you want to ensure everything goes according to plan, perhaps we have to come to the conclusion that we must trust the Holy Spirit as well as other people.
When we share the worship experience with other people, we share ownership.  Be picky when you select, recruit and delegate people to these tasks, make sure you are selective and intentional.  Find people who have potential as future leaders or already established leaders.  It’s okay to fail or have rough worship experiences with these individuals, that’s a part of the learning & discipling challenge!
4) Utilize your Youth
A397659B-EE24-49B0-B9AB-76C05557E1B1

The apostle Paul told Timothy not to allow others to look down on him because he was young (1 Timothy 4:12)…the same can be said about young people in our churches and in the worship setting.  Use your young people, don’t discount their willingness and abilities to lead.  Teach them, disciple them as the future leaders by investing in them now within your worship services.  Have them help by reading a prayer, or scripture verse, a skit, or even by leading a song.  Some of your young people might be more musically gifted than you are – so cultivate that gift and use it in your worship service!Also, don’t let older people in your congregation overly criticize your young people.  We do not want to discourage their growth as future leaders, we want to encourage them.  Unfortunately most churches have the old grouches who grumble at anything new – even young people.  Don’t tolerate that behavior from any member of your congregation.  We need to disciple our youth, and this is a great way to begin to do that!5) Set the Stage (don’t neglect this!)


Regardless if you are musically inclined or not, we can become more creative in our church decor.  Don’t neglect the aesthetics of your worship space!  Take into account the seasons, the topics you are preaching on and use your worship space to reach all of the senses of the worshipper.  Use smells (plug ins, or spices, candles – but don’t let it become over-powering.  Use sites – place artwork up, or banners, build sets out of styrofoam and paint it…there are many links of Pinterest and other websites to explore and tap into our creative sides.
2AEEA65E-713E-4DC9-8156-81B6B52CD1D6
Use worship songs at the beginning of the service through cd/mp3/computer…set the stage with song (even if you aren’t musical).
When we actually plan the scenes of worship within our worship spaces we introduce our congregations to a living and moving God.  The stages and worship places are concerts or performances, but there is something to be said about being intentional with the sights and sounds (and smells) or our spaces for the purpose of ushering our congregants into the very throne room of God.6) Worship Band in Hand (app) 80F2AEDA-13F8-4F91-9073-5EC1C971B0E4
This app also costs some money in terms of purchasing the songs that you want yo use, but it comes with a lot of features and abilities.  You get one free song included upon installation of the app, it gives you the opportunity to try in it out and see if you like it.7) Auto Pad(app) DB7C4580-E865-4E70-90EB-D6A043897404
This app will cost you $2.99, but there are many features that this ambient sound pad contains that could set your worship onto a new plain.  Perhaps you use this during your sermon and the use of tone and ambient sounds can deepen the worship experience.   Using such a tool might require you to include/recruit others to help you operate the app while you preach or read scripture.  Give this app a try and experiment with its use in your worship service!8) Lead a Messy Church instead!  messy church 2
Do you want to break up the monitany of the worship experience?  Do something different.  Some have begun to do dinner church, while others have started to incorporate Messy church into the worship experience.  Messy church can be a great way to reduce your music phobia by utilizing stations through this very practical, teachable methods.here is a link to a few that we have done over the years – https://pastorsponderings.org/category/messy-church/9) Conduct A Quaker Service7256EF73-FB9D-41F8-A2CB-50ABA8C4E724
A Quaker service generally is not focused on music, but instead the recitation of poetry, prayers, and the element of silence.   This type of service might be a stretch to many of your congregants, even more so than Messy Church because of the use of silence.  Despite the drawbacks, using this type of worship setting, but be just the thing your church or corps needs in order to have everyone dig a little more deeply into their hearts and minds.

Here is a link for more information on the Quaker service

10) Prayer Stations/Artistic Approach
20A21EF5-8630-4240-9045-86461F35EDE7Conduct a prayer service with stations.
If you want to get creative, you can go onto Pinterest and explore the many ideas expressed there when it comes to Prayer Stations.  This approach takes the focus off of the use of music and onto a hands-on prayer service.  You could quietly play worship music in the background through your sound system and encourage everyone to spend the next 45 minutes at the many prayer stations that you have intentionally set up in your sanctuary.  Here are some links to help guide you in this:
Prayer Loom
Thy Kingdom Come
Scrabble Pieces
More Pinterest Ideas

These are just 10 suggestions to help the non-musical and musical pastor a like, for the purpose of creating a deeper, more meaningful worship service.  These are not exclusively ‘it’ for worship ideas, but just a primer for more exploration and worship developement in your corps & churches.

