Praying for Your Enemies?

matthew_5.44-45_kjv_wallpaper

When reading the Bible and trying to live a Godly life, we’ll inevitably come across passages that make us uncomfortable and instruct us to do something that we really don’t want to do. The passage above from Matthew is one such example, and when I first read it, I sat in contemplation wondering if I could actually do what it was asking of me. Pray for my enemies? Granted, I don’t have too many enemies (that I know of), but a select few came to mind, and I was like How can I pray for this person who has hurt me so much? How can I pray for this one who despises me so much? 

Types of Enemies

First of all, I think it’s important to clarify that there are two types of enemies: those who have wronged us and those who we have wronged. It can be difficult to pray for either type. It can be hard to forgive those who have wronged us enough to pray for them. Likewise, it can be difficult to forgive ourselves enough to pray for those who we have wronged and made an enemy of. Therefore, I think that before we can pray for our enemies, we must first pray for ourselves and have a forgiving spirit within ourselves to forgive either other people who have wronged us or ourselves for causing pain to others. Only then can we carry out God’s missive to pray for our enemies.

How to Pray for Our Enemies

I knew that when God instructs us to pray for our enemies that we are supposed to pray something good. What I mean is that I don’t believe that God wants us to pray in hate that something bad happens to our enemies because then we wouldn’t be praying in love. No, I believe that when God instructs us to pray for our enemies, he wants us to pray that He touches their lives, changes their ways and puts forgiveness in their hearts if we have wronged them.

Sometimes He might also instruct us to go a step further outside our comfort zone and speak with our enemies. For example, He might tell us to let the person who wronged us know that we have forgiven him or her. Likewise, if we have wronged someone, He might instruct us to apologize to that person.

Results

When God puts it on our hearts to pray for our enemies, I believe there are always results whether we see them or not. I have some enemies I have prayed for that I have not felt impressed upon to speak to, and then I have others who I did have to speak to.

Not so very long ago, I had to pray and apologize to someone who I had wronged back when I was hurting and rebelling and hadn’t turned to God yet. I’d been praying for all my enemies for a little over a year when I felt like I needed to contact one of them. I didn’t want to speak to this person because of our interactions in the past. I debated on contacting them (I know I’m not using the correct pronoun here for all you grammar Nazis like myself, but for the sake of keeping the gender of the person in question anonymous, I must engage in this faux pas. Please forgive me. 😜) for days, but then the burden got so heavy that I knew I had to do it if I was going to have peace in my life. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do – to apologize to them and tell them that I was praying for them.

However, when I told them that I was praying for peace in their life, I suddenly found that I meant every word. I didn’t wish ill on this person, despite all our negative interactions in the past. I didn’t hear back from them at first, but then I was instructed to speak to them a second time and, in doing so, I finally received a response, and it was like a weight had been lifted off both of us. Never in a million years would I have thought this person would forgive me, but they did, and my life has been even more peaceful ever since.

9d591454d464d5c4b9a0f8c8edd4e115

That is the kind of power that God has. He is so great that he can bring peace into every aspect of your life, even concerning your enemies.

This experience was one of the greatest blessings and most notable shows of God’s greatness that I’ve experienced, and I believe that God wanted me to share it with you.

You might not have the same results that I had. Your enemies may never forgive you, and those who hurt you may never care that you forgave them. They may never change their ways. However, prayer does work, and whether you see the results or not, when God puts it on your heart to pray for your enemies and you do so in the right spirit, I believe those prayers go to good use, so forgive others, forgive yourself and pray for your enemies with that same forgiving spirit and watch God work miracles.

Advertisements

Overcoming Struggles and Doubts About Your Salvation After a Loved One Passes

My grandmother recently passed away. She died Sunday, March 11, of this year after a battle with amiodarone toxicity. We were all under the impression that she was getting better and that it would just be a slow recovery. Unfortunately, though, as the doctor on staff the day she passed put it “her heart was simply wore out from fighting the lung condition caused by the amiodarone toxicity.” Her heart failed, and they tried to resuscitate her several times, but to no avail.

