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Thursday, July 26, 2012

"Love my enemies? I hate them!!"

"You have heard the law that says," Love your neighbor and hate
  your enemy.
 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!"
  (Jesus, sermon on the mount, Matthew 5:43-44)

 "How can I forgive? It hurts too much! I want Justice!"
  This is the common reaction, the cry of the human heart, in response to terrorism, senseless killing and violent crimes that plague our society everyday. We demand justice for the evils done to us that disrupt and destroy our lives. Only when we fight fire with fire or return evil for evil are we truly satisfied.
But wait...Is there a better way to respond to the evil and hatred that surrounds us everyday?
 In his famous "sermon on the mount," Jesus confronted our sinful hearts with a command that utterly goes against our human nature. "Love your enemies!"
" Now wait Jesus, you don't understand my pain, look what they have done to the person that I love! How can I possibly love my enemies! I hate them!"
 Throughout the Bible, the consistent picture of the character of God can be summed up in one word, "Mercy."
  God is patient and compassionate and merciful and forgiving. He has every right to punish us for our sins and yet instead he shows mercy instead of judgment. Therefore, Jesus is saying to His disciples, that the mark of a true follower of him can be summed up in this command, "Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you." When we obey this command, our hearts are softened and the evil rage inside of us is quenched. Instead of becoming like our enemies, we turn the other cheek and respond with mercy just like God has done for us.
 This is the consistent teaching of Scripture. The Apostle Paul in Romans 12 verse 20, instructs Christians to show mercy and forgiveness to our enemies:
 "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
 In doing this you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.
 Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good."
 Reza Khalili, former member of Iran's revolutionary guard, witnessed brutal treatment and hatred practiced by the government and began to question his Islamic faith.
 Years later, he became a Christian after reading the teaching of Jesus on loving our enemies.
 Reza confessed that the teaching of Jesus was revolutionary to him and caused him to embrace Christianity after struggling with his faith for many years.
 The ultimate example of  "loving our enemies" was  demonstrated by Jesus himself while he was suffering on the cross for our sins.
 Jesus prayed for his executioners by uttering the most beautiful words ever spoken on his lips,
 "Father forgive them for they don't know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
 Jesus lived by what He taught. In the midst of evil and suffering, He forgave.
 This is the royal commandment of Christianity, "Love your enemies."
 Its the teaching that sets Christianity apart from every other religion in the world.
 Mercy triumphs over judgment.
 Are you following the royal commandment of love today?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Experiencing peace with God

 "Peace I leave with you: my peace I give to you.
  Not as the world gives do I give to you.
  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them
  be afraid. "
                       (John 14:27)

  "Leave me alone! I can't take this anymore!"
  All of us have heard these words of desperation before. Maybe even we have uttered them in a moment of panic.
  Stress!! The stress of raising a family, the stress of holding down a job, the stress of a complicated relationship. Stress, stress, stress!
The world is having an anxiety attack and most of us are desperately trying to get away for some relaxation and a little peace of mind. But, where do you find a peace of mind?
In the sixties, the hippie movement chanted, "All we are saying is give peace a chance." Unfortunately most of the young people experimented with marijuana, lsd, and other mind-altering drugs. The anti-authority, anti-government movement of the 60's did little to achieve peace. Instead there were riots, suicide, murders and protest rallies that ended with arrests and very little peace.
 Instead of being addicted to dangerous drugs, many people turned to the east for yoga and transcendental medidation in search of a peace of mind only to discover that the results were artificial and not long lasting.
 Since the turbulent hippie movement of the sixties, have we learned anything? The road to peace was a dead end, so now where do we find a real peace of mind?
 Nearly two thousand years ago, the night before his crucifixion, Jesus made a promise to his fretful and worried disciples. His disciples were much like us. They dealt with real life issues that were filled with stress. Jesus, realizing in a few hours he would experience agonizing pain after being nailed to a cross, spent the last hours of his life comforting his "stressed-out" followers. He made them a promise that would transform their lives in any situation.
 "Peace I leave with you: my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid."
  Jesus did not say, empty your minds, sit in a lotus position and mediate. No. Jesus did not promise a superficial solution to the anxiety and stress all around them. What Jesus did promise was His peace would guard and comfort their hearts in the midst of stress, anxiety and tragedy. He did not promise to remove all of the trials and obstacles of life. What he did promise was that His peace would give them an, "Inward settled assurance" that He was with them in the midst of the pain and suffering. They would have a conviction, a trust, that in the midst of real suffering, His peace would sustain, strengthen and comfort their troubled hearts.
 Would you like to experience this kind of peace?
The kind of peace Jesus is speaking of is a peace that passes all understanding, a peace that flows from a real relationship with God. When you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, your fellowship with God is restored and your broken heart of sin is healed.
 This is the kind of peace that the world needs. Every other pathway will only lead to more stress.
  Jesus has come for stressed-out, troubled and anxious hearts. His peace can be yours. What will you choose today?