Please tell us what you use in your churches that help to make your worship experiences more meaningful and helpful to you and your congregation?  Post your commends below, we want to hear from you.

Something more for all of us to Ponder today.
To God be the glory!

Hello Again, It’s Me…(A Pondering on Silence In The Prayer Journey)

We all go through times while on the journey where the road is silent.
Other times our prayer life is full of answers and confirmations from God.  Dare I even say that within those silent miles upon the road, I would much rather hear a “No” from God.  By that I mean, my prayers of petition don’t always get answered the way I think that they should be answered.  Thus, in those times of deep silence, when all I want to hear is a word from God, I would even take the answer “no” than nothing at all.

Have you been to that place?
Please tell me that I’m not the only one who has experienced these times.
And within those moments, thoughts run through my head.
Thoughts like, “Is it me?”  “Is my faith too small?”  or, “What did I do to deserve this silence God?”  And then even sillier thoughts fill my mind.  Thoughts like, “God are you off doing something else, or solving somebody else’s problems?”  When all along I know God is present with me, He’s just not saying anything to me at that specific moment.

marriageI equate it to my marriage. 
My wife and I will have been married this year for 20 years (in the world around us, that’s like paleolithic ages for marriages).  I love my wife very deeply, and I know that she loves me the same way…and yes, we finish each other’s sandwiches. (We’ve watched Frozen WAY too many times)

Long story short, we talk a lot.  We share each others hopes, dream, aspirations and the hopes and dreams for our children.  We journey alongside each other through the good days and the not so good days.  That’s what marriage is, that’s what deep relational friendship demands.  We are there for each other.

Jesus and the Marriage: 
Jesus used this illustration of the Bride and Bridegroom in the bible.  He told of the virgins who waited for the bridegroom to arrive…some were wise and some were foolish.  Later on in the Bible, Paul uses this same topic of the bide and bridegroom to illustrated how husbands are to care for their wives to the point of laying down their lives for them, just as Christ did for us.  The bible is full of wedding illustrations and the necessity to not only love each other deeply, but to anticipate and long for Christ’s return.

Back to my Marriage: 
There are times when we talk a lot…but there are also times when we enjoy each other’s company in silence.  Nothing more needs to be said…because we know each other deeply, and we, at times, know what we are thinking.

That’s how I like to view those silent times with our Father in Heaven.
We are still very much in His presence, but no words are needed.  He knows our thoughts, and our hearts…and so He simply journeys alongside us.

It is in these sacred moments of silence that I feel we begin to know and feel the very heart of God.  No words can describe it.  No ceremony can contain it.  We simply join together in His presence.  There is no greater joy than this.  Nothing more holy.
walk2
So the next time you freak out when God doesn’t speak…just be silent.
The next time you fear He isn’t listening…pray for discernment to know He is journeying right next to you.  We don’t always need words, or to hear Him speak.  We walk in faith, knowing the Creator of the Universe journeys right beside you.  Revel in His presence.  Embrace His holiness.  Recognize that sometimes even in the silence, God is saying “Hello, It’s me, I’m still here…and I will never leave you or forsake you!”
-Amen and amen.

Tackling the “S” Word…

I remember dropping a friend off at their home after school when I heard about the suicide-death of Kurt Cobain – lead singer of Nirvana.  I just couldn’t believe it.  As a fan, I thought he had it all.  Sure, there had been stories about his drug issues…but as a senior in high school, I couldn’t fathom someone of his stature taking his own life.  Later on, I remember reading the words of Kurt’s mother, Wendy O’Connor as she grieved she declared, “I told him not to join that stupid club…”

That stupid club?  – all of those other musicians and stars who partied hard and died young.   Their stories litter pop culture like spots on a Jackson Pollock painting.
Linkin Park concert
And then we have Chester Bennington, the iconic voice of Linkin Park, highly regarded as one of the best (if not THE best) rock voices of his era – Ending it all in what appears to be another sad story in the annals of music history.  How so very tragic.  Chester leaves behind six children and many who are simply floored in grief over his sudden death.

