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Friends

October 23rd, 2015

“A friend loves at all times, and is born, as is a brother, for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 AMP.

The wise person knows where and from whom they will receive help and healing.

My thoughts and comments today are about “friends.”

Maybe you would recognize the theme song of Cheers, a television program popular from 1982-1993. “Making your way in the world today, takes everything you’ve got; Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came; You want to be where you can see, our troubles are all the same; you want to be where everybody knows your name.” The odd lot of likable characters found a sense of family and friendship in the iconic Boston Pub.

When life feels increasingly bewildering and unfriendly, you will seek the company of others, “Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” When you need refuge while you sort out life, where do you go? Some choose a busy, noisy place to drown out their own thoughts and concerns. Others like a quiet place alone where they can reflect and consider. But all seem to appreciate the reassuring company of people who welcome them whatever the time or trouble. See Proverbs 27:17 NIV.

Luke reports a time soon after Pentecost when Peter and John were brought before the prevailing, religious authorities and threatened to cease their bold declaration of the deity and resurrection of Jesus. Read Acts 4:1-21 NKJV. This was a threat of no small concern. “When they further threatened them, they let them go . . and being let go, they went to their own companions.” Acts 4:23/31 NKJV. Their response was to seek out the company of friends.

What is your immediate response when you find yourself in unfamiliar, uncomfortable, or unsafe situations? Gordon MacDonald authored, “Restoring Your Spiritual Passion,” a book of spiritual influence in my life. He proposed that every person needs three things when confusion or conflict comes and your joy of life wanes: (1) a map marking safe places where you find out who God is, (2) a calendar reserving still times when you can hear what God says, and (3) the names of special friends who encourage you to obey what God asks. “A friend loves at all times, and is born, as is a brother, for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 AMP.

But let me be clear, it’s not just any friends. The company with which Jesus’ followers gathered were people of like faith – friends filled with the Spirit of God (Acts 4:31), friends of one heart and soul (Acts 4:32), and friends who were selfless, even sacrificial (Acts 4:32). Similarly, en route to imprisonment at Rome, Paul was thankful for friends, “The brothers and sisters in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came to meet us at the Forum on the Appian Way. Others joined us at The Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage.” Acts 28:15 NLT.

Friends include you in their lives. Jesus elevated the stature and privilege of friendship when He said, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15 NIV. Those kinds of friends continue to restore and strengthen my faith every day.

Today, I pray for you to have valued and reliable friends for the best and worst of times.

Christian Communications 10137
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Be Encouraged

April 2nd, 2015

“That through endurance and the encouragement we might have hope.” Romans 15:4 NIV.

Encouragers find themselves being encouraged.

My thoughts and comments today are, “be encouraged.”

Life can be wearing and wearying. Weariness and discouragement accumulate like emotional dust, layer upon layer until its load gradually becomes more than you can bear alone. Everyone needs encouragement in daily doses. You and I live in a world that is often discouraging, among people who are easily discouraged themselves, therefore discouraging to others. Sometimes, life might be described in these words, “They said, ‘Cheer up. Things could be worse.” And sure enough, I cheered up . . and things got worse.” Sometimes it feels like that. Both discouragement and encouragement are emotions, but so much more; those emotions generate critical assumptions about circumstances that will gradually impact your expectations, either negatively or positively. Before you get discouraged reading all this, let me share about encouragement.

David provides a Godly example of how to be encouraged in discouraging situations, “And David was greatly distressed; for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved . .” Read 1 Samuel 30:6-19 KJV. In their pain, David’s soldiers blamed him for something an enemy had done, a tragedy he could not have anticipated nor could prevent. Does that scenario sound familiar? Here’s where the narrative and outcome changes, “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” When all around you is disheartening, look to the God who is for you, with you, and in you. David sought the Lord and was told to pursue the enemy, “And David recovered all.” Encouragement restores your body, soul, and spirit.

Encouragement provides spiritual intervention and reversal of everything the devil intended for your harm and loss – joy, confidence, hope, trust, peace, or positive expectations. Encouragement is a common theme and recurring accent throughout the Bible. Paul encouraged Christ-followers, “Therefore, we do not lose heart . . for our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they will produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever.” Read 2 Corinthians 4:17 NIV/NLT. You can turn your disappointments into divine appointments.

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Read Romans 15:4-7 NIV. Read those words again, carefully and slowly. Notice in this verse that Christ-followers are promised three things:

(1) “Hope,” which the Bible describes as an anchor of the soul, “both sure and steadfast.” Read Hebrews 7:17-19. See Romans 15:13.

