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Perfected Love: Loving the Unlovable (Part 2)
Therefore, you shall be perfect,
Matthew 5: 48 presents a topic that cannot be addressed without godly wisdom. So before going any further, this is a very good place to stop and pray for courage and wisdom.
Last week, I began wrestling with the concept of perfection addressed by Jesus in Matthew 5: 48. The wording of verse 48 prompted me to back up and read verses 43 to 47. Today's journal entry delves deeper into Matthew 5: 43-47 where Jesus reestablishes a new standard for love and asserts that his followers love their enemies. As I open my heart to the Holy Spirit's leading, I want to better understand how this portion of God's word applies to me.
The Anatomy of an Enemy
"Love Your Enemies"
Before going any further, I will echo the specific unsavory traits an enemy may display toward God's people as written in Matthew 5: 43-44.
In essence, Jesus concluded the old and ushered in the new to establish something more powerful and everlasting. His plan? His followers, unlike any others, would knowingly follow the example of the Father by demonstrating love to those who cursed, hated, used and persecuted them.
Biblical Examples of Enemies
An enemy endeavors to maintain contentious relationships. Some Biblical examples of these types of contentious relationships are listed below:
1. King Herod vs Jesus (Matthew 2) : Jesus is born into adversity as King Herod seeks to find and kill the baby king that threatens his kingdom.
2. Saul vs Ananias (Acts 9: 1-22) : Saul's unexpected and radical conversion to Christianity was confusing and cautiously received by those Christians familiar with his reputation for persecuting the people of God
3. Each one of us vs The Cross of Christ (Ephesians 2: 1-3; Colossians 1: 21-22; Romans 5: 8) : Before we were born again into a new life in Christ, we were all enemies in a world of iniquity.
An enemy can be a friend, a brother, a sister, or a neighbor who can make life extremely difficult for a child of God. They can create a contentious environment for an innocent newborn, as King Herod created for baby Jesus. An enemy will certainly breathe threats and may even shed blood like Saul. An enemy is born into a world of iniquity as we all were. Yet, anyone called a friend of Jesus is called to bless, love, and pray for that enemy.
Stories From the Enemy
How can we love an enemy, that is so unlovable? At one time, we were all unlovable. We were all dead in our trespasses and sin. We would have all been without hope had it not been for Christ. We could have all been lost had it not been for someone who managed to love us when we were an unlovable enemy.
I grew up in Milton, Florida and had an older neighbor who was a devoted Christian. She taught people the gospel every chance she could. She would drive to pick people up and take them to Sunday worship and Bible classes. She visited the sick on a regular basis. And, when the weather was nice, I could count on seeing her sitting on her front porch to read her Bible in the mornings and evenings. And beyond this, I learned that this sister not only opened her home to my Dad and Mom when they were newcomers to the area but also taught my Dad the gospel.
You would think that a woman as devoted to Christ as my neighbor was would never have to worry about hatred, persecution or spitefulness. Unfortunately, there were occasions when this well-respected sister became the brunt of jokes among me and other kids in my neighborhood. It was terrible.
I'm sure we all could share unfortunate stories as someone who led or participated in actions that disparaged Christians or worse. That type of behavior may have seemed justified when it was focused on Christian people who dressed funny, had annoying qualities or, basically, didn't fit in with everyone else. The irony is Christians, by nature, are not supposed to "fit in".
My point is this, we were all enemies at one time in our lives. We were forgiven because we didn't really know what we were doing. Someone loved us when we could not love in return. Someone loved us when we were the enemy, they blessed us as we cursed, and they prayed for us when we persecuted and spitefully used them. When we were that person, someone loved us with a radical love like the Father.
According to Matthew 5: 43, loving your neighbor and hating your enemy was the acceptable wisdom of that time. Godly wisdom teaches us to love our enemies. It directs us to bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute us. This is the love that someone perfected to be examples of God's goodness. This is the love that someone perfected to bring us out of the world when we were unlovable.
By the grace of God, it is possible to love those who do not love us. When we perfect that impossible love, we become perfect imitators of our Father in heaven.
