The Hatred of Jesus … and You

It is easy to think that everyone loved Jesus.  He taught love, kindness, and grace.  Encounters with him resulted in healings to the lame, deaf, blind, and demon-possessed. 

The reality is that in the gospel of John, he says something that I did not expect. Jesus is preparing his disciples for his departure that will happen after his resurrection.  They do not have any understanding of what he is talking about, but the Holy Spirit will come and remind them of what Jesus said later.  In his words of preparation, he says this to them, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18 – NIV 2011)

The world hated Jesus.  The people he helped, taught, and fed did not love him; instead, they hated him.  Why?  He goes on to explain in verse twenty-five that they did not have a reason. 

Recently I heard someone explain this phenomenon in a way that I had never heard.  He said something like this.  Imagine you are lying in bed on a cold, snowy Saturday morning.  It is dark, and you are sleeping soundly.  In comes your spouse or your parent, and they flip on the overhead light into the total darkness.  The room suddenly goes from night to glaring light, and our eyes immediately rebel against it.  We turn away and usually are full of anger, no matter who flipped the switch.   

The comparison is that when Jesus walked on the earth, he throws the light of God everywhere he went.  People who were living in darkness suddenly withdrew as the light hurt their eyes.  They responded in anger and hatred even though they had no idea what they were mad about at the time. 

Here is the strange twist.  Jesus says the way they treated me is an illustration of how they are going to treat you.  If you go forward in the name of Jesus, there will be people who hate you.  If you shine light into a dark world, there will always be people immediately upset with you.  Their anger will seethe, and they really will not have a great reason to feel that way. 

Yes, some people loved Jesus.  The majority hated him.  They hated him so much that they decided to kill him on a cross to get rid of him. 

This realization has me asking questions about myself.  Do I want people to love me?  If so, I will have to compromise to achieve this.  Do people hate me?  If not, I am probably not shining the light of God.  What if the effectiveness of a believer in Jesus is not how many followers they have but how many people hate them for the light they bring?

I Was Just Thinking of You

A researcher says that one way to get people to like you is to say, “I was just thinking of you” when you greet someone.  Listen to how friendly this sounds, “Hey Matt.  It is so good to see you. I was just thinking about you.” 

It works even better if you can add something specific behind it.  If you can put one detail to a name, then your likeability immediately goes up.  It sounds so sweet, “Hey Matt.  It is so good to see you. I was just thinking about you the other day.  I remembered how much you like chocolate, and I saw this chocolate shop while I was out shopping.”

This technique touches on something all of us desire.  None of us want to be forgettable.  We long to be unforgettable.  This can be because of our unique style of clothing, our sharp wit, possibly our looks, maybe our intellect, or one of a hundred other things.  No one wants to blend into the faceless masses of people who walk by without ever being noticed. 

The lady who taught me this little lesson has a series of instructional videos on becoming better at dealing with people.  Since this is a weakness of mine, I listened intently and have saved her material to review again. 

While I was thinking about this, I received a card from a lady in our Church saying thank you for all the Church leadership, and I have done this year.  She appreciates the hard work it has taken to keep everything going in this odd year.  The card was an excellent way of saying, “I was thinking of you today.” My heart jumped for joy to know that she thought of her preacher on more than Sunday morning.  It was an encouragement to me and the work that I do in the Church. 

One challenge is to think good thoughts about other people.  When we do, the second step is for you to share those thoughts with other people.  Tell them you were thinking of them.  Write them a card, drop them an email, or send them a text.  Whenever you reach out to people and tell them you were on their mind, it encourages that person and brings both of you closer together.

A simple thought about someone is not much to offer.  A thought expressed to that person is a joyful gift that brightens everyone’s life.  

A Month with Momma

My mother is a high risk with the Covid-19 situation in our country.  She has asthma, has survived a spot of cancer on her lung, lost her spleen due to a car accident, and is 85 years old.  As a result of the potential risks, I was not able to see her for 13 months.  Finally, some of my family and I were able to see her in July.  Then life took another twist when the school announced they were moving my son’s senior night for football from the last home game of the season to the first one.  She has been here for all the other boys’ senior nights and wanted to be with us for this final one.  Plans were adjusted, and I went to pick her up on the last day of August, and she stayed with us for three weeks until I took her home.  Once we arrived at her house, I stayed there a couple of days to finish some projects before returning home.  All total, we spent four weeks together in the fall of 2020. 

