#Write31Days – Post 1 – Loving Your Enemy

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I think we have all been there, at one point or another, where someone has stepped over the line.  They have hurt us too many times, and we have to step away from that relationship (romantic, friendship, business).  Even though the relationship was unhealthy, we can recognize that their intentions were not bad.  They didn’t mean to hurt us, they were reckless with their words or actions, or maybe they just don’t conform to societal norms and honestly can’t help themselves.  These are people that we can appreciate the memories we made with them, forgive them for their wrongs… at the same time as we are moving away to a safer distance.

Occasionally though, we will encounter a bonafide ENEMY.  This is a person who is intentionally against you.

  • The man or woman who is attempting to break up your marriage.
  • The boy/girlfriend who is trying to isolate your child from the family.
  • The coworker who is trying to sabotage your job or chance of promotion.
  • The neighbor who is trying to scare you out of the neighborhood.
  • The person who serves with you in ministry, that is vying for your position.
  • The competitor that is stealing your customers & trying to shut you down.
  • The person who is stirring up strife & trying to divide your church.

And these, are just a few examples of real life enemies who are working hard to make your life miserable.  When you are dealing with a unhealthy relationship, it is easy to be kind to that person. Because, you actually care about them despite the need for distance.   The scriptures, in Ephesians 4, instruct us to be kind to one another.    However, this is a much harder process  when it comes to the intentional enemy.  How can you be kind and forgive someone who is purposefully working against you?

Ephesians 4:32

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

The scriptures have a lot to say about being kind to one another, forgiving each others offenses, even the steps of conflict resolution when you have something against your brother. 

What are some practical steps you can take, to love your enemy?

#1 – You Pray & Forgive Them

Mark 11:25

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.

Note, that in the verse, it says if you have ANYTHING against ANYONE.  This means we are called to forgive not just some people, or some offenses, but all.  ANY thing.  ANY one.  In this particular prayer, we are not praying for THEIR sake.   We are praying for OUR OWN.  We are forgiving in the measure in which we want to be forgiven.  We are praying for peace and freedom in our own life from this situation or person.  

#2 – Do Good To Your Enemies

Luke 6:27

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.

While revenge may be tempting, even letting them fall to ruin in their own devices may sound good… it’s not what God would want us to do.  My grandmother would advise me, when dealing with mean kids, to kill them with kindness.  This is actually similar to the scripture in Proverbs 25:  If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you. (verses 21,22)

When we are kind to our enemy, we give them no just cause for their words or behavior.  Others will see that we have done nothing but kindness, and know that we are undeserving of our enemy’s disdain.  Eventually, the enemy will reveal themselves to everyone around them as being the real culprit.  They will be known for their misdeeds.  We do not need to retaliate, we don’t need to help that revelation process along the way by intentionally not helping or setting them up for failure.  No.  We just simply go on about our day IN SPITE of their behavior.  We continue to be nice and helpful to them, regardless if they deserve our help or not.

The miracle that can happen, is you may end up finding out that your enemy is a person who is suffering.  They don’t understand kindness.  They don’t understand love or compassion.  When you model it for them, it may make them uncomfortable, but in the end…. you may become the person they trust.  Your enemy may share with you their struggles, and give you the opportunity of wise counsel and leading your enemy to the Cross.

#3 – Intercede on Their Behalf

Acts 7: 60

And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Most people who are just outright mean, were not born that way.  They have had a life time of experiences and circumstances that have shaped who they have become.  There will be some who literally know no other way of behaving, this is normal to them.  Dysfunction is part of how they were raised and relate to others.

I once spoke of a woman I worked with, as others were complaining about her behavior, saying:  “I truly think she is clueless.  I don’t think she has bad intentions, I think she’s totally unaware of the wake she leave behind.”.  This was a woman that many had a difficult relationship with.  It would be easy to cast her as an enemy, she always seemed out to get everyone.  As I got to know her better, I realized she lived in a home that was highly competitive.  Everyone had to fight for their right to simply exist in that home.  She was loud, to be heard.  She was pushy, to get what she needed.  It has nothing to do with us or the job.  But, she was totally unaware that she was misbehaving. 