This is only a start. Check back next week for more journal notes.
What Have You Learned About Wisdom and Perfection?
What additional ideas would you add?
Share your thoughts on this topic.
** I rate my journal entries as Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced for the benefit of my readers. This entry is Advanced. An advanced rating means that the topic may be better suited for experienced Bible Teachers, ministry leaders, spiritual leaders, etc. who are experienced with challenging Bible topics.
LaQuetta Belvin: A 360 Degree Beauty
LaQuetta is married to JaMeek Belvin and, this year, they celebrated their 9th wedding anniversary. Together the couple currently has two boys ages 8 and 2. However, their family of four will soon be a family of five now that LaQuetta is pregnant with their third child. During their gender reveal celebration, the Belvin family announced they are expecting a girl. “We got our baby girl!”, LaQuetta joyfully exclaimed during the reveal.
LaQuetta is one mom who is absolutely in love with her children and with being a mother. “They are my everything”, she admits. She finds great joy in being a mother and looks forward to adding another child to her family. Her oldest child was a blessing that strengthened her family bond and brought she and JaMeek even closer as a couple. LaQuetta’s second son was a surprise. Her doctors discovered her pregnancy while they were treating her during one of LaQuetta’s flare-ups.
The flare-ups LaQuetta refers to is a complication of Crohn’s Disease, an IBD (Intestinal Bowel Disease). Her diagnosis came in 2004 when LaQuetta was a college student. It is a painful and troublesome disease that can trigger complications requiring hospital stays and occasional surgery. Her illness is not something LaQuetta relishes talking about. When she has a flare-up, she prefers to put on a smile. “I like to keep it moving”, she says with a laugh. “I tell myself ‘It’s gonna be alright!’, LaQuetta adds. And following her suggestion, I keep the conversation moving.
LaQuetta's Faith Journey
It was not LaQuetta’s own illness that tested her faith the most. “I’ve been through so many storms that have tested me,” she says. It was her oldest son’s surgery that put her faith to the test. During that very difficult experience, LaQuetta took the time to reflect back on God’s faithfulness in every aspect of her life. She then decided that she would trust Him through her son's illness too. Her fears were calmed by those thoughts. Her faith worked to strengthen her and helped her to remain positive despite the circumstances.
In those trying times LaQuetta recalls her favorite scriptures, Psalms 27: 1-3 :
This passage from the book of Psalms comforted LaQuetta most recently when she found herself hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19. "Whew, I don't want anyone to go through that. People should take it seriously. It's real.", LaQuetta says. She was in her third trimester when she received her test results. At the request of her mother, her church family prayed for LaQuetta's recovery and the health of her baby. It took two hospital visits before LaQuetta defeated that enemy, also known as the Corona virus. By faith, we thank God for her recovery.
This year’s pandemic negatively impacted LaQuetta’ s career but, simultaneously, directed her into a new venture. Like many of us, LaQuetta put her talents to use and launched a quarantine business selling jewelry. Currently, her jewelry inventory includes her very own bracelet collection. In the future, she plans to expand and diversify her offerings.
The LB Collection (lbcollectionbrand.com) is the online market for LaQuetta’s exclusive brand.
What’s the next big thing on LaQuetta’s calendar? It is the birth of her baby girl. In just a few days, she will welcome her first daughter. But once she and her family have adjusted to life with a new child in the family, LaQuetta is looking forward to 2021 when she and JaMeek will celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. They loved their last trip to the Dominican Republic but, this time, have their minds set on a new destination. Where will it be? Aruba!!
Please keep this beautiful couple and their growing family in your prayers. Thank you!
Perfect Love: Loving the Unlovable One
Journal Notes: The Possibility of Perfection
When I see "therefore" in a verse, I have learned to read the preceeding verses to discover what the "therefore" is there for.
