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“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. John 5:28-29

Have you ever been in a large room with a large group of people? There are conversations going on all around you. Some are a little louder than others. Some are laughing, some engaged in serious conversation.

Suddenly, in the midst of all the noise you hear the voice of your loved one. Not calling you necessarily. Their voice doesn’t even have to be louder than the others. You hear it because it’s a voice of distinction. It’s a voice you know because you love that person. You’ve talked with that person during intimate times and while discussing the mundane things of life. You respond because you have a love relationship with the owner of that voice.

Someday, and perhaps soon, Jesus will return to earth. He’ll come to gather up those who recognize his voice. He’ll call them from the grave that has held them. With one word they will come forth because they will recognize the voice of the one whom they love.

These are the ones who have walked with Jesus during the tough times of life. They’ve followed his ways when the world screamed at them to follow them. They have struggled. Some have fallen, often. But every time they failed they would return to him for forgiveness and then try again to change their ways. Some were victorious in areas of their lives. Some struggled from the day of their birth to the time their earthly bodies could no longer hold them. Regardless of the struggles, they respond because they know his voice as the one they love. This was the voice of one in whom they built a relationship.

Sadly, there will be others who will come forth. These are the ones who heard the voice once or twice but never responded. They chose the way of the world rather than the way of God. They worked hard to make sure that they enjoyed all the ‘good things of life’. They may have followed religion. They may have been spiritual. But they never responded to the call of Jesus to come to him for forgiveness.

They will respond to his voice now. They won’t respond because they recognize him. They will respond because Jesus is Lord of all. He is Lord over those who have responded to him in life. He is Lord over those who have rejected him in life but will come forth in death.

Those who have built a relationship with Jesus in life will be called forth to join him for eternity. Those who have not built a relationship with him in life will be sent into eternity without him,

Today, Jesus is calling you. He’s calling you to enter into a relationship with him. He’s calling you to receive the forgiveness and mercy and grace that comes freely because of his death and resurrection. He’s asking you to let him enter into your life. Someday, and someday soon He’ll call you again. This time, He won’t call you and ask to invite him into your life, He’ll call you to enter into his home. A home that will last for eternity. A home that is free of sin and sorrow and sickness and death.

Will you answer his voice today? Will you accept his invitation now to join in relationship with him based on forgiveness and mercy and grace? Let him live with you now so you can live with him in eternity.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I’ve heard your voice on occasion. I’ve heard about you. I’ve even attended places that teach about you and I’ve sung your songs. But I’ve never asked you to forgive me of my sin. I’ve never chosen to follow you in obedience built on relationship and love. I’m asking you now. Forgive me of my sin. Enter into my life now so I can spend eternity with you. In your name I pray. Amen.

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28

A couple weeks ago we went to a local apple orchard on our fall run to pick some fresh, crisp apples. As we were walking through the rows and rows of trees our conversation turned to the many types of apples there are. Some are sweet, some tart; some soft, some hard; some are good for eating right off the tree, others are better for pies, baking and apple sauce. Amazing the choices we have and there are new varieties coming out every year.

Enemies are like apples in a sense. There are all sorts of them out there. There are enemies a half a world away that we hear about on the news. We shake our heads at them and perhaps our fists. We pray for them, but for most of us, our prayers are vague, general voices of concern for people we’ve never met, and based on fear of our own safety and freedom.

There are the enemies based in the political arena, whether that is church politics or government. Again, we’ve never seen them but the choices they make directly, or indirectly affect our comfort and from time to time attack our convictions.

There is the unseen enemy of course. Satan, or one of his ugly cohorts, lurks behind every corner waiting to through darts of worry, temptation, judgmental, anger or a whole host of lies at us. Lies about our self-worth; lies about our God; lies about other people.

Perhaps the biggest enemy each of us faces every day is the enemy next door. I don’t mean your physical neighbor, but those who are closest to you emotionally. The child that no longer sees it necessary to follow your faith; the spouse who neglects, abuses or abandoned you, the boss who never sees anything you do as worthwhile. The friend or family member that misunderstands you, accuses you or makes you feel worthless. The parent who has never ever been there for you but now has all this advice to give you, advice you don’t need or want.

These enemies hurt the worst because, if we let them, they determine who we are, how we feel about ourselves and what God is like. They are the closest ones to us emotionally and can destroy us in a heartbeat with a flippant word, sarcasm or open attack.

It’s also these enemies that Jesus talked about on the hillside that day. He wasn’t telling the people to love some system that caused them pain. He was talking about the people we rub shoulders with every day. The ones that hurt us constantly. The people who, when we see them, cause the lump to form in your gut.

So, how can we do that? How can we love that person who hates the ground we walk on? How can we love that person who once professed to love us but has now turned their back on us? What Jesus is really commanding us to do is to counter every negative action directed towards us with a positive action. Sometimes that may mean that even though we have to remove ourselves from a harmful situation, we still refuse to speak evil of the person who attacked us. Sometimes it may mean praying a prayer that says, “God, I am supposed to pray for them but I’m so full of hurt right now I can’t. Help me.” I believe God honors the honest prayer of helplessness when we have to deal with the painful enemies of our heart.

I have to confess that the idea of being kind to people who have openly, intentionally and willfully attacked me isn’t pleasant. In fact, I struggle to do that. This is perhaps the hardest part of the Christian life, to love those in my circle who refuse to love back. So, how do we do it? Here are some suggestions from a person who has not yet attained.