Coming to this realization, makes it a bit easier to pray that God will forgive that person … because (as Jesus said) they know not what they do.

However, for the person who is totally aware of their misdoings… we can still ask for God’s forgiveness over their actions & words.  We do it from a place of ultimate love, knowing that if they continue down the road they are traveling, they could end up in a final destination that is far from God.  We know that it is God’s desire that NONE shall perish.  So we pray, not because they deserve it… but because they NEED IT. 

I don’t deserve what Christ did for me on the Cross.  Like Paul said, of the sinners I am the worst.  If Christ died for me, He also died for my enemy.  Until they know Him, and have been changed by Him, I can pray on their behalf.

A Word of Caution:  Just because you have forgiven them, have chosen to be kind to them and even helpful to your enemy, and elect to pray on their behalf…. this does not mean you have to submit yourself to their cruelty.   Loving your enemy doesn’t mean you invite them into your home, share your personal details with them, and treat them as if they were your best friend.  You can do all three of these things, at an arm’s length.  Boundaries are absolutely appropriate in this case, to protect yourself from their venom.

 

From Challies.com – My Wife’s Plea to Christian Men

I am a voracious reader, I read pretty much all day long.  There are times I come across things worth sharing.  I will usually run to twitter, instagram, or my facebook page to share those articles.  However, occasionally, there are things that are too important, too poignant, too relevant, and too close to the words flowing through my own heart and mind.  Those, I share here.  When you read this article, please share it.  It speaks to the heart of many women and families, and the struggle they go through.  It speaks hard truths, that I know many echo in their hearts right now.

Share my link, the link to the original article… share it any way you wish.  Just share it.

Share it with the women you know, and the men.

Share it with the leaders of the home, and the church.

Share it with those who are married, and those who hope to be one day.

Share it with your daughters and sons, as their age deems appropriate.

Click on the Photo, or HERE to read the full article:

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To continue reading, click here!

For the Love of Peace….

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This post is part of Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love” Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers.  To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE.

For the Love of Peace

If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18 (HCSB)

The pressures of life are surmounting.   The pressures on women are driving us to anxiety and depression.  Once upon a time, the only expectations upon us were to be image bearers, good wives, good mothers, good stewards, and good students of the word.  Over the course of history, to modern day, those expectations grew.

A perfect home.

Perfect children.

The perfect wife.

Then we added to those pressures as women entered the work force.   Now not only did we have to be perfect in every way at home, but also at work.  As more women entered the work force, the expectations upon them grew to become a super woman.

Then, there was a shift.  Women began staying home with their children again.  However, this added to the pressures of the perfect home life because she no longer had to balance outside work and housework.  We thrust upon her the notion that children’s birthday parties had to be grand, we needed to scrapbook every day of our children’s lives, and that we had to not only be the super mom… but also the super wife.  Proverbs 31 Woman became a piece of scripture that women were clinging to in order to become the super Christian woman, as well.

The pressure was mounting.

And then, it happened… social media exploded and took women along for the ride.

We had Pinterest to help us make the perfect meals, hand craft decorations for our homes, and upping the children’s birthday party to epic levels.

Facebook tossed in our faces, daily, the women who were winning at life.  Working out every day to maintain her perfect body.  Her perfect weekend crafting with her kids.  Date night, once a week, with her perfect husband.  The flowers he sends her, the gifts he gives her, the attention he showers her with.

Instagram became a revealing window to how much fun others were having, without us.  We saw their “girls weekend getaway” that we were not invited to.   We commented on the fifty hand made invitations for her Women’s Ministry luncheon.  We loved her outfit of the day photo, while we sat in the jeans we bought six years ago that are holding on by threads.

The pressure kept growing… and growing….

Before we could even realize it was happening, the green eyed monster of envy was rearing it’s ugly head.  To see it, we just had to look in the mirror.

We were jealous of her doting husband.

We felt left out of the fun.