This isn’t my first time losing a loved one. I lost my grandfather (her husband) to lung cancer years ago when I was just a young teen. However, I was younger then, and I suppose youth helped me deal with the loss better. I mourned and still miss him greatly, but it has been doubly hard with my grandmother’s passing. Of course, I have known her twice as long now, and she has been there with me through everything, never giving up on me even throughout all my troubled, rebellious times.

I officially accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior on December 3, 2014, when I was 26 years old. I know not everyone knows the date of their salvation, and that is perfectly okay. I wrote mine down in the Bible that Dad bought me that very day. I already had numerous Bibles, of course, being raised in a Christian home throughout my childhood. However, Dad wanted to buy me that cute little pink one since he knew it was my favorite color and to mark my special day. It’s actually a teen Bible, I believe, but there’s a neat little spot inside it where you can write down the date of your salvation, and I did that. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I like knowing my date, so I’m glad that he bought me that.

I had thought I was saved once before when I was 8 years old, but I know now that I was not. My dad was a pastor of a church during my teenage years, and I resented anything having to do with church. I attended church, but I was not happy doing so. I really wanted nothing to do with anything pertaining to God. I didn’t want to hear Gospel music and very rarely read the Bible. I became a master at tuning out the sermons and fought against feelings of conviction, convincing myself that I was already saved. When I was 8, I was too young to understand true conviction and was just a young girl trying to please her parents and church.

Since I’ve been grown, I’ve done many things I’m not proud of and that go against everything I was taught in a Christian home. I broke my family’s hearts, and while I didn’t do what I did to hurt them and felt somewhat bad for my actions when confronted by them, I didn’t really care enough. I was selfish and did what I wanted to do.

When I hit rock bottom is when I finally turned to God on the aforementioned date. I had to go through many troubled times to give in to His call. I am stubborn, but I am so grateful that God never gave up on me. Even in my darkest hours, He was always there. The first thing I would do when something bad happened to me would be to cry out to Him for help. It came as an instinct – His name. When something truly horrible happened and I couldn’t even think, laying on the floor in pain, all that was in my head was God, help me, so I think deep down I’ve always believed in Him even if I didn’t want to accept Him. In fact, I think everyone knows deep down that there is a God because when you are truly, truly faced with the possibility of death (like you think you are going to die), that is where your mind goes. At least it was for me. I didn’t think. It came instantly, which further proves to me that God is real.

Since I accepted Him, I have still made many mistakes. However, now when I make mistakes, the guilt is so much worse than it was before. I in no way live perfect, but I do strive to be a better Christian. I can now read the Bible and listen to songs and praises about God without feeling anger or discomfort. I actually want to know more about Him and yearn to learn. Others, especially family members, say that they could tell the difference in me even before I told them I was saved, so I know that I really was saved this time around.

However, with the passing of my grandmother, I became vulnerable. My defenses were down because my heart was broken. I had prayed so hard for her to recover from her illness, and many in the community had as well. Many of my online friends who didn’t even know her personally prayed for her. It was encouraging. I was convinced that God would answer our prayers, so when she passed, I was initially shocked and then very angry. Looking back now I can see the signs of how He’d been trying to prepare me for the eventuality of her passing, but I didn’t want to believe it. I was scared and worried about her and cried a lot during those weeks of her illness, but it was still a shock when it happened.

It’s not even been a full week that she’s been gone, but it seems so much longer spiritually because of the spiritual battle I’ve been having with myself. My entire faith was shaken. I began to doubt whether I was even really saved or not since I was doubting whether prayer worked. I kept thinking about how I was wrong about being saved when I was younger. My mind kept telling me, You were wrong before. Maybe you’re wrong again. Surely if you are really saved, you wouldn’t be feeling this way. You wouldn’t have any doubts – even for a moment. You’re not really a saved Christian. You don’t really even believe in God. This is all there is. I should be confident that my grandma is in Heaven with Jesus. I shouldn’t question whether there is even a God or anything after this life if I was truly saved. These thoughts tormented me, and I am deeply ashamed that I even had them now.

