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The Power of Friendships

August 31st, 2018

Friday, August 31, 2018

Friends Influence Who You Become.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“The Power of Friendships.”

I said farewell to a dear friend. I have said too many farewells too many times. His suffering is over and for that, I am thankful. But the continued loss of his company and our conversations is painful to me. In that void, I find my thoughts today are about how friends shape one’s life. You are more the product of the people around you than you might realize. You give an awesome power of influence to each person invited into your life.

Friends with whom you spend time ultimately shape your opinions, values, choices, and activities. The Bible says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 NIV. Relationships impact your life’s direction, whether or not you mean them to do so. For better or worse, the friends you choose influence who you become. Think about that for a moment.

Friends are the people you choose to spend time with, and whose opinions really matter to you. By their friendship, they are allowed influence. Who are significant people in your life, whose voice and counsel you always regard? Are they Godly influences pointing you to Jesus and God’s Word, urging you to be better than you would have been, and lovingly requiring that you be better? That’s the kind of friends you need

My favorite story of a friend’s influence is David and Jonathan. Jonathan is the King’s son in Jerusalem, heir to Israel’s throne and groomed to reign. David is a teen, just a shepherd’s son from Bethlehem, apparently with no royal ambitions. After King Saul’s death, God sent the prophet Samuel to his humble home to anoint a new King. Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13. David soon found himself chosen by God to lead a nation, when all he had led was his father’s few sheep.

Can you imagine the insecurities David must have felt, or the questions he had? Why? How? Why me? He would never make that journey successfully without others to encourage and help. You don’t have to make your personal journey alone. In fact, you shouldn’t try.

God brought Jonathan into David’s life. In Jonathan’s heart, God put an understanding of God’s calling and anointing for David to be king, and a love for David that provided an influential friendship that would groom David to rule. See 1 Samuel 18:1-4. Their lives were bound together in covenant love (1 Samuel 20:16), reaching even to the next generation. See 2 Samuel 9:1-13. David would not have reached his potential if not for the influence of Samuel, a person of authority who recognized David’s anointing, or Jonathan, a true friend who embraced David’s Godly destiny, and Nathan, a courageous prophet who spoke Godly correction and counsel to David. Those kinds of Godly friends are essential to your life.

Don, my dearest of friends since I was sixteen, once reminded me of an occasion when I had said to him, “Thank you for not letting me be what I would have been without you.” I do not remember saying that, but I hope I did. Because of the years we had spent together, I am different – my life, family, and ministry better – than would be true otherwise. And that is true of far more friends than him alone. God must have known how much I would need to be surrounded with such friends of Godly influence.

More than any one person, my wife and best friend, my mother and father’s loving examples, spiritual “fathers and brothers” sharing their lives with me, staff pastors serving alongside, and gracious families in the churches we served, are influences touching my life still today. Friendships are for mutual benefit and ultimately for God’s purposes. Choose them wisely; avoid those that might be detrimental rather than beneficial. Be wary of those who would subtly change you as neither God nor you intended.

Today, I pray for you to seek and welcome Godly and influential friendships.

Christian Communications 2018-212

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Use What You Have

July 25th, 2018

Doing all you can requires using all you have.

“God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.” Romans 12:6 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are, “use what you have.”

It is easy to imagine all the wonderful things you could do, if only you had more to work with. Ever felt that way? More of what? More opportunities? More help? More resources? More education? More skills? More experience? More advantages? Fewer challenges? Less difficulties? The list is endless and excuses continuous, while successes remain unaccomplished.

You have more than you realize. You have more than you use. Use what you have. Doing all you can first requires using all you have. It’s simple really. Inventory what you have rather than what you lack. Then God will provide what you need. Paul was confident, “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 NIV.

The Bible is a reliable history of God at work through His people. God’s Word is filled with people and instances when they used what they had and God did what they could not have done alone. Everyone loves the story of David and Goliath. David had only a shepherd’s sling and God beside him. That was enough. King Saul tried to equip him with his own armor, helmet, and sword. See 1 Samuel 17:36-49 NKJ. What you don’t have is not the issue. In God, what you do have is enough.

The Bible spotlights individuals that rose out of obscurity to achieve something others did not dare to try. Have you ever heard of Shamgar? Probably not. His name appears only twice in the Bible, and very little is known about him, except his name, his origin, and the very difficult national and personal times in which he lived. See Judges 5:6-8 NKJ.