(2) “Encouragement,” which results from Godly focus, stubborn trust, enriching thoughts, and edifying companions. See Hebrews 10:24-25/1 Thessalonians 3:2-3 NIV.

And, (3) “Endurance,” which is a joyful and steadfast expectation while you wait. See Colossians 1:10-14 NIV. Looking for a way to endure is better than looking for a way to escape.

When you are hopeful, you are encouraged; when you feel encouraged, you are strengthened to endure. Notice the progression: hope provides encouragement; encouragement promotes endurance; and the source of all of these is found in, “the Scriptures.” “Stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17 NIV. See also 2 Timothy 3:15-17.

If you are discouraged, you’re looking in the wrong places and listening to the wrong voices; look to Jesus and be encouraged. And be an encourager; someone you know needs encouraging more than you. Jesus promised, “Give and it will be given you . . good measure, running over.” Luke 6:38. Encouragers find themselves being encouraged. If finding life hard to endure, or encouragement lacking, strengthen yourself in the enduring, encouraging truth of God’s Word. In several situations these recent days, I have felt the Lord impress upon my heart two simple words, “Be encouraged.” I share His words with you today. Whatever the situation, be encouraged.

Today, my prayer for you is that you are encouraged and become an encourager to others.

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Ally or Adversary?

March 29th, 2012

“If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31 NKJV

“God’s intent is that you enjoy supportive company in your journey of faith.”

My thoughts and comments today ask, “ally or adversary?”

Isolation is an unnatural circumstance, even unhealthy to your personality and development. Solomon wrote, “As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17 NLT. You were made for meaningful relationships. You can be better if they are the right kind of friendships, not so good if the wrong kind. The Bible is plain and simple about that; “Don’t be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:35 NIV.

Just as truly as I learned a Law of Physics in high school that, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” I have learned you must choose the right kind of helpful companions, or you will find the lesser kind all too available. You must learn to differentiate between allies and adversaries. God’s intent is that you have and enjoy supportive company in your journey of faith. The reality also is that there are those who will be adversaries to your faith. You will have friends; choose them well and walk with them closely. You will have adversaries; avoid them when possible, and ask for help when you need to do so.

Life can be hard on your own, because God never meant for you to be without the mutual benefit of companions. That truth was established early at Creation when God made Adam, then announced, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18 NIV. Generations later, David declared the same truth when he wrote, “God sets the solitary in families.” Psalm 68:6 NKJV. Though it sometimes feels like it, you do not have to be alone in life.

There are times you may feel as Joshua when facing the obstacle of a fortified Jericho impeding his journey. Read Joshua 5:13-15 NKJV. Standing before him with sword drawn was an imposing figure. Joshua, ever the courageous soldier, asked, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” That’s important to know. May you be certain as Joshua discovered – God will always be for you!

The Apostle Paul recites difficult life experiences and then asks, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31 NKJV. In that truth safety and assurance of soul is found. David recalled his own difficulties and dangers, recounting, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side . .” Read Psalm 124:1-8 NKJV. I cannot imagine my life without God on my side, and Jesus at my side. When God is on your side, “No weapon turned against you will succeed . . When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies live at peace with him.” Isaiah 54:17 NLT/Proverbs 16:7 NIV.

The Bible warns, “Be vigilant because your adversary, the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 NKJV. You have a dangerous, credible adversary but God is your ally, “an ever present help in time of trouble.” Psalm 46:1 NIV. Be persuaded that “God is for you,” and live in such a way that He can be. Do not live in a way that sets you in opposition to God. “You are of God, and have overcome . . because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:5 NKJV. God is greater than any and all who would posture themselves to harm you.

My prayer for you today is that you live with courage and confidence in God’s strength.

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Shared Blessings

July 14th, 2011

“The Lord blessed . . the household because of Joseph.” Genesis 39:5 NIV

“Intentionally place yourself in the path of God’s shared blessings.”

My thoughts today are about “shared blessings.”

Have you noticed that there are people that others just want to be around? There seems a magnetism of ability or personality to which others are drawn. Some people make others feel better about themselves; their example and confidence inspire assurance in other people to believe they can do more than they thought they could. In June 2011, a lunch with Warren Buffett, famed investor of Berkshire Hathaway, was auctioned on EBay. The winning bid? $2.63 million, $100 more than the previously highest 2010 bid. Someone valued the benefits of association.

It is a simple principle really; if you wish to learn, associate with those who know what you need to know. If you wish to be a better person, spend more meaningful time with better people. If you wish to be wise, spend time with wiser people. If you desire to be Godly, acquaint yourself with Godly people. Got the picture? There are very real benefits from associations.