However, God sent someone to me before my grandmother ever passed to give me a message that he knew I would need during this time. She told me that she was praying for my grandmother but that when she prayed, she prayed for healing, and she explained to me that God WOULD answer our prayers – that she was confident of that. However, she said that she didn’t know how He would do it. She said that He would either do so in her current body or by giving her a new one. In other words, He would heal her earthly body and allow her more time with us here on Earth, or He would give her the ultimate healing and take her on to Heaven where she would be healed eternally and in no pain ever again.

Of course, I wanted to believe that He would give her more time here, so I tried to be more specific with my prayer, praying that He would heal her body on this earth. When I finally calmed down some, God reminded me of what this lady had told me, and then I was also reminded that God answers our prayers if they are in accordance with His will too. I thought that I could coerce God into answering my prayer by being more specific with my wording, but He still answered it while staying within His will because her body on Earth is technically healed. One of the definitions of heal is to “alleviate a person’s distress or anguish,” which He did. Her body is no longer in distress or anguish.

Yet, still these doubts continued to nag at me. If I am doubting God, how can I be saved? I must remember how I am different now than I was before December 3, 2014. How I care more, feel guilty more when I do something wrong. Part of my struggle is that I do not hear a voice like some people say they do. I do not have visions. God does not speak to me that way. It’s more like little thoughts or feelings that I get that won’t go away, but then Satan wars with me and tries to tell me that I am crazy and that these are my own thoughts that I’ve conjured up in my mind – that it’s not really God telling me anything, that it’s what I want to believe.

But then…I thought and thought about it this morning and realized that that can’t be true because many times the thoughts and feelings I have are NOT want I want to hear. Sometimes I really, really want to do certain things and feel like I shouldn’t, so I wouldn’t be conjuring that up myself if I really wanted to do them. That is God warning me not to do them, and when I think back on those times when I didn’t heed those warnings, I can recall all the bad things that came from them.

Then I listened to a song this morning that really hit me hard and I think was God’s way of reassuring me and helping me understand that I am indeed saved and to not doubt it anymore – that those doubts are simply the enemy trying to bring me down and pull me away while I am weakened. The song is called The Blood is Still There. I heard it many times at church over the years growing up, but it’s been years since I’ve heard it (probably at least a decade), and it never struck me this way before. The lyrics that spoke to me are the following:

Looking over all the damage Satan’s storm had left behind

The flood of endless questions and doubts had filled my mind

And the fear that gripped my troubled soul brought me back to my knees in prayer,

Crying, “Father, will you please look and see if the Blood is still there?”

It suddenly made sense to me that even saved Christians can have doubts. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t really saved. They just need reassure from time to time, and Jesus’s blood is that reassurance. The song goes on to say the following, which is God’s answer:

Son, now don’t you worry, for the blood is there to stay

The winds may blow, and the rains may fall, but it won’t just wash away.

The blood will stand the raging storm, it’s been applied with loving care

Safe, secure, you can rest assured that the blood is still there.

I suddenly thought, Once we’re saved, we’re saved. The doubts are simply planted there because the enemy wants to torment us and pull us away, especially when he sees us praying more and trying to draw closer like I have been doing recently.

I am no preacher, nor do I attempt to be. I am simply giving my testimony of my experience with the struggles and doubts that can come to haunt Christians after a loved one passes. And while I am a writer, I struggle to put all this into words. It is extremely difficult for me to express these experiences to the fullest.

Below is the song that helped remind me that as long as we truly believe in Jesus and repent of our sins that is all it takes to be saved. He paid the price for us, and we just have to accept it and push all the doubts from our mind, which is sometimes hard to do for someone like me who has so many questions and wants to rationalize everything into a form that makes sense.

I hope this helps someone else out there, and please pray for me and my family – that we can stay strong and keep the faith. I can now confidently say that I know deep in my heart that my grandmother, grandfather and other loved ones who’ve passed are in Heaven and that I WILL see them again one day.

If you have any experiences of how God speaks to you or lets you know things, please share them with me. It would be comforting to hear how others have struggled with doubts about God, especially after they’ve been saved.

Daily Reading: Right Relationships

As many of you know, I’ve undertaken the challenge to read Dr. Stanley’s daily devotionals every day, and this is the topic of today’s devotion.