When I read Matthew 5: 48 alone, my immediate impression is to think it's a command. However, when I read it in the context of the chapter, I'm able to see something more. The first word in Matthew 5: 48, is the word "Therefore". When I see the word "therefore" in a verse, I have learned to read the preceding verses to discover what the "therefore" is there for. So, the last verse in the Matthew chapter 5 is illuminated by the verses preceding it. With that in mind, I take a moment to read Matthew 5: 1-48.
I have no problem understanding the principles Jesus introduces to the multitude in Matthew 5. They are actually relatively uncomplicated ideas that elevate the poor in spirit, peacemakers, the persecuted, and others. He exalted his followers comparing their value to salt and light. Jesus spoke of the Law and the Prophets and compelled his disciples adherence to them. He redefined anger, and increased the penalty for murderous thoughts. The Messiah reinforced the sanctity of marriage and established a new standard realloting love in equal portions between enemies and friends.
"For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?" Matthew 5: 47
In a very personal way, the "therefore" in verse 48 is there to refocus my mind on the greatest commandments. Loving God with all of our soul, heart, and mind is the first commandment and loving our neighbor as ourselves is the second commandment. The love we use to define our closes and most treasured friendships is the same love Jesus calls us to apply to our enemies or other unlovable people. Our Heavenly Father is perfect and allows His sun to rise on the evil and the good. We can be considered perfect imitators of God when we can love friends and foes without discrimination.
Father, please help me as I strive to live in accordance with your will. I am going to need a boatload of wisdom and love in order to love people who do not love me in return. I'm not even certain that I've witnessed it in my own personal experience. For me, it seems impossible and I'm sure I'm not alone. Lead me as I seek your wisdom and guidance each day.
I certainly cannot offer a final and difinitive answer but here is what I am led to consider. Perfection is only possible when we become perfect imitators of our heavenly Father. Our mortal births make it impossible for us to perfectly immitate Him. If this was the end of the conversation, then it would lead us to conclude that perfection is indeed impossible for us. But the conversation continues.
Questions to Consider (Click Here to Email Your Responses)
Read more next Wednesday.
Healing From PTSD by Kimberly Wyse
We work through our own pain so our kids don't suffer.
Last year, I was able to test out my healing from PTSD through an unexpected challenge. My son was scheduled for surgery to deal with some kidney issues. When it was time to take him to the operating room, I was offered the opportunity to put on a gown and carry him back, then stay with him until he fell asleep. I thought it was a great idea.
Except - the last time I was in an operating room was when Redmond was born via emergency C-section because he was in distress. It was traumatic. I've written the full birth story in my book, but the short version is that the number of people in the room shocked me. I was strapped down, basically naked, and felt helpless and out of control. It was a big part of what led to my PTSD diagnosis.
As I naively walked into the OR that morning, with my two-year old son trusting me to take care of him, I looked around and suddenly realized that I was right back in the place where he was born. A surprisingly large number of medical providers busied themselves around the brightly-lit room in scrubs and masks and gloves. Machines buzzed. And there in the middle I saw the table where he would soon be strapped down and cut open in about the same place I had been cut for the c-section.
For a moment, I stopped walking and blinked as I looked around the room, trying to regain my composure. It was only a second, but it felt like everything slowed down in that instant. Very quickly, I recognized that this was a flashback. I reminded myself that I was NOT in the operating room for a c-section, and I was holding my baby who needed me to keep it together. Once again, I walked toward the hospital bed.
What I thought had been an indiscernible pause attracted the attention of several people. I was aware of their concerned glances and posture as I continued on.
Rather than allow the panic that skirted around the edges of my emotions, I reminded myself that the operating room where Redmond was born was a safe place. His life had been saved there. I had been protected. All my hard work during trauma therapy came back to me as I reminded myself that the operating room had been a good thing for us.
I commanded my heart to stop pounding and held Redmond close for those last few steps. Then I forced my body to cooperate as I put him down on the table and smiled. I kissed his face as the nurse put an oxygen sensor on his big toe. I laughed a little as he swatted away her attempts to attach lead lines to his chest. He wasn’t having it. I put one hand under his back and one over his heart, pressing gently as I sang, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noon time…”
He didn’t like the mask they put over his face, but he relaxed very quickly and went to sleep. Then I was hustled out of the room by the child life specialist who brought me in. The whole thing lasted less than a minute.
