Love the Haters

God absolutely delights in using His Word to chisel away at our hardness. It amazes me that whenever I am facing a perceived trial that the words of scripture seem to leap more boldly from pages.

I have recently been put into a position where I will be dealing with some abrasive people.    You don’t need me to tell you that some people are characterized by rudeness and even hostility.  We all encounter them from time to time.  To be around miserable and nasty personalities is not something I ever asked for, but it’s where I am right now.   The condescending treatment, the harsh attitudes, the abusive speech… who needs that kind of stress?!  Wouldn’t it be great to just coast through my days without having to encounter people like this?

So then there’s God’s impeccable timing:  in my reading and meditating time just a few days ago, I came to the section in Matthew 5:43-48… a familiar passage in the Sermon on the Mount:  

“I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

 "If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”

“If you greet only your brothers what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”  

Jesus’s commands in this passage tore through my heart like a tornado in trailer court. Now it’s not like I’ve ever been persecuted to the point of having my eyes gouged out or my fingers cut off.  I have never been in fear for my life by hostile people.   But loving someone who is nasty is just not something that lands at the top of my Christian to-do list.  This group of verses, at least from my perspective, is some of the hardest of the Lord’s expectations of us.  Jesus says to love them. "Seriously?! You want me to actually ‘love’ them?"  And not some passive sort of ‘like’ or ‘tolerance’.   This love He’s talking about is a self-sacrificing, warm, caring love and concern directed toward the one that I would consider my enemy.  And it’s not a suggestion or recommendation. This is a command from Jesus Himself. A strong imperative! That is sooooo totally antithetical to every fleshly cell in my body.  With every ounce of strength in my being, I want to do the opposite.  "Can’t I just defend my honor and be snarky and sarcastic?  I have dignity, you know! Nobody is going to treat me like that!”  

But instead, in this greatest sermon ever preached, Jesus says I am to love my enemies the way God loves them.  He extends His kindness to everyone by giving sunshine and rain to the righteous and to the evil at the same time. Why? Because He loves them.  

It is the way of Jesus that His followers would be distinct… and it is our love for our enemies that makes us distinct.  Who does such a thing?  While everyone else may respond harshly to abrasiveness, true believers will be the ones who respond with love.  And not only that, but we will be the ones wearing out the knees in our favorite jeans, on the floor in serious prayer.  

As I thought through these verses in a new and fresh way, the twisted metal of my hard-heartedness toward those who need Christ lie piled up in a heap as I asked God for strength to make me a brighter light in the darkness.  May the Lord forgive my negligence in praying for these people and give me a renewed vigor to beseech Him on their behalf.   As committed believers and as a church, may these soul-and-spirit-piercing passages awaken us all from our slumber to be in fervent prayer for those in need of salvation.   Prayer changes us.  When the content of our prayers relates to how we respond to the haters, God will implant within us a capacity to love those who are difficult to love.  Genuine love has a way of building a strong platform from where we will be heard.   From an earthly standpoint, effectively sharing the gospel depends on this (speaking the truth in love).  Nobody ever said that loving difficult people was going to be easy… but God has given us His Spirit… and His Spirit gives us the strength to do hard things.

May God grant you many blessings,


Five Ways We Can Pray for Our Pastor

The flaming arrows of the evil one are flying through the air right now, aimed at our pastor.  The enemy can be effective in his deception to destroy the credibility of the Word of God by destroying the deliverer of the message.   The Apostle Paul was acutely aware of his need for prayer when he asked the Ephesian believers to pray for him. 

"Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” - Ephesians 6:19-20

When he spoke to the church at Colossae, Paul exhorted them to devote themselves to prayer, keeping alert in it...  praying that God would open doors for evangelism (Colossians 4:3).  And in First Thessalonians he simply says, “Brethren, pray for us” (5:25).  

If Paul needed the prayers of his fellow workers in the faith, then certain our pastor needs them.   This is an urgent call for all of us to get on our knees and humbly pray for Pastor Jeff.   There are numerous things to pray for when we intercede for our pastor, but here are five specific items to get started: 

1).  Undistracted study time.  Pastor Jeff needs to have full concentration while he's studying scripture and preparing his sermons.  There are a million other important things that can pull him away from his studies.  So it is essential that we pray for him to get adequate quiet time to get his thoughts in order.  We should pray against the enemy using subtle distraction tactics to destroy the effectiveness of sermon preparation. 

2).  Clarity of the Word of God.    We need to pray that his studies are fruitful so that the meaning of scripture is crystal clear to him.  If his job is to clarify what the Word of God says, it is impossible for him to make it clear to us if it is not first clear to him.  There is nothing that the deceiver would like more than to confuse people by muddy preaching. 

3).  Quality family time.  Pastor Jeff’s first mission field is not the crowd of people that assemble on Sunday morning for church.  It is his family.  They need shepherded by him.  And not only that, but his wife needs her husband and his kids need their dad.  A pastor who does not spend time with his wife and children has failed. 

4).  Victory in the fight against discouragement.  Being in full time ministry has it's share of amazing blessings.  But it is also brutal.  Ministry is often a rollercoaster of highs and lows.  Ministry involves people; and while some people are a great encouragement, many will disappoint.   One of the devil's most effective methods in his toolbox of destruction is to use discouragement to ruin someone's ministry.  A massively great encouragement to a pastor is seeing the effects of the Word of God in the people he teaches.  Let’s pray that our church would not only hear what we’re being taught, but also to put into practice all of the principles we learn from God’s servant as he explains the Bible to us.  

5).  Vigilance against pride.  The tendency toward pride is part of the sinful human condition.  It comes naturally to people. Gaining a certain amount of knowledge can very easily vault someone into an attitude of superiority.  Pastors who study well are continually gaining knowledge of the scriptures and if they are not in a constant state of vigilance, they can be puffed up with pride.  This is a sin.  And so we should pray for humility. 

If we want our church to be constantly expanding its influence in the culture, we cannot let the adversary destroy the life-saving message of the gospel by the barrage of attacks on our pastor.   God's answers to these prayers will extinguish the flames on every destructive arrow the enemy can sling.