Archive for category #loveyourenemy

MT 5:43-47 Loving you is going to hard

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [NRSA: Matthew 5:43-47]

Koinonia Fellowship is hard

a.       We are already doing what is hard these days, why tackle something else that is hard?

b.       It is the one thing that God has commanded us to do.

c.       It is the motivation on God’s part that provides for our own salvation.

d.       Finally, we see what heaven is like, every time we love someone who is difficult to love.

e.       And if do don’t want to love then we are not likely to enjoy, being the body of Christ, heaven, nor eternity with God and the al People of God.

Typically this is how the conversations start: 

Q: Preacher, When it comes to loving our enemies, the favorite example, “do you mean we are suppose to love someone like Hitler?”

A: the easy to say, but difficult to do answer is: a 100% yes!, but..  

Interruption: 

If you are sharing a conversation with someone and they respond to you by saying, “Yes, but ..” then 99% of the time they think they are being polite or kind, and follow up explaining why your wrong with their perspective. It is a good way to start or continue an argument or have someone stop communicating?

Return to the example

In this case, our answer to the radical question, “Are we we suppose to love someone like Hitler?”, will answer with this question: “is there someone who need to learn how to love more than a Hitler?” 

In this case, the yes is a Yes!, and the “but” is a qualification that it is not easy to follow through in action with the words about being loving. 

In the example of Hitler, there is nothing acceptable about his beliefs, leadership, behavior, or role in history. Someone filled with evil is not our excuse to judge them and skip loving them as the person of God’s creation that has become so twisted. 

Our role is not to judge, it is to be witness to a world of sin, evil, corruption and  destruction, a doorway to the grace of God.

How easy it was for people to adopt the group think, to fear retaliation, to not want to take a stand, to exchange the words of faith for the compliance of the community. But let us not be stuck on the character of history.

We have plenty of people that we would not want to have lunch with, not want to invite into our homes, not what to sit next to – even in church. If you started a list of people be careful because these may be the very people God is calling you to reach out with your witness of love and grace.

This is where the words of love come to life and reveal what we hope for in heaven.  

Daily we are surrounded with the push and pull of people calling for us to be politically intolerant of someone else. There is not a parable, teaching, or example where Jesus says for us to divide up people in the groups and to hate one and love the other. That’s the task of politics these days.. It is not our command, goal, or charge.

Action 1

The First step is to have a reversal prayer: When I hear some, I try my best to give that moment to God. Sometimes I fail, and social media is vicious. I am hopeful we will soon no longer be dependent on FB to provide our streaming. (we will share it on multiple platforms, but no longer require people to use FB to share our worship, that’s like only using wine in communion for those who struggle with alcohol, an aside.)

When we are confronted with someone difficult to love or to think of in a loving way, begin to look at them as God see them. God loves us while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us before we ask for his help. Someone who is our enemy be based on something about them, ourselves, or both. 

The prayer is this. “God help me to see the world from their perspective, your perspective, and see the sins and evil in my own life. Transform us all to your will and heart. Amen.” Or something toward seeing these three perspectives.

The second action is not just pray but make a first step toward loving.

An action is not simply a good thought and a hurried prayer. Allowing the words of our faith and heart to marinate with God’s word and love, prepares us to begin with INTENTIONAL steps of loving, reconciliation, forgiveness, invitation, opening dialogue. 

For those stuck on the Hitler example, there are times that were a mortally at risk for showing love. What would Germany have looked like if every person stepped forward in love rather than either joining the crowd or keeping to themselves?

The End of Days:

It has been the most frequent question I have been asked in the month of July. I offer the two things we do know from scripture: While no one know the hour or the day, we all can see the seasons and signs.

Behind that question is desire to have some order in the chaos we experience in the world. The more hurricanes, tropical storms and tornados, flooding and earthquakes in China, pandemic threats, political ultimatums, and the drama of being on the winning side, not to mention that threat to split our denomination…

a)       Its fair to ask is this it? If yes, then we just need to hang on and be faithful a little while longer, 

b)      If no, we don’t have to deal with the tribulation AND all this chaos.. 

People are asking this because they want to know is God going to show up and fix things?

Is God going to speak those words to justice and healing to the nations?

Is God going to let us suffer and die, ask the persons with leprosy outside the city?

Is God hearing our suffering and struggles, our fears and lack of control? 