As I walked away, I realized that I’d just confronted one of my biggest PTSD triggers and I’d gotten through it very well. Anxiety had not taken over. I didn’t crumble or freak out. Redmond was my first priority and he was safe and comforted. I hadn’t needed medication or intervention of any kind.
If I hadn't done the hard work of EMDR months earlier, Redmond would have suffered terribly that morning. The surgeon and staff would have had to expend precious energy dealing with a traumatized mother, rather than focusing on what my son needed.
I’m so thankful for the healing God led me to during a time when I was weak and vulnerable. A friend told me about EMDR, trauma therapy that helps PTSD sufferers receive significant relief quickly. Within two months of starting therapy, I was much better. Within a few more months I dealt with some traumatic events from earlier in my life and was free.
I’d learned how to re-process those difficult times and understand them for what they were. I am no longer a hostage to disordered thinking about traumatic events in my life.
It was difficult to start the process and trust my therapist. I found it hard to believe the promises she made. But I bossed myself around and did the work – and it happened just like she said.
My little Charlie had had a breakdown during preschool when the class got to tour an ambulance and his little mind was suddenly flooded with images of his baby brother dying and being brought back to life on a different ambulance the year before. He knew what had happened because I panicked every time an ambulance passed our car - until I received trauma therapy for it. My healing has affected so many different areas of my children's lives.
Maybe your trauma is different. Maybe your children are triggered by things that trigger you, things that they have no business getting upset by. Maybe your children are left to fend for themselves while you have that second or third glass of wine, or while you sit them in front of the TV so you can calm your racing heart. Maybe your trauma keeps you at odds with their daddy, or gives you insomnia so badly that you can barely function as a mother.
There's no judgement here. Only compassion. You don't need to live like that. You can get better too.
I’d highly recommend EMDR to anyone suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder. You don’t have to go through something as hard as I did to have PTSD. If it was traumatic to you, then it’s worth getting help.
This healed mind is something to celebrate!
Find a therapist you feel comfortable with and go about the business of healing. You will not only feel better, but you will provide a better future for your children because you are not confronting demons every day. You will move more securely through life and have better relationships with your spouse, friends, colleagues, and employers.
How to Make a Prayer Go Viral
Making a Prayer Go Viral
Jennifer and her husband, Kenly, are the proud parents of a 5-year old daughter and an 8-month old son. Jennifer describes their daughter as a “girly girl” who embraces the feminine example her Mom sets. She’s observant and has a passion for dance and gymnastics. “She reminds me of myself on steroids”, Jennifer decides and then adds, “and more confident”. Her little man is strong and is already able to pull himself into a standing position. She expects he’ll be walking soon. “He’s doing his best to keep up with his big sister”, Jennifer concludes. Jennifer loves singing to her baby boy who claps his hands in tune as she sings “You Are My Sunshine”.
What about the future for Jennifer’s little sunshine? It is a question most mothers consider. But in a country with mounting racial tension, normal questions that ponder the future of brown boys can strike a painful chord in a mother’s heart. But only momentarily for some. “I’m praying for his generation.”, Jennifer states. Racial tensions in America will not prevail over Jennifer’s hope-filled conversations with God. “I see great things for him.”, Jennifer says as she confidently speaks life over her baby boy.
Jennifer grew up in a Christian home and attended church with her family regularly. Overtime, her faith and faithfulness grew in accordance. The importance of prayer, became overshadowed by the power of prayer. And, not long ago, Jennifer began establishing a steadfast prayer discipline. “Praying for others is something I do every day now.” Jennifer states. As a young adult, Jennifer admits that she was inconsistent about praying for others. But now, Jennifer recognizes the power of prayer and she “absolutely makes time to pray for people whenever they ask.”
Recently, Jennifer shared this prayer for her son on her Instagram page:
It is a call to pray along with Jennifer, and to make her prayer go viral in heavenly places. This Mama’s prayer invites each one of us to envision a bright future for the next generation!
