43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
Matthew 5:43-46 NIV
Have you prayed for your enemy? These are words I was convicted with this week. Life in ministry can be hard and sometimes it feels like enemies are all around. In days of stress and struggle it is easy to just be angry or irritated by many different things. These can be things you would normally brush off your back but now get bottled up and you eventually explode. It can be people you never met, people in the news, people your work with, people you are related to. We can have enemies in all corners of our lives. So are you praying for your enemies?
I have had people in my life that I have been frustrated with. I have people in my life that our relationship is broken and I have probably spent too much time being frustrated by their lack of change instead of reaching out to the one who can bring that change. Am i praying for them? You see one of the hardest things that we can do as Christians is pray for those who have hurt us. Pray for those who are hurting us. Pray for those who are hurt. Pray for those in power over us.
I was convicted to pray for my enemies. So here is what I am doing for the next week. I am going to pray for my enemies by name. I am going to pray for a softening heart. I am praying for wisdom for them and myself. I am praying for peace in our lives. I am praying for forgiveness. I am praying for repentance. I am praying for Gods mighty hand in all this. So join me as we pray for our enemies.
So we are just now starting to hear about the country opening back up to a more normal state of being. I imagine many of us are thinking about the things we cant wait to get back to. Hugging loved ones, going to the beach, playing group sports and most important of them all sitting at the bar talking about how amazing the Star-wars movies really are…ok maybe not that last one but you get the point. I have been online and seen a number of people posting about all the things they a can’t wait to do again.
Last week I was on the phone with a parent and she said something that made me think. She talked about with all the things wiped clean from her schedule what things was she doing now that she wants to keep after the quarantine has ended? So here is our question. What things are you going to keep? Is it going to be sitting with family for meals. Maybe checking in our your parents, friends or family. Maybe you have been better about going to worship every week, it was in your pj’s, but you have been consistent. Maybe it is getting more exercise by taking walks as a family. I know the dog would love for less than 7 a day but maybe keeping up with it as family on a daily basis is more doable now. We all have things we have changed over these past weeks maybe we can keep some of the good habits going.
For me it is going to be reading my bible. I also want to help my family make this a new habit as well. I want us to get in the word and talk about it on a weekly basis and really see what God has to say. So here is my challenge to all of you if you are looking for this as I am. Would you join us? I am going to be starting an online bible study for families on Thursday nights at 6:30pm. All you need is a bible and a computer/phone. It will be a time to get in the word. You can join us on a zoom call if you want or you can read with us and submit me some questions at a later point. The first 5 weeks are going to be on Galatians. We start Thursday April 30th. Lets start a new pattern in the word together as a family. You certainly don’t have to but do keep up going to Church at least, even if it is in your pj’s!
Is forgiveness truly incredible? Am I living a life that shows I know that God’s forgiveness for me through Jesus is the most incredible thing in the world? Today while preparing for a message, I came across this passage of scripture – Luke 5:17-26.
This is one of those interesting stories in scripture about Jesus. It is a story I have come to love over the years. First you see a man who is paralyzed; he can’t walk. His friends bring him to the home where Jesus is teaching because they want their friend healed. They climb to the top of the house, break open the roof, and lower him down. This is shocking for so many reasons I don’t want to get into, but just know that these guys were nuts about their friend meeting Jesus.
Here is the part of the story I want to focus on. Jesus looks at the man and you expect Him to have pity on him and heal him. I mean, this is what Jesus does. He feels for the sick and lame, and He heals them. It happens over and over again in the Bible. Instead, Jesus does something different. He offers the man forgiveness. It was shocking and maybe even underwhelming to the man’s friends, and possibly to the poor paralytic. Here is the thing I struggled with today as I read this. Do we as Christians, when we hear “forgiveness”, miss how amazing it truly is? You see, I think many times we rush by this part and want to get to the healing. Maybe we want to get to the part where we see God do something amazing in someone’s life.
Here is the thing about this paralytic. You see, as a man paralyzed, he would not be allowed to go to temple. He would never have been able to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem and hear of God’s forgiveness of His people. You see, this man was missing the love of God. When Jesus looks this man in the eye and says “you are forgiven”, it may have been the first time he ever heard those words. It may have been the first time he knew God loved him. This truly is incredible forgiveness.
Today in your own life, you may have just skipped over the forgiveness part of this story. You may, like me, want to see God do good in your life and never stop to experience the greatest good we have ever experienced – the goodness of God in sending Jesus to die on a cross and forgive our sins. When we enter worship on Sundays and hear of that forgiveness, do we sit and want something more? Do we want to be healed, or do we want our lives put back together? Maybe instead we need to come and hear those simple words… “You are forgiven!” These are truly incredible words.
Because you are forgiven I would ask one thing. Share that forgiveness with those around you. Maybe it will be the first time they ever experience that forgiveness and it can change their lives forever. You have been forgiven and as you experience that forgiveness, go and forgive others.
This weekend our congregation is going to be sharing the next steps of an initiative with the goal of campus renovation and expansion, in order to expand mission and ministry. It is called ONE Legacy. I started thinking about this weekend and what I want my kids to know about being generous with our finances for God’s ministry, and that prayer is important in our families life.
I was thinking, “What do I want my kids to learn from this moment?”. Often as a parent it is easy to go through the moment of growth and forget about what it is teaching your kids. I want to think, “How am I teaching my kids through this moment?”. My kids see me put something in the offering plate each week – they see me giving to God. Yet don’t want them to think of generosity as only being a ‘parent thing’, but rather that as a part of the community here at St. John, we are all called to share the gifts God has given us.
So here is what we are doing. We are going to have a conversation this weekend at the dinner table. We are going to pray. We are going to think about what are the things in our life we can let go of so that we can help our Church reach many with the Gospel. We may talk about giving up going out to dinner once a month. We may talk about using birthday and Christmas money for ONE Legacy instead, we may pray about giving up cable or Netflix or Slurpee’s!! Honestly I don’t know what it might look like. But seriously I want them to be a part of this moment.
I love this story because of one very important fact. In this version of the story we find out where the disciples got the five loaves and two fish. It came from a boy. It came from a kid. He had so little to offer and I am sure Jesus looked that boy in the eyes and said with your small gift I am going to change the world. I don’t need your small item to change the world but I am going to use your small sacrifice so that people can know of my love.
Talk with your kids this weekend. Talk with your kids about being generous in this moment. The Lord has given our family so much. It is a great conversation to have and so important as a part of the body of Christ.