During her stay with us over these weeks, she attended three high school football games, three worship programs at the Church where I preach, helped with youth group food, and joined me on a couple of fishing trips.  My boys made it home each weekend, and we were all able to visit.  We ate well and enjoyed pizza, fresh fish, steak, turkey and noodles, along with a couple of meals out on the town.  Evenings were spent watching TV, including some of the NFL season as it kicked off, and lots of Netflix.  Finally, we were able to share stories of life and fond memories of the past.  The time was enjoyable as new stories were created, and we were able to reconnect after our time apart.

I could fill up several pages telling you all about our time together, but there was a simple lesson that kept coming back to my mind.  Covid-19 has changed our lives, but don’t let it make you miss the important things.  There were risks in my mom spending a month with my family and me, so we wore masks, used hand sanitizer, and tried to be wise.  We felt the rewards far outweighed the risks.  Mom would have been safer at home, but is that the goal of life – to stay safe all the time?  She would have been safe but missed seeing my son play football, conversations, meals with family, worshipping Jesus, serving others, catching the biggest crappie (a type of fish) of her life, along with numerous small blessings and joys.

Don’t take this post as a challenge to throw caution to the wind.  We must be wise with those who are at risk during this time.  Still, we need to be careful that in an effort to preserve our lives, we do not forfeit them for safety’s sake.  God never promises us tomorrow.  Our lives are a mist that appears and then vanishes.  Be wise about your safety, but also be wise with the time you have been given.   Don’t let Covid-19 rob your of your precious days and the possibilities that each one holds.       

When the Church Becomes a Civic Group

For eight years of my life, I was a part of a civic group called Sertoma. It is a shortened name that represents “Service to Mankind.” It was an enriching time as I got to know people in the town, and we worked together to help those who had hearing issues. It was like most civic organizations that exist to help others and do good things for the people in the community.

I fear that many Churches are becoming glorified civic groups. The primary reason that it meets is for people to help others and do good things for the community. That in and of itself is not a bad thing. The second greatest command, according to Jesus, is for us to love our neighbor. The process of loving others includes doing several good things for them.

The trouble comes when Jesus is moved to the background. In an effort to get more people serving, we set aside the Jesus element and allow anyone to come and be a part. As Jesus drifts into the distance, the group loses sight of why it exists. The Church is a community of people who are committed to following Jesus. The very name means “called out ones.” Christians are not like the world in their views, worship, approach to life, and teaching because of their commitment to Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

It is gracious to offer people food, clothing, shelter, and company. But it must not come at the neglect of the most significant need of everyone. People need a Savior! Someone can clothe, comfort, and cover people right into hell. We are sinners in desperate need of forgiveness. We are not right with God. Only in Jesus do we find the peg that will fill the hole in our hearts.

When the Church becomes a civic group, the community does not gain an ally; instead, it loses the savior it needs. Sure, the name Church may remain on the sign, but it is no longer a congregation of Jesus.

Each week I stand up to teach the truth that I pray will transform lives. I encourage people to love their neighbors in every way. I also teach them about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That is what the world needs more of today, and not less.


Everyone I know is terrible at evaluating themselves.  They think they are not very smart when they are brilliant in so many ways.  Some of them believe they are fat or ugly when they are gorgeous.  For others, the opposite is true. They think that they have skills that they do not possess.  Their abilities do not make them the expert they claim to be.  Others would call themselves kind and generous because they did that one thing ten years ago.

Most people do not see themselves clearly because they know what goes on inside of their heads.  In their minds, they live with the echo of a boyfriend who called them ugly or a teacher who called them stupid.  Still, others live with the intentions of the great things they want to do and see themselves as better than they act.  The noise in our brains skews our concept of reality, and we do not evaluate ourselves well. 

