Engaging the Enemy- the Only Thing I’ve Left to Say

DAY 31, ONLY

I’ve learned over the years to look into the context and not just the two plucked out verses primed for memorization during my Sunday School years. I’ve noticed something as I’ve stepped back and examined from a wider angle the various places in Scripture that talk about living the Golden Rule. And I’ve found something. Something important. Something we need to know but don’t really want to acknowledge.

We can love other people until our days are done. We can exhaust ourselves in our efforts to serve others. We can do all the right things as we work for the Lord…and we will still be hated because we are followers of Jesus. We aren’t even guaranteed the love and acceptance of our family as we live wholeheartedly for the Lord.

And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved (Matthew 10:21-22).

 

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UGH… So, what do we do with these people who refuse the grace we extend and cross their arms to the love of Jesus? Well, we love ’em some more.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 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 5:43-44).

 

This whole “turn the other cheek” thing is just plain unnatural. The fight-or-flight response is to put up your dukes or run the other way. The godly response is to engage the enemy in love and pray earnestly for blessings upon their life.

He tells us that vengeance is His. We know nothing of Him but that He is completely just and that all His ways are right. We don’t have to daily subject ourselves to abuse, but when we encounter it, we are to offer back love in return.

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Maybe this just means holding back a sarcastic comment. Maybe it’s shutting the door quietly instead of slamming it as you calmly remove yourself from the situation. It could be praying blessings upon the man who left you and started another family despite your best efforts at loving and honoring him. Or it might be pleading the blood of Christ over the sins of a lost person whose broken path has wrecked up yours.

Scripture isn’t silent on how we react when the hatred spews in our direction… Please read to the end, friends. I really believe this is crucial to living the Golden Rule and why it is paired right along with it in this passage.

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.  For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:27-36).

 

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I’ve written for 31 days on living for the benefit of others and the glory of God. And I could write more. It’s so imperative to the glowing testimony of our marriages, parenting, and daily lives. There are certainly obstacles and reasons it’s just easier to withdraw or walk away.

I don’t know what you’re struggling with or who has hurt you. But I know that if you are here, and you are a true follower of Jesus, you’ll face these moments where you realize how the world sees you. And I know that it will be hard. I must remember He is worthy, and He holds our reward in Heaven. I have to believe that I will see my marriage and my family change and that I will see fruit in my ministry. Even if it doesn’t, I have to know beyond a reasonable doubt that God is good and my obedience is deserved for nothing else than blood spilled years and years ago.

Is there an enemy in your life?
Take time to pray for them today.

Talk to me in the comment section!

Heaping Spoonfuls of Grace for When We Goof It All Up

Day 28, EAT (Five Minute Friday)
We sat hunched over half-full plates forcing spoonfuls of chicken, rice, and lentils into our mouths as our host sat watching us. We were doing our best to finish a special meal in honor of the Dashain holiday at our language tutor’s home. We had lost track of the courses but were sure this was the end.

With a sweet smile, she placed TWO GIANT, HEAPING bowls of Asian noodles before us. We stared at the remaining spread in disbelief. Our kids weren’t much help. Our daughter turns her nose up at anything that isn’t pizza, and our son was just over a year at the time but was given a grown child’s serving. My stomach was churning, telling me to stop. But with a forced smile and a feigned word about how delicious it was (nothing tasted good at this point), I kept eating. And then….she brought me some plain yogurt. Yay.

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The second time we ate at her house and reminded her, in advance, our inability to eat large amounts of food.

She asked me several times if I didn’t like it. I knew she wanted me to finish it and ask for more, to convince her once and for all that it was tasty and I was thankful. I knew how hard she worked to prepare this meal for us (slaughtering the chicken and all!). My desperate prayers for freed up stomach space went unanswered, and I had to admit defeat.

Sometimes our efforts to live for the benefit of others and the glory of God just don’t cut it. We are limited and unable to perform the tasks that spell out gratitude and love. We hope and pray that those whom we labor to love will see our efforts and know that we did our we will inevitably fall short.

