My Own

Psalm 105: 14 -15

He permitted no man to oppress them, and He reproved kings for their sakes: “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.”

God looks after His own. He is always watching. Many people these days think that God is far off; that He is no longer present in our environment. They are so wrong. God is right here with us, and He is watching over us. He will not allow your adversaries to harm you. Even though it may appear for a time that they are triumphing over you, don’t you believe it. God is not asleep. There is not a seed that has been planted that is not going to bear fruit after its own kind. Those people are going to reap the fruit of their actions. And God is not going to leave His beloved alone and stranded.

What about when the persecution comes from professing Christians? What about when it is “the church” or church people that slander and maltreat you? The Bible says that God is no respecter of persons. That means that God treats all people equally. He will defend you against Christians every bit as much as against unbelievers. Christians’ bad acts are going to reap rotten fruit just like the unsaved person’s bad acts. One does not get a pass just because they once confessed Jesus as Lord or because they have their own pew in the local church. A malicious gossip is a malicious gossip regardless of their theology.

If you are the one who has been speaking badly against another let me encourage you to clean up that behavior right now. God cannot bless you when you are sowing discord. Even if for a time it appears that you are doing ok, let me assure you that it is only temporary. As a man sows, so is he going to reap. It is just a fact.

So, take heart. God is looking after you. He longs to show you His compassion. And if He was willing to reprove kings on His kids’ behalf, He will certainly take care of that bully at work, or the negative brother-in-law. Keep your confession strong and accurate. Keep your mouth from transgressing and allow the power of God to work in your life.

Jesus said What?

Matthew 5: 43 – 44

“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.”

There are a couple of passages in the New Testament that I just don’t like. This is one of them. Jesus came along and raised the standard. We can’t even hate our enemies. Moreover, I’ve got to pray for those who persecute me. Does that even sound reasonable?

As I wrote last week, the love standard Jesus has raised for us requires a life lived integrated with him. I can’t love my enemies in my own strength and there has been more than one time I have argued with Jesus about having to pray for the people who have persecuted me. It just seems wrong at a very basic level. But that is just the thing, isn’t it? Jesus doesn’t want us to live a base existence. He wants me to follow in his footsteps. He wants us living the high life and that is more than just receiving the good things of life. There is a giving component as well, another side of the coin, if you will.

God, Son and Spirit want all good things for us, true, but they want us to live according to their lifestyle of love. Let me ask you this, though? Why do they call us to live according to the love standard? Why did Jesus instruct us to love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us? Is that requirement fair to us? If God wants only good things for us, could it be that this mandate is meant to increase goodness in our lives as well?

When we have been hurt, it is natural to want to either strike back or throw up shields. We aren’t natural beings though. We have been given the supernatural life. That is life beyond the natural and that is a critically important aspect of the Christian life. To live “naturally” is to live a worldly existence, and that is not our calling.

It cannot be said enough. You may able but, I cannot live the life to which we are all called without the imminent presence of the Lord walking hand in hand with me. In fact, it is a much closer integration than hand in hand. That is a far to external an analogy. He has got to intertwine his spirit with mine such that our spiritual DNA (and perhaps even physical DNA) are woven in and around each other. I need him to respond rather than me react so his spirit has to be present and alert.

Through the trinity, we can live this love walk. We can pray for those who use and abuse us because God’s grace supplants our self-oriented perspective. We can pray for people from His vantage point rather than ours. Jesus calls us to a certain kind of existence, one above and beyond the natural ways of humans. While it may be impossible to live the life he requires of us by the use of our own strength, he has empowered us with his own strength and gentleness of spirit. Of course, this intermeshing of our spirit with his comes by spending time with him in meditative contemplation, conversation and study of his word.

May the blessing of the Lord be yours today and may pondering this passage bring you peace rather than angst.

Needful Prayer

Romans 12: 14             (Amplified)

Bless those who persecute you [who are cruel in their attitude toward you]; bless and do not curse them.

I really think this is the hardest thing we have to do as Christians. If we are truly dedicated to our Father and really want to please Him, we have to learn to bless those who torture us. We have to learn how to ask God to bless those people who are mean and vindictive to us. Look, if they are behaving in a way that is mean spirited, then they really need your prayers. They are acting out of broken place in them and only our heavenly father has the power to heal those deep injuries. If you damn them and curse them, then who is going to pray for them? They are acting out towards you precisely because you are of the Lord and your life and light are beacons to them. Perhaps it is also a condemnation because they know the unloveliness that is resident in their hearts and they feel conviction from the Holy Spirit. Don’t give up on them though. No matter how they torture and abuse you, keep your faith in the Holy One of Zion. He will see you through and He is their salvation as well. Hang in there. You might be the only person that your tormentor has that will pray for them. Your father sees your suffering and your faithfulness. And even though it seems hopeless at times, your father will see you both through.

Rescue Me!

Psalm 35: 17 – 20, 23 -24         NIV

Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my life from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you. Let not those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; let not those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye, they do not speak peaceably, but devise false accusations against those who live quietly in the land.

23 Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Vindicate me in your righteousness O Lord my God.