Do God love us?

Is God’s love based on events of the world, or is God’s love for us greater than all the chaos??

Step 1. Reversal Prayer, Step 2. Taking the first steps in ACTing in love. Step 3.

Do not measure love by the world’s standards. 

We need God’s love most when we are not pacified by being part of the majority.

We need God’s love most when its not easy to see with our eyes and heart alone.

We needs God’s love when we are afraid, broken and pressed down more than when we can manage.

And if “WE” need that much love, then so do our enemies.

Go back to the idea of a list of enemies. Don’t list them all, but who are the first three people who you picture or name when you hear enemies. (Don’t list groups of people, name the first personal names that fill you heart and mind.)

1.       Pray for that person all day, all afternoon, all evening. Ask God to help you see the world and you from their perspective. Pray for God to transform their heart and your heart to find some point of grace between you.

2.       Pick up the phone, reach out in person/at a distance, write a prayerful email, send a love letter to that person telling them what you are praying for them and yourself. Make the first step.

2B. To not act, to not take the first step is to not trust God’s love to heal. Try and fail is rewarded, ignoring is participating in the lie that we are loving as we have been loved.

3.       The Reward for loving first, is the treasure of seeing who God deals with us in Christ. God has no idea if we will love back, God has been disappointed many times… And yet, it is that never failing love that is my only hope and grace. 

We don’t have to love people’s ideas, behaviors, choices… and we don’t have to give them what they want us to give them to prove our love… the love is what we are commanded to do by God, with God, for God. 

Failure is to not try loving because we are afraid, or have failed before. Koinonia people love because Christ loved us first, and continues to love us always. Hear the Good News and live it!

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Exodus 17:1-7 God Provides

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the LORD commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the LORD, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The LORD said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” [NRSA]

This is a helpful passage to hear at a time of fear, want, and uncertainty. The Hebrews have been lead by Moses out of slavery in Egypt, through the miracle of the parting of the waters of the Red Sea, the find themselves thirsty in a dessert.

One of the key definitions of a dessert is that water is not readily available. The fruit of the land is extremely limited and especially when a multitude of people are traveling together.

Even as spectacular and life changing it must have been to cross the sea, evade the enemy army and find themselves on dry land while their oppressors drown. The daily need for food and drink challenge the best experience of faith. We were just remembering how Jesus had been fasting in the wilderness, a dessert place, having spent forty days and thirty-nine nights in the most defining spiritual experience of his life. At the very moment of dealing with the basic needs of life and death, we are confronted with the temptation to fear and doubt.

We look around today and find ourselves being tested by the effects of a virus.
Healthy humans ‘harbor an average of five viruses’ https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282751
It is well established that our bodies possess gut bacteria that is beneficial for health. Now, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, have found that our bodies are also home to an average of five viruses responsible for numerous illnesses, although it is unclear whether they have positive or negative implications for health. Strains of HPV were found in around 75% of participants’ skin samples and 50% of nose samples, while new strains of the virus were found in both skin and nose samples. “Most everyone is familiar with the idea that a normal bacterial flora exists in the body,” says study co-author Dr. Gregory Storch, a virologist and chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the university. “Lots of people have asked whether there is a viral counterpart, and we haven’t had a clear answer. But now we know there is a normal viral flora, and it’s rich and complex.” The findings, which form a part of the Human Microbiome Project funded by the National Institutes of Health, were recently published in the journal BMC Biology. The research team, led by Kristine M. Wylie, PhD, an instructor of pediatrics at the university, collected 706 samples of bodily fluids from 102 healthy adults aged 18-40. The samples were taken from participants’ [skin and all openings.] All participants were closely screened to ensure they had no viral infections, and they were eliminated from the study if they had had been diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV) in the past 2 years, or had a form of active genital herpes in the last 2 months. For each sample, the researchers used high-throughput DNA sequencing that enabled them to detect a wide range of viruses. Expect in-depth, science-backed toplines of our best stories every day. Seven families of viruses identified, including HPV and herpesvirus Among 92% of participants, at least one virus was detected, with some participants harboring around 10-15 viruses. On average, each participant harbored five viruses. The researchers say they were surprised to find so many. “We only sampled up to five body sites in each person and would expect to see many more viruses if we had sampled the entire body,” says Wylie. From the samples, the team detected seven families of viruses. These included viruses responsible for non-sexually transmitted herpes – herpesvirus 6 and 7. These viruses were detected among 98% of participants who were sampled from the mouth. Strains of HPV were found in around 75% of skin samples and 50% of nose samples, while new strains of the virus were found in both skin and nose samples. Around 38% of female participants had HPV strains in vagina samples, with many of these harboring strains associated with increased risk of cervical cancer, such as HPV 16 and HPV 18. The researchers also identified adenoviruses – responsible for pneumonia and the common cold – in the majority of samples. It is possible, the researchers note, that the viruses identified were lurking infections from years before. But Wylie says that dormant viruses usually reside in cells rather than bodily fluids, which is where the viruses were found in this study. Commenting on their findings, the team says: “This study is the first to use high-throughput DNA sequencing to describe the diversity of eukaryotic DNA viruses in a large cohort of individuals who were sampled at multiple body sites. This analysis demonstrates that there is a ‘normal viral flora’ in generally healthy, asymptomatic individuals.” They admit that it is unclear as to whether the viruses are beneficial or detrimental to health, but they hypothesize that the viruses may boost the immune system’s response to harmful pathogens in some cases, while increasing the risk of infection in others. “It’s very important to know what viruses are present in a person without causing a problem and what viruses could be responsible for serious illnesses that need medical attention,” says Dr. Storch. “While more research remains, we now have a much clearer picture of the communities of viruses that naturally exist in healthy people.”