We will let people down. We won’t be able to fulfill what we promise. We won’t find the strength to love like Jesus. We occupy bodies broken by the Fall and are unable to live perfectly and honorably at all times (or most of the time!). We trust God to work on our behalf, to communicate the words we fail to speak, and to show the love we fail to display.

We will strive and struggle. It’s all part of this thing called sanctification. We need heaping spoonfuls of grace and answered prayers for the strength to do more. We make right the things we can make right, and we ask God to take care of the rest. Sometimes that’s all we can do.

Do you struggle with guilt guilt over your shortcomings in service to others?
Do you need heaping spoonfuls of grace (like I do)?

Talk to me in the comment section!

The Simple Secret to Being Super Fruitful

Day 27, BOUQUET

We recently helped the people of the sweet church we attend honor their pastors. As we planned for the special surprise, we brainstormed what gifts we could give. We settled on some Nepali landscape paintings and were thinking bouquets for their wives. That is, until we were reprimanded for our temporal thinking. Because, duh, flowers die.

Such is the nature of flowers. So much so that the Bible uses them to symbolize the brevity of life.

As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
(Psalm 103:15-16).

 

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Flowers removed from their source of sustenance cannot thrive. Flowers in a vase or blown away blooms can buy a day or two on borrowed water and sunshine, but they must be firmly planted in soil to survive.

As children of God, we rely on the Father to sustain us. To grow, we are only required to abide in Him. Abiding in Jesus, we bear fruit, living the for the benefit of others and the glory of God.

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you (John 15:5-12).

Thriving in our Provider’s care, we worry less about surviving and more about serving.  Everything we are commanded to do is within our reach because we are connected to the boundless Vine. We soak up the goodness of His great gifts, and we keep his commandments because it is our natural response. We extend His grace to others as we grow. We aren’t promised that everyone will appreciate the beautiful work He bears in us. But we are promised that our green-thumbed God will perfect the work He begins, and that our fruit will remain. It will make a difference.

We can’t use the brevity of our existence as en excuse to not be fruitful. For whatever time He gives us, if we merely rest in His capable hands, we will thrive and bloom good works naturally. He will see our fruit as if we grew it for ourselves, and He will call it good.

When death takes us forever from the Vine, we may not be remembered. But our fruit remains, planted in others, cared for by the One who sustained us for so long.

Are you abiding in Christ and keeping His commandments?
Is His great care evidenced in your care for others?

Talk to me in the comment section!

For more about what it means to abide in Christ, check out this post by Trillia Newbell

 

My Life as a Living Sacrifice: Confronting my Nothingness

Day 26, CONFRONT
I’ve been so challenged by exploring how I can live the Golden Rule in marriage, motherhood, missional living, and my every day life! I hope that if you’ve read along with me you have been challenged as well and encouraged by what God can do with a heart willing to serve Him and others. If you’re just joining me, I hope you will catch up!

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I think it’s time we ask ourselves what’s holding us back. What’s keeping us from living the Golden Rule for the benefit of others and the glory of God? Is there some sin you’ve stuck in your back pocket for a rainy day? A person you just can’t forgive? A fear of giving up control and giving your life to God?

I’m bold enough to guess that what’s holding you back is the same thing that’s keeping me from living out all I know to be true and good. It has its roots tangled up in pride whether it’s a secret sin or clutched control. No matter who you are, denying yourself just doesn’t come naturally.

If I were on your end reading this, I would want to cover my eyes or jump over to YouTube and start watching something light to make me laugh. I don’t want to confront my pride. It’s seriously cringe-worthy to peer into my selfish soul and see what lies beneath.

What did I do today that ministered to someone else? Did I do it without grumbling? Would I rather have been doing something else? Did the task at hand seem beneath me or bothersome? The answer to these questions reveals the condition of my heart. And so often it isn’t pretty.

