Loving Those Who Don’t Like You

Some people don’t (And won’t) like you.  It won’t matter what you do or how hard you try… they will not like you for some reason… possibly they don’t think you like them.  As a result there will be stress and tension when you are around each other.  Here are two thoughts from Scripture about how to deal with such situations.

First, remember what Paul wrote in Romans 12…

10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God… 20 If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Second, consider Jesus’ command from Matthew 5:44…

I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.

Now here’s what we as Christians are to consciously apply toward all those who don’t like us… who are enemies…

Love them with brotherly affection…

Show them honor…

Bless them…

Don’t payback what they’ve done to you…

YOU do what it takes to be at peace with them…

NEVER take revenge…

Give them whatever they need…

Overcome evil by doing what is right (Phil 1:27)…

THEN…

PRAY FOR THEM (Don’t prey on them.  Get it?).  Ask God to bless them and their family.  Ask God to reveal Himself to them.  Ask God to give them peace, joy, and contentment.  DON’T ask God to punish or discipline them… that is not praying FOR them.

God honors those who keep His commands.  I can tell you by experience, it is impossible (!) to dislike a person or be mad at them when you treat them as God would have you to AND pray for them.

One Pastor’s Soteriology

What is “Soteriology?!”  It’s a word I learned in seminary that means “The study of salvation.”

Presently this is a topic being mildly discussed in the Southern Baptist ConventionSo I thought I’d state what my soteriology is for those I serve as pastor.

I believe God loves the world (John 3:16),

I believe God does not wish that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9),

I believe Jesus Christ is the only way anyone can be saved (John 14:6),

I believe a person must repent in order to be saved (Acts 2:38),

I believe God commands all people to repent so as to be saved (Acts 17:30),

I believe prior to salvation a person is spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-5),

I believe all elements of salvation (Faith, belief, & repentance) are gifts from God (Ephesians 2:8-9),

I believe anyone who desires to be saved can and will be saved (Romans 10:13, John 6:37).

“What must I do to be saved?… Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Broken People In A Broken World

We are broken people living in a broken world.  Our institutions are broken.  Our government is broken.  Our families are broken.  Our lives are broken.  WE are broken.

Rarely does a day go by I don’t have a conversation with someone who is hurting… deeply.  I’ve come to the conclusion that every person deals with brokenness and is broken… including me and my family.  Consider…

Physical.  High blood pressure, diabetes, loss of hearing and eyesight, wrinkles, pain, cancer, congenital maladies, sickness, loss of energy, dementia, Alzheimer’s, death.

Psychological.  Anger, bitterness, jealousy, hurt feelings, pride, frustration, lost dreams.

Family.  Dysfunction, divorce, children’s rebellion, distrust, disagreements, fracture.

These are but a few reasons we’re told this world is not the Christian’s home!  We are told not to live for this world… but the next… where everything will be restored!  For Christians alone is there hope IN a broken world.  Above all people Christians can have joy in the midst of a world full of hurt and pain…

Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.

2 Corinthians 5:1 We know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 6  So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.

Romans 8:18 The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  20 Because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  24 In this hope we were saved.

Philippians 1:21 To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

If God Is… Why Pray?

This is from Ray Pritchard from a blog titled: “If God Is Sovereign, Why Pray?”

Reason 1: God invites us to ask for what we need (Matthew 7:7-8; Psalm 81:10).

Reason 2: We don’t know what we really need (Romans 8:26).

Reason 3: God knows what we need before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8).

Reason 4: We don’t pray to inform God about anything (Psalm 147:4).

Reason 5: We pray to express our total dependence upon our Heavenly Father.

Reason 6: We pray because God is honored by our persistent faith (Luke 18:1-8).

Reason 7: We pray because He’s God and we’re not.

Reason 8: We’re to give God no rest (Isaiah 62:6-7).