NO EASY WORDS: 



There is nothing that can be said to bring peace to the families of those who choose to end their lives.  Depression, drug abuse, life’s pressures have affected many, and some believe that they just can’t go on living.  If anyone has ever been in that deep of a depression, you will know that the mind is not working the way it should and suicide seems to be the only way out.

I am not defending the actions of one who chooses to end their life in such a way, I am merely trying to grapple with the loss that is felt when someone dies.  Suicide is never the solution and yet we cannot know what someone is struggling with and how lost they might feel.  All we can do is be available and to show love and support to those who are hurting.

Perhaps the best method in coping is NOT to express anger as Korn Guitarist Brian Welch (known as ‘Head’)  has done as he shared his frustration and criticized Chester saying it was ‘the cowardly way out’.   We may have similar opinions and frustrations.  Welch went on to say (for those who actually read the rest of what he had to say and didn’t just slam him) he knows all too well the struggles of depression and getting “wasted”…Welch, expressed his frustration and anger – yet there is something to his expression that seems understandable – He was friends with Chester.

Suicide Sucks!
There are people who are left behind when anyone dies in such a way.
Many people sent out shock and condolences, OneRepublic tweeted out; “Dear God.  Massive RIP to Chester Bennington of @linkinpark This BREAKS OUR HEART.  Suicide is the devil on earth walking amonst us.

Children are left without a father.
Mothers and Fathers without a son…and the list goes on.
I won’t go too far to say that suicide is selfish…(even if it is).
Many who choose to end their life are in the deepest places of grief, depression and they are not always in the right place mentally.  It simply hurts…

If you have ever contemplated suicide – please, please, please don’t!!!
You are loved!
You do matter!
Life is worth living, if you can just hang on a little longer!

Please seek out help!
Counselors and friends are available, you just need to ask.

I have done funerals for families who have lost loved ones to suicide.
Suicide sucks!  It leaves vacuum in the hearts of many…and they wonder if they could’ve done something prevent it from happening.  I, don’t have all of the answers, but I do know that there is a God of grace who cares about your life and the lives of those who contemplate suicide. Be respectful, hopeful, and offer love and support to loved ones around you who might be struggling today.

-Just a thought.

Other Sources to check out:
You Cannot Be Replaced
Suicide Prevention
Text Hotline
Help Guide

Loving Someone with Borderline Personality Disorder

Robin Williams Article

Dear Salvation Army: Serving Water and Cookies at Gay Pride Parade…

First of all, I have to tell you that I am very reluctant to ponder anything on this topic because it seems to be quite the hot button topic, and as of late many harsh things have been said from various perspectives.  I offer you this pondering as simply an objective observer and I will do my very best to present both sides of the conversation.  My approach to this pondering has, and always will be with grace and love…okay, here goes:

Recently on social media, The Salvation Army in Metro Chicago (in conjunction with CFOT) posted photos of Salvationists serving refreshments to people while they participated in the gay pride parade in the Wrigleyville/Boystown area of Chicago.

serveThe Facts…
What began 15 years ago as a means to offer kindness and grace to pride participants, has in some ways become quite a polarizing topic.  The location of the College for Officers Training in Chicago is directly in a predominantly gay and alternative lifestyle community.  Thus, this is the neighborhood Cadets and members of the CFOT staff do evangelism within.  Sadly though, on social media conversation threads, individuals have criticized and questioned the motives of those who distributed the water and cookies.  Some have asked, “Does serving these items mean that The Salvation Army is now condoning or accepting these alternative lifestyles?”  While others who are on the other end of the ideological range are simply flabbergasted by harsh comments and the overall sense of harsh criticism.

Questions to Ponder…
Does this type of event, which offers water and cookies, condone alternative lifestyles or is this simply an act of kindness and grace?  Is this, as some have angrily inferred, just another way for progressives to push this agenda of acceptance, or are we in need of more of these intentional, public acts of kindness to ALL people from ALL walks of life?