Yesterday we saw David forlorn and depressed. He moaned under the weight of his grief. In today’s portion of Psalm 35 we see David beginning to transition. He is beginning to look for the answer and he knows that his God is the answer. He recognizes God as his vindicator and his own role as praising and thanking the Lord for his salvation.

As you listen to David’s words you may think that his problems are not that different from our own. Perhaps we would be well advised to view our role in the battle in the same way as does David. David understood the lesson from 2 Chronicles 20: 12 – 25. In this great adventure the people learned how to fight a battle. God told them, “You need not fight in this battle” (v. 17). Instead they gave themselves over to praise and thanksgiving while God routed the enemy for them. They didn’t even go down to where the battle took place. They stood on the high ground and praised their God.

Maybe your tormentor, like King Saul, seems misled and unreasonable. That is what David had to contend with. He said his enemies hated him without cause or reason. It is said of Saul that he was influenced by an evil spirit, or that he suffered from a mental disorder. Those who plague us have their own issues. Often, probably most often, their suffering is the genesis for the agony they cause us. This, I believe, is why Jesus taught us to pray for those who persecute us. (Matthew 5: 44). They have their own pain and it is that hurt that causes them to persecute us without cause.

So what do we have to say to these things? Look to God to be your vindicator. Stand in trust. Pray to the Lord your God giving Him praise and thanksgiving. Sing to Him with a glad heart for all that He is. Expect Him to rescue your precious life from the roaring lion. Stand and see the glory of the Lord.

Spiritual Revenge

Job 42: 8

Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.

If you read the book of Job you will see that Job’s “friends” spoke against him for the whole book. I mean they really gave him a time. As soon as bad things started happening to Job his friends descended upon him and accused him of some great sin as the cause of the tragedies which were occurring in his life.

Isn’t that just like folks? They probably had been jealous of Job all the while because he was very wealthy and blessed in all things. Then when the devil started stealing his blessing, his friends began to harshly criticize him. In the end God corrected and reproved them.

Now if I were Job, I might not want God to send those chaps to me for me to pray for them. I can imagine saying, “God, I don’t want to pray for those fools that have harangued me for months. Just let them reap the fruit of their seed.” Fortunately for them, Job was obedient to God. I do like that they had to take him a big offering though. And we know that Job did pray for them because the subsequent verses tell us that God did accept Job’s prayer.

You see, the Old Testament teachings are consistent with the New Testament. God had Job pray for his enemies and we are under the same command today. Pray for those who persecute you and despitefully use you (Matthew 5: 44).

Big Guns

Matthew 5: 44

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.

Okay, now we are talking about serious spiritual warfare. This verse doesn’t look like warfare though, does it? None the less, this is where the rubber meets the road. When the enemy is all around you and it feels like even the house is falling down on you then start praying. Sometimes the pressure on you is so heavy that it is hard to pray. I understand that. Just come up with something real simple that you can say each time you feel overwhelmed. Here is an example, “Father, I forgive them and ask you to forgive them. I pray that you bless them and meet their needs.” Then every time that feeling comes in your gut just turn your thoughts to our beloved Father and pray those words.

Jesus gave this scripture for us, not for them. He said “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33 NIV). This is one of the ways that he is leading us from trouble to overcoming. Trouble comes but Jesus is our victory. He has already provided the means of triumph. He spent his time on earth teaching us those means. So when you read that you should pray for your enemies, take heart because Jesus is leading you to the victory. Glory!

Loving the Unlovely

Romans 12: 14

Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not.

This is grown-up Christianity. We have gone into the deep water. We know that if we love Christ we will keep his commands. Paul is preaching Christ here. Besides, we know that Jesus is the word, the entire word. But if that is not good enough let us see what Jesus said when he was still in the earth. Matthew 5: 44 reads, “But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” One translation says, “… bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (KJV).

If you do not like these two verses, I don’t blame you. It is just not natural to heap blessing on those who persecute and hate us. But then, we weren’t called to be natural, were we? We are called to be supernatural through the power of Christ at work within us. These circumstances are when we most need the miracle working might of Christ Jesus ministering in us and through us. Jesus said that all things are possible with God (Mark 10: 27) so the key here is that we must be with God. We are not going to succeed in praying for and blessing our persecutors without God’s strength. The Apostle Paul received this revelation as well. In Philippians 4: 13 he wrote, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” With God all things are possible which is a really important thing to know when you believe that He has called you to the impossible like saving a country or forgiving your obnoxious brother-in-law. I wonder which is more difficult. Regardless, you are going to need God’s power and strength in order to do what you are supposed to do. We know that we are to follow all of Jesus’ teachings and obey his commands. If you have made a quality decision to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and be obedient to the calling within you including obeying all of Jesus’ ordinances then you need the power of God at work in your life. But, fear not. Father God has created a foolproof way for each of us to operate in that awesome power that can only be obtained through Him. He just comes and lives inside of us. We take off the grave clothes of our former lives and don the glory of the living God. He, God, becomes again our covering just as in the Garden of Eden when humanity was surrounded by the glory of God.  

There is nothing God cannot due and by extension there is nothing you cannot do when you are joined with the Holy One. You can even pray for your enemies and bless those who persecute you. Your glory is the Lord himself and He will lift you up and He will enable you to do all things. You are half of an unbeatable team. Now, what will you do?