Because as much as I love other people, I tend to like myself a whole lot more. I wholeheartedly agree with the decisions I make and the way I go about things because I’m awesome, y’all (satire… hang with me).

But when I look to the Word of God to tell me who I am and what my condition is all I see is that I am a sinner saved by a gracious God. I am made for the pleasure of God. I am purposed to serve and share His greatness with the world. That’s basically it.

110% YES- I am greatly loved and graciously gifted, but I’m given all of that to hand it right back to God. I don’t have to wonder what God’s perfect will for my life is. It is spelled out in Scripture. But, oh, I want to be blind to it.

present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith (Romans 12:1-3).

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My flesh already ran in the other direction. For real, this is rough for me. A living sacrifice. I am to be burned at the altar of humility day after day, letting my life be consumed by the Creator as He sees fit. I subject myself to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to work through my surrendered life.

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something,when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself (Galatians 6:2-3).

 

I deal graciously with others when I confront my nothingness and my inability to do good apart from the transformative work of Christ in my life. When I consider what He has done for me, any act of obedience He requires is only reasonable.

And He tells me to get over myself and love my neighbor and my enemy too.

Come quickly, Lord, not sure how long I can do this.

Is pride keeping you from living the Golden Rule to the glory of God?
Will you endeavor to live in daily sacrifice to the One who died for you?

Talk to me in the comment section (this one’s a doozy!).

 

 

The Golden Rule for the Global Good

Day 24, GLOBAL
“I am wired by nature to love the same toys that the world loves. I start to fit in. I start to love what others love. I start to call earth “home.” Before you know it, I am calling luxuries “needs” and using my money just the way unbelievers do. I begin to forget the war. I don’t think much about people perishing. Missions and unreached people drop out of my mind. I stop dreaming about the triumphs of grace. I sink into a secular mind-set that looks first to what man can do, not what God can do. It is a terrible sickness. And I thank God for those who have forced me again and again toward a wartime mind-set.”
― John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life

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Remember the war

…and that someone cared to share the truth with you whether it was in a Sunday school classroom or in a backyard lawn chair. Consider how that courageous act changed your life and paved your way to the Savior. Think about how the love of Christ tapped you on the shoulder one day and invited Himself in. There are millions dying without the hope we have in Jesus and if everyone keeps the truth to themselves, how will their fates change?

Our prayers matter. Our spiritual growth matters. But doing unto others by proclaiming the name of Jesus in word and deed is the most honorable act of love. The reason we focus on the worldly pleasures and forget the war is because it’s so. stinking. hard. I know this. I am heartbroken over my propensity to stick my head in the sand of my comfortable world and ignore the needs all around me because it’s just easier that way.

But the best I can live the Golden Rule unto others is by introducing them to Jesus, encouraging and reminding them of the steadfast love that completely wrecked my life in the best way possible. I share with them the Word written for them and the Savior who sacrificed His life for theirs. I trust God to do the work but must be faithful to give Him the room.

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee (Titus 2:11-15).

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Remind your fellow soldiers…

Keep encouraged and accountable with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Be quick to praise when the focus is right, and push together towards right perspectives when they’re not. Rejoice over the right things. Weep over the wrong. Remember what Christ died for, and pursue its treasure together.

Consider the power of a global witness, of a band of brothers and sisters insistent on the name of Jesus being lifted high. Our light may be small and our influence limited, but we trust in the power of Christ to make it shine into places we never dreamed it it would reach.

Ask what you can do in your local church to make the gospel known in your hometown. Link arms with fellow light-bearers around the world. Consider your place in God’s global work. Do good unto others, as you would have them do unto you, for the sake of the gospel. Make the message known that was once made known to you.

Do good works, let your light shine. Teach and train and enlist for the war (this includes you, moms!). Do all this not to be honored but that God may be glorified. That our witness will be fortified and our gospel reach globalized.

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).

 

Do you have a war-time mindset?
How can you band together with fellow light-bearers to make His name known?

Talk to me in the comment section!