The Murky Waters…
The current position of The Salvation Army on the topic of Same-sex attraction and/or marriage is fairly common, but in a number of places in the Army the views on LGBT seems to be a murky water of ambiguity and inconsistency.

My Take…
We must be very careful not to become finger pointers and look down our noses like the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day.   They (the Pharisees) even witnessed Jesus’ disciples picking grain on Sabbath and about lost their ever-lovin’ minds.  The key, before any kind of discerning thought of judgement should be to soberly consider the state of our own hearts first.

Secondly, I think we as a Church (or Movement)  can be so quick to criticize without first trying to understand and ask the important questions.  We are far too quick to jump to conclusions and slow to consider what we might do in our own communities to provide such acts of kindness to the whosoever.

Lastly, how do we convey the grace of God to those we meet?  Are we to throw our bibles at people who do not live as we do by quoting scripture AT them?  Or do we show compassion, hope and grace to anyone who is willing to receive it?  Is there an intersecting line here that cannot be crossed?  Where does compassion and acts of kindness end and acceptance of lifestyle begin?  Is there a place when we might become stronger together instead of divided (division is perhaps what Satan would love to see in our Army)?  If so, how do we get to this point of unity within our courageous acts of compassion?

Conversely, how do we approach family?
By this I mean – I know Officers in The Salvation Army who have children who are either gay or in an alternative lifestyle.  How do we approach family in this context?  We (as people) can be so quick to assume that this subject is black and white, but it is much more complicated than that!  How we convey compassion and grace has to be wisely consider for fear of alienating our families and loved ones.

I know that this topic is a rather complicated and sensitive one, and can cause polarizing opinions and often brings out the worst in people, but please do not use this pondering as fodder for your case.  Our army is much broader than any one person’s view, opinion or agenda.  But here’s my take – Let’s err on the side of grace and compassion and leave the judgement to the One who will eventually judge us all.  Let’s support one another’s ministries including ministries into alternative lifestyle neighborhoods.  Let’s offer support to officers and staff who strive to live out the “without discrimination” from our mission statement.  Let us strive to live out holiness in how we love and serve in our neighborhoods and mission fields.  From this place, the Lord can and will impart His wisdom and guidance.

-Something more for our Army to ponder today.

Day 40 – “Do You Love Your Frienemy?”

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:43-44

It easy to love those who reciprocate that expression, it is a lot harder when that love is only one way.  Jesus takes the teaching of loving your neighbor to a whole new level when we tells those listening to love your enemies too.  Loving your enemies is extremely hard to do, especially if there is still resentment and hurt involved.  How could Jesus expect us to love THOSE people?  We might say to God, “I can’t love that person, he has said unkind things to and about me.”  or “God, you must be mistaken, that person is hateful and I don’t even think his mother loves him.”  Regardless of how we may feel, this kind of love does not naturally happen, but Christ displayed it for us in how he died.

Jesus didn’t have to die on the cross.
He could have refused, he certainly had the power to do so, and yet he did die…by the hands of those who HATED him.  He poured out his life upon those who were his enemies and friends.  His death signified our life.  …”But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.”  (Ephesians 2:4)   We were his frienemies…but we were dead because of the things we had done.  Yet Jesus came and loved even his enemies, which happened to be all of us because we were blind in our sin.
friends
This calling to love our enemies isn’t just for the enemy or the person who has hurt us or dislikes us…this calling to love is as much for them as it is for us.  When we choose to love in this way, we can begin to let go of the trappings of resentment, anger, revenge, malice, and hate.  Loving even the unlovable lifts the burden from us that used to hold us captive and bound to this world.  This isn’t a fake or phony kind of love either, no, instead when we begin to love God with our whole heart, soul and mind, we begin to realize just how much grace and mercy plays into this relationship.  What I mean is, we don’t deserve this love from God…and neither do our enemies…and yet like Christ, we must give it freely.  This might be the hardest thing you ever do – let go of the hurt, the grudges and the hate and simply love even your frienemy…without strings attached or any ulterior motives.

heartDon’t let hate rule you.
Don’t let it hold you as its slave anymore.
Release it, surrender it to Christ’s perfect love and allow Him to transform and shape you with his grace and mercy.