Usefulness AFTER Failure

“I’m right 99.9% of the time…”  Most people won’t say that out loud, or if they do it’s said kiddingly serious.  And I understand the sentiment all too well.  More times than I like to remember I have made major mistakes.  I’ve given people sticks to beat me with as a result.  The only thing harder than realizing I’ve failed is to confess/admit it to others.  And that is a pride issue…

It is hard to admit error, fault, or failure.  When we do, we try to shift blame like Adam did who said to God… “The woman who YOU gave me, SHE gave me the fruit and I ate.”  Adam actually tried to blame God!  We try to blame our parents… spouse… a difficult job… rebellious kids… physical maladies… or a hundred other things for being under pressure that causes our mistakes and failures.

Truth be told, we fail more times than we’re willing to admit.  We’re wrong more times that we’d like to think.  It really is possible that ever so often we are the one to blame for our problems and those in other’s lives.  Sometimes we are at fault.  Embracing that is like a ball slamming us in the face… it hurts.

There are seven truths I believe at the end of every day… no matter what has happened.  One of them is: “I cannot mess up my life… and neither can anyone else… to the point of God not using me for His glory.”

Think of Peter.  He cursed Jesus… publicly.  That was the best thing he could do to prove he was not a follower of Jesus.  Put yourself in that position.  Imagine verbally cursing Jesus for everyone to hear.  Immediately Peter realized his failure… and he wept bitterly as a result.  BUT THEN…

After the resurrection Jesus sat down with Peter.  Christ asked him three times… “Do you love me?”  The first two times Jesus asked… “Do you love me unconditionally?”  Peter replied, “I love you like a brother.”  The third time Jesus asked, “Do you love me like a brother?”  Peter said yes.  The thing I want you to get from Jesus and Peter is this…

AFTER Peter’s failure, his usefulness was not over!  Instead… because of Peter’s failure and restoration he was chosen and uniquely qualified to lead the early church.  Jesus chose him as THE example of usefulness AFTER FAILURE!  God STILL used Peter!

Have you failed… significantly?  Have you done something that ripped out the heart of someone you love?  Are you consumed with guilt still to this day?  There is hope…

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1)

You cannot mess up your life… and neither can anyone else… to the point of God not using you for His glory.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

“Old” Light (Church Conflict)

I’m tired of hearing about churches in conflict that result in splits… divisions… and staff leaving.  Once again a church I know personally is in turmoil.  This time it is in the Eastern half of the state (Between Fort Payne and Dothan, East of Leeds.).  Conflict sprouted up… disagreements rose to the surface… and the pastor resigned.  Why… what happened?  It doesn’t matter!  The fact is that a congregation is wounded, as is the staff.  Not only that, once again… unbelievers have a reason to blaspheme God’s name because of Christians!

Here’s what I don’t understand: How can Christians read the SAME Bible… pray to the SAME God… and be led of the SAME Holy Spirit and not be able to sit down… forgive each other and work things out… FOR GOD’S GLORY?!!!  It dumbfounds me how we say we are Christians and yet be so prideful and mean to each other by reveling in conflict IN OUR CHURCHES!

What is more important:  Being proved right (At any cost) OR God being glorified?  Winning the day OR a congregation’s peace being protected?  Getting your way OR keeping God’s name from being blasphemed?  I can give you the answer to those questions from Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:5-8…

Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!

Read the part in red again.  It is better to be wronged and/or defrauded than for the name of Christ to be maligned!  It is better to take the hit and suffer than the Christian faith to get a black eye!  Maybe what we need is some “Old Light.”  By that I mean light from an old (Eternal) source.  Namely, God’s Word.  One of the biggest mistakes Christians make is failing to trust God and His Word.

James 3:17-18  The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Stick a fork in me.  I’m done…

Forgiving Before Forgiving

Have you ever been asked to forgive someone before you were ready to forgive them?  Maybe the wound was too fresh or to deep to tell the person you had forgiven them when they asked to be forgiven.  As I’ve heard… “If you can forgive easily, you have not been wounded deeply.”

Before I can forgive someone… truly, verbally, and in person… I must have first forgiven them privately and in my own heart.  In other words, before I can forgive I must have forgiven.  Make sense?  The mistake is to forgive a person verbally before the process of forgiving has gotten to the point of forgiving them from the heart.  Empty forgiveness is just as hollow as false repentance.