This is another reason I believe the Church is an enormous part of God’s plan.  The community can help us to see our lives with greater clarity.  When we connect to other people in a deep and meaningful way, they can help us grow.  They can tell us what they see that is working and the areas we need to improve. 

Each of us needs people to tell all the wonderful things about ourselves that we are missing.  The goal is not an inflated head, but insight into the blessing of God in our lives.  We also need someone to show us the areas to grow.  They can point out our weaknesses, not with an angry or vengeful spirit, but rather in love to help us improve.   

If you are not a part of a community of faith where you are deeply invested in the lives of other people, my guess is that you are living a lie.  Your self-evaluation is flawed, and either no one is there to tell you, or no one cares enough to tell you the truth. 

The Church can be a wonderful group of people who help each other to grow spiritually and emotionally.  This is only true if you are willing to open yourself up to others and listen to what they have to say. 


Recently I watched a video of people being startled by a person moving around a building and standing like a mannequin. No one was expecting anything to be in these spaces, so they were alarmed and scared with each new turn. The interesting thing to me is that almost without exception, people responded by saying, “Oh my God!!”

I find this interesting because one of the ten commandments specifically addresses this issue. The third command says, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7 – NIV 2011) The Israelite people were so concerned about this command that they would substitute the name “Lord” for God to avoid misuse. That is why you may run across the word “Lord” in all capital letters in your English translation of the Old Testament. This is where they would not say the name of God for fear they were misusing it.

Whenever I talk to someone about this, the usual answer is, “I don’t even think about it. It is just an expression and has nothing to do with faith.” Honestly, that was the point of the command. God did not want his name to become so trivial that it was used without thought. He wants to be separate from all other names. He is Holy.

Maybe this expression has not slipped into your language as a believer, and you have nothing of which to concern yourself. But if it has become a regular statement that you use, I would challenge you to eliminate it from your speech. I know it may not seem like a big deal to you, but it was important enough to God to make his top ten list. I am convinced he deserves our respect.

Losing Sight of My Goals

Today is the first day of fall, and it is time for a review of my year so far. Sadly, this year did not go the way I planned. There were two goals I had for this calendar year. Both started with the letter “P” and captured my struggles from the previous years.

My first goal was to be more positive. For me, the glass is usually half-empty, and a selfish person probably consumed the first half. I need to do much better in this area. My other goal was people. The plan was to spend time with people this year in every way possible. My wife and I were going to invite them into our home for meals and visiting. I was going to make connections with people every week before worrying about the worship program. Then there was going to be ball games, meals out, movies, and possibly board games.

I started the year off well. I smiled more, talked kindly, and went out of my way to spend time with people. I tried to have more joy in my life and be more optimistic with others. Each week I would walk around the church auditorium and with people and listen to what they had to say. The first quarter of the year was fantastic.

Like many people, Covid-19 destroyed my plans. Suddenly the world was falling apart, and all my worst fears were coming true. Church was canceled on Sunday morning, and the steamroller of tragic events kept moving forward. On top of that, everyone was instructed to social distance and move farther away from people rather than closer. So the next half of the year has been spent alone with my poor outlook on life.

Now we are three-quarters of the way through the year, and it is time to start over. Today is the time to reset my priorities, start working on my goals and seek to become more like Jesus. I could wait till January and start with the new year, but why waste another day? Today is the perfect time to throw away your guilt and start fresh.

This year may have knocked you off your plans and derailed your goals. Rather than delaying the life you want another few months, why not start today? Today is as good of a day as any to begin again.

Who Do You Want to Become?

You can train yourself to do and be almost anything.  Obviously, there are physical limitations to your dreams.  Despite my best efforts, I will never play professional sports, mostly since I didn’t play in college or high school.  Beyond that, your future is almost unlimited. 

I once met a man in Alaska who was retired and had time on his hands during the winter. Being unable to get outside for months at a time, he taught himself a new skill every year.  One year he learned to make cheese, the next to make the best homemade loaves of bread, and how to cook gourmet meals another winter.  He would simply decide what he wanted to learn over the summer, buy a few tools to make it possible, and dive in with the help of YouTube, Google, and the local library. 

