Love your enemy: a dangerous prayer rewarded

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”–Matthew 5:43-44 (NASB)

The Bible, Jesus in particular, has a way of commanding whatever is most counterintuitive. We are such creatures of the world that, even as believers in Christ, the ways of the world seem more normal than what Jesus asks. Here he tells us to love and pray for enemies.

Ahmadinejad on a missile, after stealing the latest election

I have prayed salvation for Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and other enemies of America and Christ.… Read the rest

Don’t let caution put your fire out

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” — 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NIV)

Paul loved Timothy and trusted him with the most difficult of tasks. He wrote to the Philippians that of his entire staff, only Timothy was like-minded. Like Paul, Timothy suffered persecution, but it seems to have gotten into his mind.

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul reminded him that the spirit God has given Christians is of power, love, and a sound mind.… Read the rest

Loving disagreement: Paul addresses heresy

I confess that I usually pass over the first few verses of Paul’s epistles without paying much attention. After all, they’re just greeting formulas and opening remarks before getting down to the real meat, right?

So I have just prepared a Sunday school lesson based on the first fourteen verses of Colossians. Colossians has fewer verses to skip over than some epistles. It begins with an account of how Paul prays for that church. I have studied that as an intercessory prayer. The assigned lesson is about faith within a community, so I have had to take a fresh look at this passage.… Read the rest

Next words of Jesus: Do you love me?

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?'” — John 21:15 (NIV)

Shane Stanford, whose The Seven Next Words of Christ (Abingdon Press, 2006) provided the framework for this series of devotions, considered the entire 21st chapter of John as a single word. There is a certain symmetry to seven last words balanced by seven next words. Besides, according to the number symbolism in biblical times, seven is the number of completion. Still, I think Jesus’ interview with Peter is too important to combine it with anything else.… Read the rest

A special prayer for one of Paul’s friends: Philemon

One thing I’m starting to love about Paul’s letters is that so many of them contain prayers for the church receiving them. He wrote a brief letter to his friend Philemon, which also begins with a prayer.

While in a Roman prison, Paul met a man named Onesimus, grew quite fond of him, and came to rely on him. When Paul wrote letters, he couldn’t just put a stamp on them and expect the post office to get it where it was going. He had to enlist the help of trusted couriers. Who better than Onesimus to carry Ephesians and Colossians back to his home?… Read the rest

Prayer that really works

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”–I John 5:14, NIV

I spent years, decades, comparing what I prayed for with what I got. I struggled that whole time with trying to find scriptures to “claim” so that what I asked for was according to God’s will. All that happened was that, little by little, I began to doubt that God loved me.

More recently, I have done something else. I have asked God to remake my thoughts. I have asked God to conform me to the image of Jesus.… Read the rest

Love never fails–really?

“Love never fails.”–1 Corinthians 13:8, NIV

If love never fails, then why do half of all marriages end in divorce? For that matter, why has nearly everyone who ever marries for the first time had at least one painful breakup before marrying? Why do parents and their children often have such stormy relationships?

Perhaps love did not fail, but someone failed to love? Maybe what looked and felt like love really wasn’t?

God is love. God never fails.

Love is made in heaven. Beware of inferior imitations!

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