There are times when it isn’t easy to forgive because (In our own heart) we’re not sure that the person who has wounded us is truly sorrowful for their actions (CLICK HERE for the difference between genuine and false sorrow).  Likewise, there are times people are not sure they should forgive us if/when we aren’t genuinely sorrowful for our own mistakes.  Maybe I’m the only one that struggles with the whole notion of forgiveness and repentance… BOTH WAYS.  I struggle to forgive from my heart AND I struggle with being genuinely repentant.  So where I end up is with Paul in Romans…

7:15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 18 I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  22  I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…

Then I remember another section where Paul wrote the following and is found in  Ephesians 4:29-32…

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

An Apostle’s Struggle With Depression

Ever felt alone… mistreated… depressed… in need of a pick-me-up?  If so, you’re not alone!

When we think of Paul, we usually think of his spiritual and emotional strength.  We usually remember passages he wrote like… “When I am weak, then I am strong.”  But it’s not often that we meditate upon when he struggled.  Consider one time when he was alone… abandoned by friends… having been maligned and treated unfairly.  This is found in 2 Timothy 4:9-18.  To the young preacher (Timothy) Paul wrote…

Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11  Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. 12  Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. 14  Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. 15 Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 16 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! 17 But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Even Paul had his detractors… those who not only opposed him but caused great harm to him (Alexander).  At the time when he needed support and help most, he was abandoned by everyone including Demas, Crescens, & Titus.  In the midst of hardship that came into his life BECAUSE he was honoring and serving God, what did Paul request?  Four things…

A personal visit from Timothy.  Never underestimate the abililty of being an encourager for another person.  Never hesitate to ask a person to come by your side to encourage you when you need it!

A cloak.  It may be that the time of year had come that Paul needed clothes to protect him from the elements, possibly to keep him warm.  When we are struggling basic physical needs are important.  Never overlook how a simple act of bringing something to someone can encourage them.  Never hesitate to ask for a basic need in your time of need.

Books.  We don’t know what books these were.  They could have been some kind of writings that refreshed Paul about Scripture.  What we do know is that somehow, someway, these books were vital to strengthen Paul in his time of need.  We should not neglect how the writings of other Christians to bless us throughout our life.  I have four or five books that I’ve read over the years that are my favorites because of their wisdom and encouragement.  I hope you have favorite Christian books that you read often.

Parchments (Scripture).  Note Paul wrote, “Above all, the parchments.”  More important to Paul than anything else… a person, clothes, or books… was Scripture.  The souce of encouragement for every Christian is God’s Word.  It is more important than people, physical needs, or anything else.  Scripture is our bread… our water… our oxygen… it is our life’s blood.  Without God’s Word we die.  In Scripture we heard God’s voice… His Spirit comforts us… He strengthens us… He builds us up.

Conclusion: When struggling our “go to” source for help is The Word.  Devour it.  Meditate upon it.  Reflect upon it.  Ruminate upon it.  From there access all the others… people, physical needs, or whatever else… but don’t neglect Scripture!

Starlight Starbright…

There is a patio in back of the house where I enjoy ruminating at night.  I love looking up into the vastness of the universe because it reminds me of how infinite God is.  When I gaze into the heavens I find myself being reminded how small and insignificant I really am in comparison to all of creation.

I feel much like David did when he wrote Psalm 8:3…

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Each human being is nothing more than a speck of lint on a speck of lint in the universe.  Yet God cares for each individual person!  Whether they are alone in the outback of Australia or the most powerful leader of nations… God cares.  It matters not to God if a person is a billionaire or destitute and living on the streets… both are of equal worth in His sight.

Then I think of one of my favorite passages from 1 Peter 5:6-10…

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. 8  Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Next time you get a little down, know that regardless of how you are viewed by anyone (Or everyone), God cares.  He cares for YOU.  He will “restore… confirm… strengthen… and establish you.”

Don’t Be So Defensive!