So What?
That means that at any giving time we have from one to over a dozen virus at work in our bodies; some working to build up our immune systems and others might threaten our life.
How do we know when we are at risk? What are the risks? What does God plan to do with us as a global people in the threat of virus, thirst, or any other struggle that faces our mortal experience?

Look at the context of our present global circumstance:
SARS, AVIAN, SWINE, MERS, EBOLA, ZIKA, EBOLA, CORONA – These are not connected to politics, but when we politicize or look to blame the sin of infection, we will never find a cure, love our neighbor, much less love our enemies. Every epidemic has a tragic effect on those who are not able to survive and those who suffer through the effects of each occurrence. When obsess our time on the fear of virus and illness we are admitting that we have no faith, we have no hope, and we have no trust in God to provide.

Tragically, this virus has become infamous within the brewing global kettle of blame and rage that makes illness and suffering the main story rather than where our strength, hope, and help comes.
Pslam 121:2 [NRSA] I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.
It’s a word that Moses and those afraid and thirsty in the dessert had forgotten since the parting of the sea.

My Help Comes from the Lord
It’s a word of encouragement the world needs to hear and trust. God is working through researchers and healers to deal with symptoms, causes and cures.
God is working through the church to remind the world that God will provide a way through this struggle and all our struggles.
Our Challenge to one another and all those we can influence:
1. Only check the news once a day, and only long enough to find out if the overall plan of prevention has changed.
2. Spend the hours you might devote to news watching and social media reading to prayer, study and Christian fellowship.
3. When you hear or see someone obsessing on the news, call them out to spend their lives with greater care:

a. Live, Love and Share the Good News Christ is offering us everyday. GOD WILL PROVIDE
b. God provides through medicine, through governments, and despite governments.
c. Trust the Voice of God more than voice of those who are selling fear and promising death.

4. There is no diminishing those who have died, those who are suffering from this virus, but know there are
a. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from bad politics and ungodly politician agendas
b. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from heart disease, cancer, poverty, trafficking and self-imposed evils.
c. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from meth, alcohol, and all sorts of substances,
d. MORE PEOPLE are suffering from sin and separation from God and neighbor.
5. THE HOPE AND ANSWER IS THE SAME: God will Provide

LET THE WORLD HEAR YOU SAY THESE WORDS: God will Provide.

In our Text from the Exodus: God says to Moses, “Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” God has a plan, God has a way, God has a process, God is at work behind the scenes, AND God is at work in the People of God, those willing to listen, trust and carry out God’s instructions and message.

Footnote: Moses asks the faith question after the water flows: “Is the Lord among us or not?This is our word!

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Ephesians 2:1-10 “Love: I can’t do it.”