  1. Remember that God DOES love you and understands how hard it is to love people who reject and hurt you. People do it to Him every day and since we are made in His image that means He feels that pain as well.
  2. Remember that God also created the ‘jerks’ of the world and His desire it to bring them to Himself, just as He did you.
  3. Remember that God realizes that you can’t do this on your own. It’s a process and requires that we lean heavily on the power of the Holy Spirit to help us.
  4. Lastly, Remember that we are told to love our enemies and as much as possible live at peace with them. Loving our enemies doesn’t necessarily mean we trust and live in relationship with those who have abused us physically, spiritually or emotionally.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father. I’m hurt. The hurt that I feel right now is the result of people who I thought I could trust who have turned on me. They are family members, friends, former lovers and/or even my own children. I feel completely alone and misunderstood here. Still, because of Jesus in my life I want to do as you’ve commanded. I want to love my enemies through the power of your Holy Spirit. Please help me have the wisdom and strength to love those nearest to me. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. Psalm 142:2

“I just wish he’d listen to me and not try to fix everything!”

Ever heard someone say that about someone else? Maybe they’ve said it about you? Or perhaps you’ve said those words yourself either out loud or in your mind. There are times when life seems so overwhelming and unbearable that we just need to speak our mind. We don’t need grammatical correction or advice or solutions. We just need to talk.

The problem is that as humans we have this little part of our brain that says we need to fix everything and heal everyone. The spot tends to be larger and more pronounced in the male brain but everyone has it!

It may be when a friend is going through health issues or has lost a loved one. It happens when moms, in particular, send the oldest child off to school the first day with tears in her eyes.  It can happen even during those times when you can’t put your finger on what’s bugging you but you just need to cry. Life happens and there are times when solutions, advice and judgment are unneeded, unwanted and out of place.

During one of the times when David was on the run from King Saul he hid in a cave and wrote what we know as Psalm 142. In reading the entire Psalm we read the words of a man distraught and full of all sorts of emotion. He was angry. He was afraid. He was tired. He was no doubt lonely and confused as well. But in the midst of his turmoil he remembers that there is one person he can go to when he needs to be heard.

The same is true for us today. There will be times when no one understands. There will be times when you don’t want to talk to people because you don’t want to risk getting a boat load of unwanted advice, judgment, solutions or stories about how someone else had “the same problem and they tried…”.

That’s where God comes in. It’s hard to think of God giving you His undivided attention. First of all, you can’t see Him (although He sees you from inside out). Secondly, we get this idea that with all the ‘big things’ going on in the world, He’s far too involved with wars, earthquakes and disease to be able to listen to you. (That by the way is a lie straight from Satan himself)

Your Heavenly Father never sleeps. He’s never out of touch with your needs, wants, desires and emotions. He is always available to listen and, even though He does have all the answers, He will simply listen to your words, your heart and your thoughts without judgment.

What an awesome promise to take with you today. When you fail, He supports you. When you win, He cheers for you. When you cry, He listens and holds you close.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, I thank you for the promises that you have given me that you will always be there for me. Thank you for understanding me when I don’t understand myself, for listening when no one else will listen, for encouraging when life is discouraging. Help me to remember that I can always come to you without fear of being ignored, judged or scolded. Amen.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 1 Peter 1:13-14

On September 11, 2001 the world was shocked into attention by the terrorist attacks leveled against the United States in and around New York City and Washington D. C. The attacks that day served as a wake-up call to the United States of America as well as the rest of the world. The world would never again be the same and security would always be in jeopardy.

In order to try to offer some sort of warning the Department of Homeland Security came up a system to alert us to the possibility of terrorist attacks and/or activity. Threat levels range from Green (low risk of terrorist attack) to Red (high risk of terrorist attack). To authorities it is no longer a question of ‘if’ we are attacked, but ‘when’ we are attacked, and ‘how’?

When the Apostle Peter wrote to the early Christian church his world was equally dangerous. The threat wasn’t nuclear attack or blowing up airplanes or shopping malls of course. In his day Christians were more likely to be used as lion food or as torches to light Nero’s gardens at night. A Christian, or ‘little Christ’s’, as they were mockingly referred to, lived under constant threat of attack.

It’s under these circumstances the Peter pens the warning. “Prepare for action…don’t conform!” The warning still holds true for us today as Christ followers. We are under a ‘threat level of Red’ because our enemy is standing at the door waiting to attack when we least expect it. His attacks aren’t physical but mental and emotional. That’s why Peter tells us to prepare our minds for action. That’s where the battle is fought. We need to live with the knowledge that the enemy is at our door. It isn’t a question of ‘if’ he will attack, but ‘when’ and ‘how’?

The enemies attack on our minds is often a subtle one, telling us that this sin or that sin isn’t so bad. We start to believe the lies we hear about ourselves, about God, about Christianity. We lose sight of who we are and what it really means to be a Christ follower. We take God for granted and take advantage of the fact that we are forgiven. We harbor hatred and unforgiving attitudes towards those who reject us.

Peter tells us to stop thinking as the world thinks. Don’t allow your mind to guide you into a life of negative thoughts about yourself or others. Don’t allow your bodies to become subject to the actions you know are displeasing to Jesus. Focus on making your thoughts and actions take the form of Jesus. Each day, before you even get out of bed ask Jesus to help keep your mind and actions focused on Him. Even though our enemy is powerful, “greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world.”

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I confess that I’ve been lulled into being complacent. My thoughts and actions too often take on the form of the world and I find myself succumbing to the attacks and losing the battle. Help me to seek your help and power each day to live with a mind ready for action and a body that refuses to be conformed to the sinful actions of the world. Amen.

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