Big whoop

Can you love someone you hate?

As a Christian, yes. That’s what some people don’t understand about Christian discipleship. They say that going to church and following Jesus are things you do to escape the hardships of life. We’re scared, so we hide in church.

Yes, God is our hiding place, but if we’re serious about following Jesus, that doesn’t remove us from the uncertainties of the world. In a way, our trust in God puts us right in the middle of the world’s mess. Along the way, you’re going to know someone that’s hard to love.

Some of us have difficulty using the word hate. That’s good. Save it for when it’s the right word to use. Hate what is evil.

Many of us also don’t consider that we have enemies. My impression is we reserve enemies to describe nations and wartime activities. We say, “The enemy evaded us.”

But one definition of enemy is: a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.

The word comes from the Latin inimicus, meaning not friend.

And I bet that sounds more like a few people you’ve known. Even in church!

So, what’s our response to those people? Well, first, I’m sure there are moments we wish we could do over. Words we would take back. Comments that were best left unsaid. Sometimes they went overboard and other times you were the button pusher.

If you’re going to love someone you hate, you’re going to need forgiveness. You’re going to need to learn to offer and receive forgiveness. I haven’t met too many people who find that to be first on their to-do list.

It’s almost like it’s kind of a hard thing to do.

It is!

Other people may find it best to return hate with hate. The Christian heart cannot be comfortable with that. Blessed are the peacemakers and the ones who turn the other cheek. It’s hard to do that than it is to retaliate.

So, is it possible to love someone you hate, someone who is your enemy? Of course it is. God wouldn’t tell us to do it if it wasn’t.

Knowing that God calls us to love our enemies and that it’s possible to do, there are a few better questions to ask. What makes loving enemies so difficult to do? What makes returning hate so easy to do? What needs to change in our heart, your heart to breed a desire and ability to do such a kingdom task?

Love someone who loves you first and Jesus says big whoop. Love someone who actively opposes you or is hostile to you, that’s abundant life in Jesus’ name.

Stay blessed…john

When Jesus abides

The gospel of John, the Johannine epistles and the book of Revelation claim John as their author. There is a question of whether it’s the same John writing or if it’s written in John’s name. That’s a common authorship discussion in Bible study. I don’t have any strong inclination either way. So, for me, John was a busy writer.

You’ll certainly find related themes throughout all the writings.

One of those themes is that of abiding in Christ. In John 15, Jesus said, “Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). Revelation 3:20 is a familiar verse: Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.

In those two verses, abiding in Christ offers fruit for our lives and fellowship with the Lord.

Our Bible passage today also offers a promise related to abiding in Christ. John says, “the anointing that you received from him (Jesus) abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you” (1 John 2:27). Read by itself that verse seems strange. Kept in its context, it is a repetition of what John has been saying all along.

Remember that 1 John is defending against heretical teachings that emerged from John’s congregation. A few verses before, John said, “you, however, have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth” (1 John 2:20). But that idea also goes back to a teaching of Jesus from the book of John. Jesus promised, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).

All that to say, abiding in Christ is an important idea for John. If I know that about John, so much of what he writes makes much more sense.

Dallas Willard once said, “In many cases, our need to wonder about or be told what God wants in a certain situation is nothing short of a clear indication of how little we are engaged in his work.” To me, that is a modern interpretation of what John talks about.

If we abide in Christ, Christ abides in us. That’s the promise. And if that’s true, we know what we need to know and are taught what we need to be taught. Now, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for questions and learning. Quite the opposite!

But my teachers always knew when I hadn’t done my homework. They could tell by the kinds of questions I asked and the kinds of wrong answers I gave.

The same is true with our walk with God. There is a difference in our faith when we abide in Christ. It’s an important difference. It’s not a matter of superiority, mind you. Don’t ever revel in the idea you’re a better Christian than someone else–yes, I’ve heard it said before.

Christian pride is such an irony. That’s when the Christian abides more in himself than in Jesus.

When we abide in Christ, we aren’t concerned with comparing our lives to anyone else other than Christ. And as Christ abides in us, the Holy Spirit fills our faith with knowledge, boldness and peace. We have fellowship with the Lord.

Stay blessed…john

Me and Oreos

You are what you eat.

We all know that.

Yesterday, I wanted to be a dark chocolate Oreo. Did you know they even make those? I didn’t. But ever since I found out last night, I’ve been thinking about them.

I’ve patrolled my sugar intake for a while now. Believe me, before it would have been nothing for me to take down a stack of dark chocolate Oreos. See? I’m thinking about them so much I’ve already mentioned them twice to you today.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “You are what you think all day long.”

There’s so much truth in that statement. Of course, scripture speaks that truth as well. Proverbs 4:23 says to “keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Colossians 3:23 admonishes us to “set your minds on things above.”

Jesus, too, picked up on this when he called out the scribes and Pharisees. When you clean the outside of a cup but not the inside, you still have dirty dishes (Matthew 23:25).

Those examples point me to my favorite psalm. The psalmist knew that the blessed person is the one who mediates on God’s word day and night.

Meditating on God’s word and God’s goodness both leads to and stems from a closeness to God. The closer you want to be to God, the more you’ll reflect on the Lord’s loving-kindness. The more you learn about the love of God, the closer you’re drawn into God’s mercy. It isn’t rocket science.

But it can take effort.

In Psalm 4, David seems to be at odds with other people. They have spoken against him and tried to shame him. His response is to turn to God. The first verse speaks to what we’re talking about today. Not only does David ask God to hear his prayer, he remembers how God has already done so.

If you receive my daily text messages, here’s one that’s coming soon: You can trust in what God will do because you know what God has done. That’s what David did; he recalled God’s previous deliverance. Since the Lord answered him before, David was sure God would listen again.

As a result, even as he endured the attacks of his enemies, he was able to lie down and sleep in peace. I take that to mean David made the effort to reflect on God’s protection every day. He needed to remind himself of God’s goodness. He had God’s peace because he sought it and thought about it all the time.

The prophet Isaiah speaks of a song on the hearts of believers. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3). The message is clear from scripture. If you want to renew your mind (Romans 12), stop thinking so much about the dark chocolate Oreos.

Now, cookies aren’t bad; they just don’t compare to the peace of God. And cookies may not consume your thinking. Great. Find out what does and what is keeping you from knowing more the peace of God.

Stay blessed…john