Prayer:  Lord today I ask that you soften my heart towards those who seem unlovable.  Regardless of how they feel towards me and what they may do to me, help me to turn the other cheek as you work within my life to transform it.  I want to be your reflection to the world and this includes even those who do not like me.  Fill me with your grace and mercy today.  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight.  Oh Lord my strength and my redeemer -Amen.

img_2411-2

Day 26 (Thursday) “The Missing Link…”

Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” -Romans 13:10

How do we stop the hatred and the violence in our world?
It begins with you and me.
It starts here in our prayer life, in our hearts, in our actions towards others.
Far too often the reasons that we hate are because we are selfish creatures.  We think that world revolves around us, and so our response to the world is all about ME, myself and I.
When Jesus came to this earth He not only declared that the Kingdom of heaven was here, but it didn’t start with the self-inflated, me first emphasis – it begins with two principles:
1) Love the Lord your God, and then 2) Love others.

This is the missing link…
This is the lost-ness of the fallen world.
When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, they disobeyed, they operated on a selfish principle that broke God’s heart.  Since that first act of selfish disobedience, our world has remained in a revolving door of selfishness.

So…what is love?
what-is-love-o
It requires us to take that step towards our neighbor…
who is our neighbor?  Jesus said, through the parable of the Good Samaritan, that our neighbor is not only those who look like us, act like us, and talk like us, but even people who are the exact opposite or those we do not see eye to eye.  Loving our neighbors takes us far beyond that which we are comfortable with.  It requires our selflessness to embrace this missing link of love.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Basically while we were still ignorant and blind in our sins Jesus died for us.  When we didn’t deserve love, God gave love.  Even when we were spiteful, merciless, and cruel, God loved us.  This is the missing link in our world today!  The lack of love for those we would consider our enemies…those we would consider to be those we avoid.  Thank goodness God didn’t avoid us and our ignorance in sin.

If we are to become the very image of Christ in the world today, we have to take up our crosses and follow Him in displaying love for EVERYONE including those who do not look like us, act like us, or talk like us.  This love is inclusive and offered to all who seek Him.  This is the missing link in our world.
This is our missing hope for peace.
This is our only hope for redemption – Love, Divine Love.

Questions to Ponder today:
Are there prejudices in my life right now that divide those I love from those I hate?
How can I tear down those walls and embrace this missing link of Divine love in my life today?
How can I learn to forgive as Christ forgave me?
What are some ways that I can go and talk to my neighbor with love, respect and grace?

Prayer:  Lord, help me to see others the way you see them.  I want to embrace this divine love in my life today!  Show me who my neighbors are.  Help me to reflect your grace and love.  Tear down these walls of division and prejudice in my heart today.  Show your Kingdom in those I meet and help me to be your kingdom builder in all that I do and say in this day.  In Your name I pray all of these things.  -Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ponderings On The Orlando Massacre

Only love will win in the end.” -Mumford & Sons.

Today, I have seen the antithesis of love.
All of the news outlets have thoroughly covered this horrendous act of terror on innocent people in Orlando.  My heart breaks for the family members left picking up the pieces to shattered lives in the wake of such senseless violence.  The heart-wrenching stories of cell phones ringing from the pockets of dead victims as investigators sift through the wreckage.  No doubt those phone calls were from family and friends trying to find their loved ones.  One cannot begin to fathom the immense pain these families are going through today.
shooting2
It has been reported that Isis has taken credit for this targeted attack on a gay nightclub.  Regardless of ideologies and beliefs, violence begets more violence and the blood of the innocent makes this all the more heart-breaking.  Acts of violence upon any group or community cannot be tolerated.  Where can anyone feel safe?  Where can anyone go?

I have read some awful things said by so called “Christians” claiming that this was “God’s retribution”, and  I cannot help but feel anger toward such seemingly vengeful people.  I don’t understand how anyone can interpret any of this as being “God’s will”.  Death at the hands of madmen and acts of terrorism is evil – plain and simple.

To the families who lost loved ones today – We pray for you tonight.
We cannot begin to understand the pain you’re going through right now, but we stand with you and support you with our prayers.  To a community hurting, frightened and shocked – We support you with our thoughts and prayers as well!  We stand with you against such horrendous evil.

“Only love will win in the end.” -Mumford & Sons.
prayer

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