JesusLoveEvenMe

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. [NRSV] 

  • What is it that someone who is feeling as though they don’t matter need to hear?
  • What is it that someone who is feeling unworthy because of poor choices they have made need to hear?
  • What is it that someone who feels helpless and vulnerable need to hear?
  • What is it that someone who feels broken and worn out from not achieving or completely their work need to hear?
  • What is it that someone who is feeling distant from God, with unanswered prayers need to hear?
  • What is it that someone who is searching but not finding faith need to hear?

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God [NRSV]

What do I tell someone who is alone, empty, guilty, broken, weary, failing, lost and afraid?

By grace, you are saved through faith, not for what you have done, not done, failed doing or never tried, but by God’s love, God is saving you to be in relationship with God.

What is it that you and I are called to share with a broken and hurting world?

God’s gift for us

God so loves the world that he gave us himself, in Jesus Christ, that we might believe and trust him as the way to find God’s love.

How many people are afraid where you live and work?

All they talk about is how worried, afraid, alone, unworthy, or unhappy they are… all symptoms and signs of not knowing God’s love.

99.9% of those who say that don’t believe in God are also saying they don’t feel or sense God loves them. “How could a God, if there is one, love? And more miraculously, how could God love me?

Look into your own mirror, your own spiritual self: Do you know God loves you?

The correct answer is Yes, because Jesus Christ saves me to prove God’s love for me.

But the question is not what is the correct answer, the question is: “Do you believe this is true for you?”

I know that God loves me and yet I struggle trusting it at times?

It is most clear when I look back at God’s presence in grand mothers, a grand father, a father, teachers, neighbors, church members, authors, theologians, and friends who have revealed God’s love to me, because they have shown me what God’s love is.

Rather than boast in my or your failures, it is essential to focus on the prize, the gift.

God’s love is awesome: For all the reason God should not love me, my behavior, my selfishness, my greed, my pride, my self determination, my hard work, my correct answers, my untruths, my fears, my failures, none of these are the reason that God loves me.

God loves me because I am created of God. Formed of the stuff and creatures of God’s creation. God has never forsaken us and will never forget us. God love is with us.

  • This is what the world needs to hear.
  • This is what people are dying to know.
  • This is why people are fighting and they don’t even realize how far off base they have become.

So what do we do?

Look to verse 10 “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life” [NRSV]

Our purpose is to be loved and to show love.

Our purpose is to be in Christ Jesus for the world, that is hurting, afraid, clueless and against us.

Our purpose is determined before we decided, our purpose to learn to love God and God’s people in response.

  • God loves us when we were enemies.
    • God’s hope, dream and desire is for us to find our belonging and once we are whole our works become the signs for others.
  • We love the poor, not to prove our worthiness, but because, before we had Christ, we were totally poor, no matter how rich or poor the world might label us.
  • We feed the hungry, not to earn our way, but because our hunger is satisfied in Christ. When we think and are driven my/our worldly worries and fears, we remain malnourished.
  • Once we have feasted in the love and power of God’s table our spirits are filled. But we see, hear and know word full of those who hunger for what is right, who trade their own understanding or perspective for what is good in the moment or good in principles, but far from Good in God’s love.

The greatest way to find assurance of our own faith and trust, is to share the gift with others.

I offer that it is not just feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, comforting the sick, healing the broken, forgiving the debt and trespasses, it is when we learn to love our enemies that God’s love and lesson comes full circle and complete.

You can surely find someone in this fellowship this morning who will love you, yet while we are not perfect, I doubt that our enemies are fellow church members.

When we understand and experience love for someone that is not based on what they can do for us, but what we do for God that we understand love.

This is the simple task that is the most difficult of our lives. Loving without expecting reciprocal love.

 

Typically we say, if I show them love, they will love me back. What if love says, if I show them live, they will know how to love me back, but they might never do that.

 

This is what makes our task difficult, even with God as our example and our salvation.

What it proves is that that we actually cannot complete this without God’s work.

When we reach the breaking point of our own limitation, we see/know where God’s salvation and love makes us whole.

 

  • So the answer to the question, “Do I love God?” is never enough, I need God’s help.
  • So the answer to the question, “Do I love my enemy?” never enough without God’s love.
  • So the answer to the question, “Do I need God help?” the answer is Always, even to the end.

Eph 2.1-10

God’s joy is to love us.

Christ is the proof and our eternal hope.

Our purpose is to trust God to love and help love the world, including our enemies.

Let’s get to trusting God, because we love God, not just need to be saved. We are saved to love, that ‘s gift.

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