IMG_4873

While I don’t make it a point to blog about each day’s devotion, I thought I would take the time to do this one because it really hit home for me.

If only I had read this years ago and asked myself these questions with previous relationships…

Basically, what I glean from this is that if the person you’re in a relationship with (whether it is a friendship, platonic relationship or a romantic one) doesn’t meet the conditions listed above in italics, then it’s probably not a relationship that God wants you to pursue.

I’ve been in relationships before where the other party bristled at the mere mention of God, much less wanted to support me in any endeavors of faith. If you feel like you can’t share your faith with the person that you’re friends with or in a romantic relationship with, then what kind of relationship can you have?

I wish I’d asked myself that back then. However, sometimes in our desperation to save a relationship, we’ll bend to the other party’s wishes and actually continue on with a relationship that God would rather us depart from because it’s affecting our faith in a negative way. We’ll dim our lights by choosing not to talk about God or faith so as not to offend the other person or cause him or her to move away from us.

Likewise, if you are in a relationship with someone, and tension and strife always seem to exist between you, then the relationship can’t be healthy. Breaking away from the wrong types of relationships can be hard, and doing so doesn’t mean that you no longer care about the other person, but in the end, you’ll be so much happier in your faith when you do so. Trust me. I know. 

…choose the right relationships…without them, we will be unable to accomplish much in life.

That quote in particular resonated with me because I can remember a time in my life when I was in the wrong relationships, and it seemed I couldn’t accomplish anything. Everything I did seemed to backfire in my face, and I certainly was not happy. In fact, things progressively got worse and worse until I was forced to make a choice. Only when I got rid of the wrong relationships and went back to the right ones did I begin to see an improvement in my life. You’ll know the right relationships when you find them, too, because they are the people who will be there for you no matter what. They will encourage you, support you and greet you like the prodigal son when you stray from them and then return.

As far as the other party of a wrong relationship goes, all you can do is pray for him or her, and maybe one day if he or she comes to accept Christ as you have, then your paths will cross again, and you can cultivate a healthy relationship. Until then, you must move on.

Resolutions and Readings

I’m usually not one for making official New Year’s resolutions. Rather, I simply do what I try to do on a daily basis, which is to be a little bit better than I was yesterday. While this isn’t going to a be a fancy resolution, it’s just a little something that I’m going to try to do this year.

As Christians, we should always strive to better ourselves and to emit love and kindness, shining a bit of light in the oftentimes dark world.

While I’ve made progress with my venture to read the Bible all the way through, cover to cover (I’m 44% done with it now), I wanted to do a little something else every day to strengthen my faith. That’s why I’ve decided to start reading Dr. Charles Stanley’s In Touch daily devotionals every day.

I’ve been subscribing to Dr. Stanley’s In Touch magazine for about a year now, and I must confess that most months, I got the little pamphlet and haphazardly flipped through it. However, upon closer inspection, I realized that the magazine that’s sent out every month is actually designed to be read over a 30-day period. There’s a one-page reading for each day of the month. Each page is probably less than 500 words. Just a short little article that stimulates the mind and causes it to reflect upon certain Christlike teachings or passages from the Bible.

So that is my New Year’s resolution: to get in the habit of reading one of these daily devotionals along with my standard daily Bible reading. While I am a huge advocate of reading the Bible for yourself so YOU can know what it says rather than just accepting what’s told to you, I also think it’s stimulating to take advantage of other resources as well that prompt your mind to reflect on points that you might not otherwise have derived on your own. Just like any type of sharing of ideas furthers discussion and leads to enlightenment, so does reading other people’s thoughts on biblical passages.

Here’s what each monthly pamphlet looks like:

IMG_4058 (1)

Each day’s devotional even includes suggested Bible chapters to read if you want to read the Bible in an entire year. That would have been a great endeavor for me to undertake had I not already started reading it straight through. Plus, I suppose I’m too OCD to jump around chapters (at least for the first complete read-through).

If you’d like to join me on this daily devotional reading challenge, you can sign up for a digital or print subscription to In Touch at In Touch Ministries. It’s completely FREE, so you have nothing to lose. Plus, you’ll occasionally be presented with opportunities to get free Bibles, journals and other gifts of encouragement when you subscribe.