Thriving in Hope
This year Jennifer and Kenly celebrated their 8th wedding anniversary. She and Kenly have so much in common including a spirit for entrepreneurial endeavors. They are both employed full-time but maintain businesses on a part-time basis. Kenly operates a t-shirt design business called Just Pop Tees (IM @justpoptees). Jennifer is launching a wellness business to help women who need more energy and are taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle.
The Webb family enjoys a household that thrives in hope. Somehow, this family of four seems to juggle everything without much problem. How do they do it? Jennifer says that she does several things that help her maintain a well-managed household. First, she uses a dry erase board to write out their weekly schedule. With one glance, she and Kenly both know what the week holds. In addition, Jennifer has her own daily checklist and uses it to make sure every detail she has to do actually gets done. Each day, she helps her children get ready for their day and makes breakfast for them. Working from home allows her the flexibility of supporting her daughter as she engages in remote learning.
Jennifer has learned to schedule time for herself and her husband too. After caring for her family each day, she wisely builds in time during the week for her own self-care. This may include a visit to the salon, time by herself or scheduling time for a little pampering.
At the end of her day, Jennifer makes time to pray. She prays for her family, giving special thanks for her parents who continue to provide their loving support. Each day she is mindful of those who ask her to pray for them and with them. She gives thanks for her husband and their 8 years of marriage. She praises God for her daughter and her son. And quite often, she offers up a special little prayer for her brown baby boy and all those of his generation.
But even in my young mind, I knew that Jesus made a way for me to be forgiven. I knew that through his death, burial and resurrection, I could be forgiven and washed clean of my sins. That realization made me extremely happy! I immediately let my family know that I wanted to be baptized. In my obedience, I was born again.
Today I know and profess that the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16)
and my obedience to it saved me and made me righteous before God.
In my new birth, no immediate or profound changes were evident. Consider a new born baby. A baby enters the world as an infant relying on milk for nourishments and parents for all of its care. Overtime, that newborn grows, develops and changes. And after many years, that baby becomes a young adult and is able to take care of themselves. This does not occur simply because of the physical changes that take place, but because a child also learns and grows in understanding, knowledge and wisdom.
After many years, I have grown in knowledge and understanding of God’s word. During that time, do you think I made errors or failed to judge righteously? You know I did and still do.
Over many years, however, my spiritual growth has become more evident in my daily life.
Spending time with God in His word transforms me in an "other world" person foreign and
unrecognizable by the world I live in. Because of Christ, my purpose in life has become more defined as I am set apart by truth.
BIBLE Reading: John 17
The life of a Christian is founded on love. With love, it possible for us to experience salvation and transformation. Consider John 17. Many people are awe struck as they read John 17. This chapter is unique in that it allows us to experience a very intimate conversation between the only begotten son and his father. Jesus gives us a glimpse into his heart as he prays to the God of glory. His days on earth are drawing to a close and, in John 16, we find the Lord spending his last hours with his disciples. In John 16:5, he states, “But now I go my way to him that sent me”. This revelation was concerning to his disciples and left them bewildered. How would they be able to continue without their beloved Messiah? In John 17, Jesus lifts his eyes to heaven and pours out his heart as he considers the fate of his followers.
In leaving the disciples in the world, Jesus recognized a serious challenge. The world hated him and the world would hate them too. These mortal men spent so much time in the presence of deity that they had become “other world” people. It stood to reason. The Lord was not of this world and thus his discipleship would not be of this world either. They had become transformed and would absolutely face condemnation.
"I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. "
John 17: 15-17
Jesus concluded that his disciples or followers would not be removed from the world. Instead, his prayer was for their protection and fortification. After spending several years in the presence of deity, and absorbing all they were taught, the disciples had undergone a deep and profound transformation. In his prayers, Jesus requested that his followers be set apart or sanctified through God’s truth.
They would live in a world of condemnation but their purpose would grow more defined as they were set apart by truth.