Immersion or sprinkling?  Christening or post-conversion baptism?  Pre-trib… Mid-trib… Post-trib?  Views on the Millennium?  When will Christ return?  Free will or not?  Is tithing in the New Testament?  Contemporary or traditional worship?  Suits or casual clothes?  Hymnals or projection?  To have or NOT have Sunday evening worship?

It is interesting to watch Christians disagree on doctrine, theology, and/or practice (Including individuals in my own denomination, The Southern Baptist Convention.).  I’ve found the more argumentative, animated, and emotional  (A.K.A. “Defensive”) people are in the midst of discussion is usually a good indicator of several things: 1) They are lacking in love to a degree {“Love IS: Patient and kind, not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way, not irritable or resentful”}… 2) A level of insecurity in what they believe… and 3)  Some amount of personal insecurity.

CONVERSELY, I have found that those who are secure and confident in what they believe… A) Don’t feel threatened when someone disagrees with them, B) Aren’t compelled to attack… beat down… exclude… or correct those who believe differently… C) Are able to engage in discussion without hyperventilating and getting worked up emotionally… D) They are gracious and patient in presenting their own views when asked to do so… E) They are able to live with not having all the answers to every question, and F) They don’t feel the need to correct those who disagree with them (Presenting their own view is enough, they don’t have to destroy the other person or what they believe).

Those who are secure in what they believe live in Romans 14:1Romans 14:51 Timothy 6:2b-52 Timothy 2:14-18… and Romans 12:18.

Romans 14:1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.

Romans 14:5  One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

1 Timothy 6:2 Teach and urge these things. 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth…

2 Timothy 2:14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene.

Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

What I’m suggesting is for Christians (Including myself) to not be so defensive when a brother or sister disagrees with us.  Defensiveness exposes “an unhealthy craving for controversy and quarrels about words” and is considered by many as “irrevent babble.”  In Christian discussions ATTITUDE is important… a GOOD attitude… one that glorifies God and doesn’t cause His name to be blasphemed among unbelievers (Romans 2:24).

Do NOT Apologize!

This is something of a follow-up to a recent postas I contemplated what happens when the Gospel is preached.  Today I take it a step further… for all believers who live out the Gospel daily in their life and speak truth into people’s lives.

Do not apologize… be embarrassed… or ashamed when God’s Truth causes people to react negatively toward you or stumble in some way!  When you “speak the truth in love” and people get angry, offended, hostile, or attack you… that is NOT the time to either back down, soften your words, or apologize.  Yes, you read it right… do NOT apologize when you are echoing Truth from Scripture.

My experience has been that (IN CHURCH… FROM CHRISTIANS!) God’s Word is difficult to handle when what He says contradicts what they believe.  I have literally seen people hyper-ventilate, get red-faced, and start sweating when they are asked to consider Bible truths!  I’ve watched people get so angry when confronted with truth that their anger drives them to tears.  Note: After those two events I came up with the phrase… “If you’re going to get mad, get mad at God.  HE wrote it!”

I have found that those who are secure and confident in what they believe… A) Don’t feel threatened when someone disagrees with them, B) Aren’t compelled to attack… beat down… or correct those who believe differently than they do… C) Are able to engage in discussion with those who disagree without hyperventelaing and getting all worked up emotionally… and D) They are gracious and patient in presenting their own views when asked to do so.  Those who are secure in what they believe live in Romans 14:1Romans 14:51 Timothy 6:2b-52 Timothy 2:14-18… and Romans 12:18.  There is a difference between being “boldly humble” and being ashamed of God’s Truth!

Some Christians… when they get a little blow back from people being confronted with Bible Truth… soften it, they become quiet, crawfish, and are hesitant to press what God wrote in His Word.  I pray that when people push back against God’s Truth that you won’t back off and in essence apologize (Be ashamed) for what GOD has decreed!  Consider what Paul wrote…

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord…

2 Timothy 1:10-12 Through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel… for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher… is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

Do NOT be ashamed of what God put in His Word.  Do NOT apologize for speaking the truth.  Do NOT abandon what you KNOW to be true.