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Love-Hate Relationships

“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;” Matthew 5:44

There are many things I have a love-hate relationship with. Naturally, I love food and hate weight gain. I also, love movies but hate when the story lingers with me, monopolizing my thoughts.  However, when Jesus told me to love my enemies He wasn’t referring to the calories in a hot fudge sundae, nor was He suggesting that we thoroughly enjoy our enemies like we might food or a movie.  Rather, He was commanding us to agapao or love dearly those we would naturally hate.  The abusive bully. The mean teacher.  The oppressive sibling.  The critical parent.  The obnoxious boss.  The profane co-worker.  The rude waitress.  The person who cuts you off on the freeway. The ex. The envious relative. The thief.    

Perhaps, like me, you are struggling with the reality of this passage.  Can it be that God is asking us to  love the people whom we cannot stand?  Are we to pray for the same people who deliberately hurt us and our loved ones over and over again?  The answer, of course, is yes.  In this command Jesus unlocks the mystery of forgiveness, the only way to live in freedom this side of heaven.  Because He gives us His nature we have the dynamis (inherent power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature) that Luke 24:49 refers to.  “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power (dynamis) from heaven.”   This is the dynamic power to forgive and release an offense to God with the motivating factor being Christ’s love for you and me which He demonstrated on the cross.

It only takes a few seconds to realize this is impossible without God. 1 Peter 2:23 says, “He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.”  Therefore, by the power of the Holy Spirit we too can be at peace with our enemies.  We can be perfect as He is perfect which means complete in Christ, not lacking anything but leaving everything in the hands of a Holy God.  Just think what freedom we would have if the cutting remarks had no power over us or we no longer resented the driver’s “insult.”  If, then, we chose to love dearly our enemies, overlooking offenses and, as much as it is up to us, have peace with all men, what would our lives look like?

Personally, this has been a lifelong battle.  When I accepted the gift of forgiveness nineteen years ago and Jesus freed me from the bondage of sin, this battle remained.  It has been my Achilles Heel and something I have refused to relinquish to God.  Oh, what a wretched sinner I am!  To not take the land that God has given me because I don’t want to do what He’s asking me to is sin!   The Lord has convicted me this week.  May He have victory from now on as He breaks the bonds that hold my heart captive to self-protection, unforgiveness  and fear.

 Lord, Jesus, use me as a vessel of Your of love.  Teach me to let go of offenses and give them to you.  Renew my mind and show me how to walk in the Light in this matter and not allow myself to be controlled by my flesh.   To you be the glory! 

Amen

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord…”   Romans 12:17-19

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Prepared

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”  John 14:3

It is not difficult for me to feel overwhelmed with any kind of large project or event when the outcome is not certain and the “how” is not clear.  Our building project, which hasn’t started yet,  has gone from a fun idea to a real proposition in a very short time.  Since I am not a big picture person it is easy for me to get hung up on the details and disabled by the enormity of it all, even before we have a set of house plans or our current home is on the market.  To add to the frenzy the Pinterest boards are filling up to the point of aversion. Now, when I look at them I am inspired and terrified at the same time.  What was I thinking!  Then I take a deep breath and do the one thing I need to do today to prepare for the future.  Fill two more trash bags and clean out the closet… today.

I realize, though, everyone is preparing for something.  If not a building project than for retirement, anniversaries and vacations or even meals and doctor’s appointments.   But how much do we really prepare for eternity?    How do we invest in pre-planning for Jesus to pick us up and take us to Himself?  Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.”  That is exactly how I feel.  Jesus has told us that He is busy with a building project for you and me and when He’s finished He is coming for us.  We cannot see it but we can prepare for it.

Admittedly,  the word eternity is ethereal.   However, in order to understand our need to prepare for it we must believe it is a concrete reality.   The dictionary definition is: “A state in which time has no application.”  In other words, eternity is outside of time.   However, as Christians we already live in a state in which time has no application.  “And this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3   If we know Jesus as our Savior then we are already living an eternal life, right now.  Jesus gives eternal life at the moment of conversion.   By faith we believe God and respond with obedience regardless of whether or not we “see the whole scope of God’s work.”  In this way faith and eternity are intertwined and our lives become vessels of hope as we live out the “to do’s” of today for God’s promised future…”that where I am you may be also.”

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11