We didn’t think we could compete with her talent.

We were no longer content with our homes, or their decor.

We lamented over our lack of funds to go on vacations or buy new clothes.

We began to hate our own bodies.

We became jealous over the opportunities their children have.

And that is when it happened, the pressure became too much.. and we blew up.

On the inside.

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  When these things happen, when the pressure grows to the point where we are going to blow…  someone is inevitably going to get caught in the wake of the explosion.

We will hate our selves, for the areas we failed.

We will hate our families, for what they are not.

We will hate others, for what they have … and we don’t.

Jealousy will poison our souls to the point that it will destroy us from the inside out, if we don’t spiritually check ourselves.

When these pressures surmount like this, we have only two ways to respond after we blow our tops.

  1.  We pull up our big girl panties, set our minds right, and find peace with the blessings that God has given us.

—-  OR —-

2. We begin to elevate ourselves, by tearing down others.

There are so many scriptures that point us toward peaceful living.  Blessed are the peacemakers (Matt 5:9),  Seek and Pursue Peace (Psalm 34:14), There is Future for those in Peace (Psalm 34:34), Live at Peace with Others (Romans 12:18)… these are just a few.  God wants us to be at PEACE in our lives, not fear… not anxiousness… not jealousy or discontent.   God wants us to LOVE in our lives, not hate… not condemn… not hurt or divide.  In fact, God’s word says that we will be KNOWN BY OUR LOVE (John 13:35).  When we LOVE, we not only have peace in our own lives, but we GIVE PEACE TO OTHERS.

God wants us to live in peace, and yet more often than not…  we go the other route.

Whether it is rooted in jealousy or a lack of confidence in ourselves (and our decisions or abilities), we begin to lash out.    It starts with the thoughts in our heads, begins to fall out of our mouths in our words, and then eventually felt in our actions and deeds.

We create competition, where there is none.  We become critical of their decisions and opportunities, instead of embracing our own unique blessings.  We try and bring others to our side, by gossiping about the person.  We try and force our opinions on others, not because we desire to see change in them for the better, but really to affirm that we are right.  Our thoughts become so self centered, that we can no longer see that person(s) in a positive light.   If we are not careful, it can begin to consume us.

If we are not at peace, we are at war… within our own heart and mind.  War is messy, and it has many casualties.  It will cost you happiness, contentment, and relationships.

 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7 (HCSB)

Do not be conformed to this world, choose to live in peace.  Be known for your love.

“Let’s lay down our junk, our wonky junk that messes up relationships and community and togetherness. We won’t let our own crazy stop us from affirming each other and banging the drum for our sisters.” – Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

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Learn more about Jen Hatmaker’s new book “For the Love” at:  http://forthelovebook.com/

Unused Gifts

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1 Corinthians 12:4-11

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

It was about 11 years ago, when a man went with his church to a Promise Keepers conference.  The truth was that this man had grown up in the church, he had gone through discipleship training, and at one time had a spirit that was thirsty for the Lord.  He had read his bible cover to cover, many times.  He had wisdom and knowledge of the scriptures.  Life, however, would distract him.  His fervor for service would diminish.  He toiled and labored to provide for his family, so much so that it was hard to give up that one day during the week that he didn’t have to get up for work.  Most days, he would… the family would head over to church and he and his wife would discuss the message on the way home.

He was too tired at the end of a long shift to sit through family devotions, or read the scriptures with his wife.  He trusted her with the spiritual leadership of his children, the managing of the home, etc.  This trip to Promise Keepers was just what he needed to open his eyes.  The message directed at the men convicted his heart, he recognized that he had become a lukewarm Christian.  An ember began to burn that called him to service in his church.  He was renewed in spirit.

On the bus ride home, the Pastor asked some questions of the men from the church.  The man stood up and announced “I was a lukewarm Christian, I was wrong, I don’t want to do it anymore… where can I serve????”

A few men shouted, “AMEN!”… there were some high fives as he moved toward the Pastor.  The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “No brother, how can we serve you?”