So, the prayers of the Son are still relevant today and they continue to cover those of us called by his name. We are reborn into love, saved by the blood of Jesus and transformed by the renewing of our minds. Just like the disciples, we become "other world" people who look to God as our fortress and shelter of protection in a world full of evil. And each day, we aught to encourage one another to remain faithful and true, fortified in Christ Jesus.
Let’s talk about wisdom! Lord knows in this time of national and global turmoil, wisdom is a necessity. But why consider godly wisdom?
For me godly wisdom does not mean sitting back quietly. It is knowing what to say and when to say it. Invoking godly wisdom is an invitation to the Lord that welcomes His voice and His direction. It is a measure of our willingness to trust Him in times when our natural responses offer more harm than good.
Why is silence a problem? Silence is a discipline that allows us to appear as wise. Even a fool is counted as wise when he keeps quiet. So, silence alone is not wisdom. It is a person's conversations that confirm their wisdom.
The Wisdom Journal is my way of inviting us all to seek godly wisdom. It is an acknowledgement that before I speak, I need to know what God would have me say. To welcome godly wisdom is a way of welcoming Him into our hearts, our thoughts and our conversations. Amen!
Faith and Family: Investments in Love
Morgan grew up in Middletown, DE. In addition to being a mom, and caring for her household, Morgan is a full-time teacher who happens to be a Child Development Specialist. For Morgan, that means she knows how to use play-time as learning opportunities for her own children and those she teaches. First, she identifies their learning schema. A learning schema identifies 7-8 ways that kids play. For instance, Morgan has observed that Her 3-year old son, likes putting things in order when he plays. In addition, she also notes that he enjoys playing with things that go up and down. In fact, he loves going up and down so much that he has become a very good climber. “We already suspect that one day we will find him on top of the refrigerator”, Morgan admits. To satisfy his natural tendency to climb, Morgan has begun designing a reading nook just for her climbing baby. She has designed a “reading loft” for him that would allow him to climb up to a pillow-lined space to read from on high.
Morgan loves being outdoors with her boys where they can use sticks, water and even bugs as their natural learning resources. Her oldest son is a 5 year-old and is intrigued by things that rotate and spin. He is already familiar with “centrifugal force”, the force that is created by things moving in a circle. You can already guess that Morgan does not have to work hard to engage her children in learning each day. “The boys prompt me to go outside everyday.”, Morgan says. They don’t know how much they are learning, they just know it’s fun to go outside to play with mommy.
As a Mom, Morgan continues to learn about herself. “My interests have changed since becoming a mother. I’ve learned to enjoy the process and I recognize that I love learning”, Morgan acknowledges. Before having her own children, she wasn’t sure what it would be like to be a Mom. Now that she is a Mom, she sees herself as relaxed, cool and very comfortable in her role. She doesn’t force things on her children or project fear in their presence. At one time, she envisioned that having children meant teaching them lots of rules to keep things in order. Now, she’s of the mindset that making a mess is a good thing that gives children room to learn and experience a variety of things.
Morgan has been married for five years to her husband Lamont. In that relatively short amount of time, they have learned to love and respect one another even when they are not in agreement. “Lamont won’t argue”, Morgan says. As a result, they don’t fight or raise their voices at each other and they choose not to “step on each other’s toes around the children”. When they have disagreements, they focus on respecting one another, preferring to remain logical. Approaching the situation logically means they are willing to listen to one another without making emotionally-charged judgments.
When it comes to her faith, Morgan recognizes that faith means she is a part of something greater than herself. She contributes to the greater good as she learns and grows. For Morgan, it is important that we all know we are a part of something that leads us to personal and spiritual development. As we experience growth, Morgan suggests that we can share our success, and provide one another the benefit of a different perspective.
It is clear that Morgan is a motivated mom who believes in investing in her family. She suggests that any parent who wants to be intentional and make the most out of their child’s play-time should learn about “Whole Child Learning”. I’m intrigued! And, to be transparent, Morgan is my niece and I am very proud of her! It is my prayer that the good Lord will bless her abundantly and multiply the investments she is making in her family.