All of us can be influenced by associations for benefit or detriment to some degree, by those close or even acquaintances. The Bible warns, “Do not be misled: bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:13 NIV. That being true, it is safe to assume that good companions encourage good character! Something of who you become is influenced by the people you choose to be around. Choose well and wisely; you will become more like them without realizing that. I am a blessed and better man because of the friends in my life; I hope others can say that about my friendship.

Joseph is a most interesting story. Joseph began as a slave in the household of a military and government official, Potiphar. “The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered and lived in the house of his master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord gave him success in all he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes.” Read Genesis 39:1-6 NIV. From slave, to house servant, to attendant, to being in charge of his house, to being steward of “his household and all he owned . . everything he had . . both in the house and field.”

Potiphar recognized the evident prospering upon all Joseph was entrusted to manage. Here is the defining conclusion: “The Lord blessed the household . . because of Joseph!” God was the source, but Joseph was the reason. God’s blessing on Joseph’s life extended to those who sought his well-being. Does your life evidence the blessing and favor of God so that others are drawn to your company and your blessings become their blessing? Remember this simple truth. God’s blessing to you is to release His blessings through you.

“How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ.” Read Ephesians 1:3-14 NLT. As you read those verses, note especially the list and kind of blessings given just “because you belong to Christ!” The Father shares His blessings with the Son; that grace becomes the shared blessings for all who are in Christ!

Or maybe you are the one in need of God’s blessings? Don’t begrudge or be jealous of others when you see them blessed more than you; intentionally place yourself in the path of God’s shared blessings. You can receive what another receives, when you believe what the other believes.

My prayer for you today is that you are blessed greatly and a blessing to many.

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Companions and Courage

June 2nd, 2009

“I am here! Don’t be afraid.” Mark 6:50 NLT

“A companion in your journey can give courage when Jesus is included.”

My thoughts today are about “companions and courage.”

Have you ever noticed that you are less afraid if there is someone with you? Companionship helps courage, if those companions inspire confidence and hope rather than incite fear. I suggest you pause and read the verses that surround today’s Scripture. Read Mark 6:45-56 NLT. There will be times when your life has been routine; you are doing things you have done many times before without incident, assuming everything will be as it has been before even though it never is.

And unexpectedly you find yourself in a storm of sorts. Storms can be exciting, even beautiful, to watch from a safe distance – the wind whistling through the trees, the deep voiced, booming sounds of rolling thunder and bright flashes of distant lightning momentarily brightening the night sky. Not so much fun when you are caught in the dark and in the middle, and at sea in a comparatively small boat like the disciples were.

Don’t expect to face your storm without Jesus being near. When Jesus saw His friends “in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling . . He came to them walking on the water.” Understand this; whatever it takes, even a miracle, Jesus will come to where you are. Have you ever been there, done that, only to hear His whispered words in your heart, “I am here! Don’t be afraid.”

What a difference those few words make. I often find my prayers for people to include asking God to give that person a “word to walk in.” When your heart hears Jesus speak, you gain courage. What a huge difference Jesus’ presence makes. He steps into the worst moment of your situation and everything changes. At another time he commanded the storm to cease. In this instance, the Bible says so simply, “Then Jesus climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped . . and they were astonished.” Mark was recording much later what Peter remembered and reported to him about this strange night. Peter, as a seasoned fisherman could not easily forget how this frightening nightmare changed when Jesus came aboard.

Do you find yourself surprised by the difference Jesus makes, when you leave room for Him in your scary situation? Peter and the disciples were. When you are, just remember to calm your fears for a moment and listen carefully for a shout that drowns out the storm around you or for a whisper so slight that only a heart could hear it.

Today I have a dearest of friends who is living out a medical diagnosis that is anything but optimistic, and another friend of middle age who died unexpectedly yesterday with no apparent health warnings, leaving a young family in excruciating pain today. I feel helpless. I want to do something to help, but right now there is little that I can do except walk alongside and trust that my just being a companion in the journey will help, while I point them to Jesus who can heal.

On Paul’s journey to Rome, “When the believers in Rome heard we were coming, they came to meet us . . when Paul saw them he thanked God and took courage.” Acts 28:15 NLT. I want to be a companion that helps friends find courage, and know Jesus is alongside. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT. I am thankful for a lot of friends like that when I most needed courage I did not have.

My prayer for you today is to be so close to Jesus that you leave no room for fear.

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