If you choose to embark on this journey with me, please let me know by commenting below. I truly hope you do!

A Scripture a Day Keeps the Devil at Bay

AScriptureADayKeepsTheDevilAtBay

If you’re like me, then you probably stay busy. It might be difficult to fit in time for reading, but as a Christian, I’ve found that it’s extremely helpful to read a bit of the Bible every day, no matter how busy you are.

As this graphic aptly states, just a scripture a day can keep the devil at bay. Even if you don’t have time to read an entire chapter, just reading a verse or two can make a huge difference in your daily outlook.

When I think back on some of the worst days of my life, sure enough I didn’t read my daily scripture. This isn’t to say that just because you read a verse of the Bible you’ll have a fantastic day. We all undoubtedly will have bad days and troublesome times. However, I’ve personally found that reading at least one scripture a day greatly improves my mood and helps me stay positive.

Much of how “good” or “bad” your day turns out to be is influenced by your outlook. Reading a scripture a day can help you maintain the positive outlook you need for success, which is part of why I encourage all fellow Christians to engage in the practice of reading at least one scripture a day. Not only will it help improve your attitude, but it’ll help keep you grounded in your faith and close to God.

Ways to Read a Scripture Every Day

Nowadays there’s really no excuse for not reading a scripture every day. Even if you don’t have a physical copy of your Bible in hand with you at all times, you most likely have your phone, laptop, tablet or other device, and there’s a couple of ways to read scriptures on these devices.

Reading Apps

Download a reading app onto your device, and then download your favorite version of the Bible to the app. Select from Kindle, Nook, iBooks or countless other reading apps, and then choose the King James Version, New International version or whatever version of the Bible you’re most comfortable with and download it to your device as well. You can get downloadable copies of virtually every version of the Bible completely free.

I’m a Kindle fan, so I mostly read the Bible on my Kindle Paperwhite. I’m also on a mission to fully read the Bible from cover to cover (surprisingly, I’ve never done that yet), and for my first read-through, I’m reading the English Standard Version (ESV). My reason for doing so is because for my first time I wanted the text to be simpler for better understanding – so that I can better “get” the gist of every event that happened. After the first read-through, then I’ll go back and reread with the more traditional King James Version.

I’m a firm believer that you should use the version you’re most comfortable with. I’m of the mindset that it’s not effective to drudge through reading that you don’t understand. What good is it to read a verse if you don’t get anything out of it? That’s the biggest complaint I commonly hear about the Bible – that it’s hard to understand. True, Old English text and phrases can be difficult to comprehend. That’s why I prefer to read a more modernized translation and then work my way up to the more traditional format. Again, do whatever works for you, though.

Daily Bible Verse Apps

Alternatively (or in addition to), download a daily Bible verse app. These apps auto-generate a “verse of the day” for each day. All you have to do is open up the app and read the verse. Some of them can even be configured to deliver a “New Verse of the Day” notification to your phone at the time you choose. For instance, I personally like the following app:

Bible Daily Verses

It’s available for download on both iTunes and Android devices, and you can even get daily Bible verses delivered to your email by visiting the developer’s website if you’d prefer to get your scriptures that way.

I love having the app on my phone, though, because you can change the app’s background to whatever you wish (I have mine set to a lovely baby blue damask pattern), and I have mine set to deliver my new verse of the day every day at 7 a.m. I really like this feature because I get a little “ping” that reminds me to read my verse of the day, so even if I get so busy that I fail to open up my physical Bible and read it later on, I’ve at least started my day off right by reading at least one verse. Plus, not only can you customize the background on this app and set your notifications, but you can also toggle between Bible versions and languages. I even like to take the verse of the day from this app and write it on a dry erase board I keep on the fridge to remind me of the verse throughout the day.

Of course, there’s plenty of other great daily Bible verse apps out there, and you can use whatever one you wish. I’ve tried several, but this one remains my favorite.

So when you’re looking for a way to keep the devil at bay, remember to read a scripture a day!

How do you prefer to read the Bible? What measures do you take to get in your daily Bible reading? Feel free to comment your thoughts below.