Prayer

Becoming More Like Jesus–Praying for Our Enemies

Winter scene with white lettering that says, "God commands us to pray for our enemies, and He can be trusted, even in this. ~Kristi Woods"

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
Matt. 5:44 NIV (Taken from Wholly Loved’s 365 Daily Devotion, releasing soon!)

Think about someone who hurt you. How did you love or pray for them? Or, did you?

As a mother, I love and protect my children. When someone wounds them, my mama bear instinct roars. I want to peel back the fur and watch those razor-sharp claws swipe.

But emotional reactions like that don’t come from Jesus. They usually arise when we’re attempting to play God.

A few years ago, while driving home from a school event with one of my kids, I received an unexpected phone call from a classmate’s mother. She accused my daughter of bullying and made harsh statements about her. Unfortunately, my daughter sat in the passenger seat and well within earshot. My mama bear instinct stood ready to rip and roar, but I sucked in a breath and prayed silently, Help, God!

His truth guided me through that phone call. I recalled Jesus’ words about praying for those who persecute us, which includes mamas protecting their children. God’s guidance to be quick to listen and slow to anger (James 1:19) rushed to mind as well. I fought the urge to lash out, using patience, truth, and prayer to battle instead.

Afterward, I prayed for that mother and both children—myself, too. It wasn’t easy, but it was right. And God used those prayers to soften my heart.

God uses prayer to soften the heart. @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

She and I didn’t realize that both our children were facing difficulties adjusting at school. As new transfers the year before, they were still attempting to find their footing. What seemed a situation of “enemies” ended quite differently.

Winter scene with red berries and the words, "God uses prayer to soften our hearts." - Kristi Woods

Loving those with whom we clash or praying for people who persecute us feels awkward and hard. But God can be trusted, even when praying for our enemies.

God can be trusted, even when praying for our enemies. @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

Do you have an “enemy” or someone persecuting you or someone you care about? How can you love and pray for them today?

How can you love and pray for your enemy today? @Kristi_Woods Click To Tweet

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Relationships

Our Innate Need for Community

Quote from Rick Warren with background of friends

God doesn’t want anyone to be alone, and I’m not going to disappoint Him.”

That’s a powerful quote from my grandmother, something she said to my mother when she was a child. They apply, among other things, to how we do life with others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ.

God made us to come together and worship Him. Scripture reveals the importance of church community on every page! God wants us to live together and learn from, as well as teach, one another.

Christ-centered relationships, together in a community or church, were instituted by God.

Jesus is the foundation of church. (1 Peter2:5-7)

Paul helped spread it. (Acts 9:20)

And intended for us to continue it.

Once we accept Jesus as our Savior, He longs for us to do more than simply set foot inside a building, commonly known as a church, to worship Him on Christmas and Easter. Or, maybe, to do more than never set foot in one at all.

Let me be clear in how I define church. It’s a group of believers in an environment who seek to grow in their relationship with, and their understanding of, Jesus through many ways including music, prayer, discussion, and/or listening to a message.

This can be a small group held in a home or coffee shop, or a formal service in a traditional or contemporary setting. It can take place in a small or stadium-sized space, or any time and any day. Scripture shows church as place where people are gathered together to praise and learn about God.

Notice the use of we, us, and our in these verses:

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken [heaven], let us be thankful, and so worship God with acceptable reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker …” (Psalm 95:6).

According to the gospels, Jesus gave sermons to thousands. He allowed groups to gather around Him as He revealed Scripture. I’m sure these people grew stronger in their faith and leaned on each other in hard times—like when their very lives were threatened after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The Apostle Paul, the accepted writer of two-thirds of the New Kristen speaker image and quoteTestament, elaborated on this, mostly in letters he wrote to churches. He loved to use phrases like, “Brothers and sisters” and “Dear Friends” when addressing first century believers. In Acts 9:15, we’re told he wanted his ministry companions to join him as soon as possible. They, his friends, were needed by the great Apostle. In Acts 2:42-47 we read an account of some of the first groups of Christians, known as a fellowship of believers.