The Pastor’s intentions were good, but because he didn’t take the time to get to know the man and what he had to offer, he dismissed the man’s offer.  The man was crushed, he wanted to serve, use his talents, but he was denied.  He returned to his seat, but the high fives on the return trip suddenly felt empty. 

When he returned home, it would take him several days before he could even bring himself to share what happened with his wife.  She could see how hurt he was.  He had a lot to offer, but he wasn’t going to be given the chance.  He wanted to serve, but he was turned down.  In the days following the trip, and the weeks even further out, not a Pastor or Elder would reach out to him.    They were not even going to follow up on their offer to serve him!  Time passed, and the ember went out. 

It’s been 11 years, and to this date … the man has never offered his gifts again.  The church missed out on an amazing opportunity, and frankly so did the man. 

I understand how he feels.  There have been plenty of times in my life where I felt like I was being over looked for the gifts and talents I had to offer.   In some cases, I was overlooked completely for a task that I was more than qualified for.  In other cases, I was given something totally outside my of my gifts because it was just naturally assumed I would be good at is… simply because I am a woman.  When a person is overlooked or rejected enough times, they will stop offering.  If you only offer them the tasks that you assume they are good at (without ever talking to them about it), resentment and frustration can build.

This happens in the church quite a bit, the man’s story is not unique.  God has given us all gifts to be used for His glory, but that’s the key… we need to use them.  We want to use them in the church, but if the church isn’t willing to recognize them or utilize them, one of two things will happen:

  1.  We stop offering our gifts.
  2. We take our gifts elsewhere.

I took an informal poll of some ministry leaders, the question was:  Do you have your volunteers (or church) take a spiritual gifts test, regularly?

I was surprised by the few who answered, YES.

If we look back to the story I shared (which is true, by the way)…. it could have gone a lot different.

The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “Brother, that’s great! Call me this week and we’ll talk about where you could serve.”

or

The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “Brother, we’d be happy to have you serving with us.  Stop by my office this week, I’ll have spiritual gifts test waiting for you.  Fill it out, and let’s set a date to have lunch.”

or

The Pastor put his hand on the man’s shoulder, smiling… and said “Brother, that is so exciting.  Do you know where you’d like to serve?”

In all three examples, it would have given the man the opportunity to meet with the Pastor, to share his background and experience, and provided the groundwork for identifying his spiritual gifts in order to determine the best place for him to serve within the church.  It acknowledged him, without rejecting him.  It created a plan of action that was immediate.

This is something that we must be careful of, with the members of our church.  We can’t make assumptions about what they are good at, or their knowledge, the time they have available, or what we think their gifts are.  We also can’t ignore the fact that every person in the church has a gift.  We need to make the effort to get to know the people, find out what their gifts are, and plug them into the places they can use them.

Our gifts are more than the choir, parking team, nursery, greeter, and info desk volunteers.

Women by nature are not all gifted for VBS and Sunday School, because they are women.

Men are not by nature all gifted for landscaping and construction, because they are men.

I wonder, when we talk about women leaving the church, as well as the younger generations, how much of it comes from a lack of not feeling utilized by the church?  If you don’t feel wanted or needed, why stay?

What if…….

  • all new members classes included a spiritual gifts test?
  • fall small groups started off with group leaders handing out spiritual gifts tests?
  • instead of saying to the whole church we need these few volunteer spots filled… we looked at their tests and placed everyone … somewhere.

I think we know that realistically, not everyone will turn in their test.  Nor, can we expect that everyone is going to be available to volunteer.  People do have jobs, kids, and even other volunteer commitments.  However, by starting the process of identifying their gift we can engage their minds.  They will begin thinking about if, when, and how they could be used in the church.  We can guide them toward ministries that are seeking volunteers, or even come up with something for people to do in their gift range while they wait for something to become available.

If we engage people’s gifts into the service of the church, on a regular basis, they become invested & connected members of the body.  They will feel wanted, valued, connected, important, and feel they have a purpose for being in this body of believers.

An unopened gift can never be fully appreciated.