The truth is that you can know anything you want to know.  There are resources everywhere that you can access to help you.  You can do anything you want to do.  People are selling specialized items all over the globe for precisely what skill you want to learn.  Others have put together instructional videos to help you succeed.

Suppose you want to know more about God and theology.  You can do it.  If you want to know how to be a better spouse.  The information is there for you.  You can become whatever you want to become.  You can start today and set yourself on a different, and perhaps better, direction.  The only limitation you have is your willingness to step into the unknown.  

The Pain of Putting Yourself Out There

Communicators bear the weight of putting their thoughts out into the world for others to read and hear.  It can be a TED talk, a blog post, a comedian, or even a pastor who shares their words with the world.  With each piece of material that is shared, there can be one of several reactions. 

Some people will hate it.  Critics abound.  Whenever you share something, there is sure to be someone who disagrees and those who can tell you a dozen ways you could have done it better.

Some people will ignore it.  There will be those who do not react to your words.  My favorite preacher described it as trying to change the world by throwing lightbulbs at a brick wall, hoping to knock it down. 

Some people will love it.  The message will be the right words that hit at just the right time.  Lives will be altered.  Hope will be given.  Comfort will wrap itself around them.  Joy will enter their world as a smile crosses their face.  Something will happen that is beyond explanation. 

I hate that some of the sermons I preach will flop.  It bothers me that my podcast only has a few dozen listeners.  Many days I feel like quitting my blog because the reaction is not what I hoped it would be.  It is painful to put yourself out there and be met with anger or apathy.  But I keep doing it because occasionally, a breakthrough happens, and the unexpected takes place.  Those moments are rare and beautiful gifts that keep me coming back. 

If you have ever considered sharing your thoughts with the world, know that it will not be all fun and glory.  It will take thousands of hours for a few minutes of joy.  Also, know that it is completely worth every minute.   

A Call to Faithfulness

All of us want our lives to make a difference. As a young man in my 20’s, I wanted to change the world. I was going to be a religious leader who made a real difference in the world. I imagine Isaiah felt the same way, possibly even more than me. He was a prophet of God. He lived as the mouthpiece for God. While living in an ungodly society, I am sure he thought more than once that God would use him to do something great.

Then came his great undoing. King Uzziah died, and Isaiah was left searching for answers to the future. His wanderings led him to the temple, where I am sure he was going to pray and seek God’s direction for his future. In an unprecedented moment, the sky was rolled back, and he saw God high and exalted. The train of his robe filled the temple. His voice shutters as he can only cry out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

His moment of terror gives way to a six-winged creature flying to the altar picking up a hot coal and touching his lips with it. Either because of the heat or the blood that was still on the altar, “his guilt is removed, and his sin atoned for.” Isaiah felt the weight of sin and then the freedom of forgiveness.

Then the voice of the Lord says, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”‘

Without hesitation, Isaiah says, “Here am I. Send me!”

The Lord instructs him to go and preach but be warned the people will listen but not understand. Their hearts will grow calloused, and they will not understand you. None of them will be converted or healed.

Isaiah is still optimistic. Surely, he will preach, and the people will not listen for a time. Then after that, they will change, and he will have a considerable impact. So, he asks, “How long, Lord?”

The response is baffling in many ways. You go until the cities lie in ruin and the people leave. Eventually, everything will be laid to waste, and all that is left is just a seed in the empty ground.

This is where my imagination kicks in, and I begin to play with the story. I picture Isaiah saying, “What? Lord, are you sure? You want me to preach and never have a single convert? But I was going to change the world?” The look of disappointment must have registered on his face.

The story is essential for anyone who serves the Lord. God calls us to be faithful to him. The results do not matter, as long as we do what he called us to do. He is working out things we do not understand and may never see in our lifetime. A believer is someone who is faithful to God, even when the world gets worse despite our best efforts. Faith has teeth and tenacity in its spirit. It keeps doing the right thing day after day while the world is falling apart. True faith stands strong when things are getting worse because that is what God called us to do.