The question is why? Why is doing ministry together better? I believe God uses us to help and grow each other. To pray for, meet a need for, to celebrate an answered prayer with one another.

God designed us to live in community, to never be alone, as my grandmother might say, in our journey on earth and with Him. In order to live this out, and using the Bible as our example, we must prioritize our time with other believers. We must walk alongside them and help each other worship Jesus and learn about Him.

Where do you stand? Are you heeding God’s call to remain connected with other Christians?

We’ve found, often it’s our fear of rejection that isolates us from each other. But God didn’t create us to live in fear! In Christ, He’s given us everything we need to live Bold and Brave! Join us for one of our upcoming Bold and Brave conferences to gain tools that will help you develop deep community and walk in freedom. Find our more HERE.

Want us to come to you? Contact us HERE to find out about hosting your own Wholly Loved event or inviting one of our speakers to join you for your next women’s event.

Cover image for Wholly Loved giveaway devotionalIf you enjoyed today’s post, would like more inspirational content sent directly to your inbox, and want to stay up-to-date regarding what’s new with us, make sure to sign up for our free quarterly e-mailing. Plus, when you sign up, as our way of thanking you for your support, we’ll send you a free 30-day devotional (ebook). You can sign up HERE. (If you sign up and don’t receive a welcome email with a link to the free download, please contact us HERE.)

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Related resource: Included in Christ: Living a New Story From Ephesians by Heather Holleman

Relationships

Misaligned Priorities

IMG_9295

Sometimes what I think is of the highest priority, isn’t, and what I put aside is really what I should focus on.

I walked downstairs and saw my mom talking on the phone. She was empathetically offering words of comfort to a friend in need.

I noticed the dinner dishes still on the table and immediately judged her for misaligning priorities. How could she just leave the dishes? How can she drop everything to answer a phone call?

God immediately spoke to my heart. She was doing His will. She was behaving like Mary.

Luke 10:39-4(WEB) reads “She had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His Word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she came up to Him, and said, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister left me to serve alone? Ask her therefore to help me.’

Jesus answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.'”

SarahsBlogLuke10-41

Though Jesus was specifically speaking about spending time with Him, Scripture teaches us to prioritize people above things. In the fast-paced world that we live in, this message is even more pertinent because society teaches us to be like Martha. It teaches us to focus our energies on the wrong things – worldly things.

While my mother tends to put others first, I tend to prioritize my “to do” list. Had I been in her shoes when her friend called, I’m afraid I would not have answered. Even if I had a friend in need, I would most likely clear the table and finish the dishes before returning his or her phone call.

Why do we think our agendas are more important? How can we shift our priorities?

Growing closer in Christ through reading Scripture is a good first step. We can also ask God to reveal situations in which we can grow in this area. Times that we may choose Mary’s path and can witness true servanthood through others like my mom did. Opportunities to allow others to embrace and model Mary-like hearts. How can we prioritize seeking Christ’s guidance in what is truly most important?

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Video Devotion

Conflict Resolution Through Humble Reconciliation–Video Devotion

“I LOVE conflict!” said no one ever. But, I’ve found out the hard way that evading relational disagreements is worse. The problem will keep growing, expanding, and festering until one day, “BANG!”, it explodes.

Sadly, we have to face the fact that conflict is unavoidable.

God designed us to be in relationship with Him, and with others, and for those connections to be deeply rewarding. But, because of sin, our relationships don’t function perfectly, do they? Friendships can go from marvelous to messy in an instant when we say or do something that hurts other’s feelings, or our friend does the same to us.

Because confrontation is ridiculously uncomfortable, when that happens, we may want to avoid one another, or pretend like nothing happened, which isn’t healthy. Of course, a worse option would be to vent on social media. That’s definitely not a good idea!

We know God desires reconciliation, but how do we make this happen?

The first thing I do is breathe and give myself some distance to think clearly. A response in the heat of the moment may indulge my feelings, but it’s not necessarily what God wants me to say or do. Then, I pray.

Matthew 5:9 says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (ESV).

How can I be a peacemaker, God? His answer is always humility. In a humbled posture before God, I’m able set aside my desires, admit my inability to restore the situation alone, and ask for His for help. Help to see my own faults and shortcomings and how I may have contributed to the issue. Help in knowing when to talk to my friend, what words to say, for the strength to be a good listener and the grace to forgive. Above all, I ask that His love will prevail, and that He can be glorified in the situation.

Do you need to make peace with someone? God wants to help you. Humble yourself at His feet and allow His love to guide you as you learn to live Wholly Loved.

If you enjoyed today’s post, would like more inspirational content sent directly to your inbox, and want to stay up-to-date regarding what’s new with us, make sure to sign up for our free quarterly e-mailing. You can do that HERE. 

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Relationships

When Relationships Fail–Our Role

Sometimes no matter how we try, no matter how grace-filled our conversations and Christ-led our attempts, relationships implode. People remain hurt. Barriers remain erected, and isolation, regret, and pain occur.

quote image-beauty is in the obedienceBut the beauty’s in the obedience, not the result.

Some time ago, something I did deeply hurt a woman I cared for. I didn’t intend to wound her, and honestly, I didn’t fully understand her response or interpretation. In fact, initially I felt quite indignant. She was being over-reactive. I’d done nothing wrong!

And yet, she was hurt, and Jesus said, if I know someone is upset with me, regardless of the why, I’m to initiate conversation. (Matthew 5:23). To do what I can to make things right.
To, “… as far as it depends on [me], live at peace with everyone.”

Biblical peace goes much deeper than simple conflict avoidance. In fact, that type of behavior will take us in the opposite direction—to broken relationships, unresolved issues, and, often, harbored bitterness.

Biblical peace, eiréneuó in the Greek, points to wholeness.

Consider Ken Sande’s words, taken from his book, the Peace two children holding hands and text of Romans 12:18Maker: “Token efforts will not satisfy this command; God wants [us] to strive earnestly, diligently, and continually to maintain harmonious relationships with those around [us].”

This is a big deal. Not only does this help protect unity within the church, but Sande goes on to say, seeking peace can “turn conflict into an opportunity to strengthen relationships … and make [our] lives a testimony to the love and power of Christ.”

Perhaps this is why Jesus placed such emphasis on conflict resolution, so much so that He told us, if we’re about to worship Him and remember an offended brother, we’re to immediately stop and seek reconciliation.

Only after we’ve done that are we freed, emotionally and spiritually, to truly worship God.

But what if the other person is unresponsive?

In that case, we can walk away with clean hearts and hands knowing, “as far as it depended on us,” we attempted to live in peace.

Because it doesn’t always depend on us. We have no control over how another person will respond, but we have full control over how faithfully we obey Christ and how well we reflect Him.

As I reflected on my situation with the offended woman, I thought of how Christ treated me. When I was living in complete rebellion against Him, He pursued me, diligently and patiently. When I sinned again and again, He forgave me. And when my sin created a barrier between us that I couldn’t cross, through His death, He tore it down. And I knew, regardless of how this young woman received or reacted to my efforts, I needed to reach out anyway.

So I did. She responded exactly as I’d feared, but that didn’t mean my efforts had been pointless. Despite my fear of rejection and my desire to avoid the entire situation, I’d chosen to obey, and hopefully, in doing so, had provided a glimpse of Jesus … and reminded myself afresh of the beauty of grace.

Let’s talk about this! How do you typically react when someone hurts or abandons you? Why do you think it’s important God’s children learn to reconcile with one another?

If you enjoyed today’s post, would like more inspirational content sent directly to your inbox, and want to stay up-to-date regarding what’s new with us, make sure to sign up for our free quarterly e-mailing. You can do that HERE. 

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