Danger and desperation made daily life difficult. Israel’s men were disarmed and defenseless. Because of his fearless exploits, his fame was included in people’s songs and Israel’s oral history years later. What did he do? Well, first consider what he did not do. He did not dismiss the possibility of courage against unimaginable opposition by first calculating the odds and then doing nothing at all. But here’s what Shamgar did. Single-handedly, “Shamgar struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox goad. He too saved Israel.” Judges 3:31 NIV. One man, unarmed, against six hundred seasoned Philistine warriors.

He used what he had, a common ox goad, just a wooden stick tipped with bronze that a farmer used to prod his work animals. A simple ox goad was enough for God to provide a decisive victory. A common farm utensil was not much at all, except in the hands of a determined and courageous farmer, whose valor brought about a rousing victory that emboldened the heart of a nation to stand bravely and proudly against its enemy.

An unusual story? Yes, but not an uncommon one in the Bible. Has God changed from Shamgar’s time and yours. He is, “the same yesterday and forever.” Does His story sound familiar to you, like Moses and a shepherd’s staff, or Gideon and his trumpet, or Samson and a jawbone, or David and a slingshot, or a boy with a small lunch of bread and fish? God’s story is about using ordinary people in extraordinary ways, when they choose to use what they have for God’s purposes and glory.

You may not have what you need; you may not have everything you want; you may not have what others have. He does not promise all your wants, but He does promise all your needs. Trust Him to know the difference when you do not. You have something that God can use.

“God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. So if God has given you the ability . . do it well.” Read Romans 12:6-8 NLT. Remember, the key to doing all you can is trusting all you have into God’s hands. The saddest thing at the close of a day, a year, or a lifetime, is to regret not doing all you could when you could.

My prayer for you is to see God supply all you need and multiply all you have.

Christian Communications 2018-73010

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Loving Discourse Lessens Discord

June 12th, 2018

Communication enables mutual understanding.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6

My thoughts and comments today consider that, “loving discourse lessens discord.”   

Kind and sincere communication is a gift that we give to one another. Communication connects and unifies people. I love a simple, beautiful verse: “Grace is poured upon Your lips.” Psalm 45:2 NKJV. What would your life and relationships look like if grace poured from your lips? Loving discourse lessens discord. In contrast, our world is so torn because individuals persist in being right, however high the price is paid in their dearest relationships. Whether in a marriage, family, friendship, or church, the relationship is left the victim when loving communication breaks down.

Sadly and widely, both public and private discourse seem course today, evidencing less and less grace. Why do we choose dispute over concurrence? Conversations are essential for social interactions and profitable commerce. Communication enables effective collaboration to bring about mutually beneficial understandings. The interaction that communication requires is not optional. Sincere and meaningful communication offers significant benefits such as: proper discourse unifies people, decides purpose, defines progress, and produces greater achievements. Real community is possible only to the extent or limitation of real discussions.

Language is a gift, possessing the power to unite or divide us. A wise person considers their words. Words have potential for good or ill, can help or hurt, heal or wound, increase understanding or create confusion. Your words are always within your authority to speak or remain silent. Speak after forethought and prayerful reflection. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge.” Proverbs 15:1-2 NIV.

With clarity and authority, Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Read Matthew 12:35-37 NKJV. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.” Read Proverbs 4:20-24 NIV. Ask yourself, “Are my words honestly intended, edifying to others, and glorifying to God.”

With King David, we should pray from our heart that our words and thoughts would be these, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 NIV. And how can we keep our words and thoughts pleasing in the sight of God and others? Pray as David prayed, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3 NIV.

Today I pray for you to choose your words to always be both true and kind.

Christian Communications 2018

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Passions and Priorities

September 6th, 2017

  Your passion determines your priorities.

“You will seek Me and find Me when you shall search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 NIV  

My comments today are about, “Passions and Priorities.”

God is not elusive nor the path to God concealed. But the spiritual opposition to your seeking God is intense, both externally and internally. An evil trinity of spiritual forces oppose you. The world around you, your flesh within you, and the devil against you all conspire to turn your heart to other pursuits more immediately pleasing.

God described David as, “a man after My own heart who will do all My will.” Acts 13:22 NKJV. What a wonderful way that God described David. Your passion determines your priority. Your priority reveals your passion. David’s passion for God fueled his priority to know and please God. “You will seek Me and find Me when you shall search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 NIV. Any serious pursuit of God must be done with earnestness and priority.

Jesus was clear and specific, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6 NIV. How would others describe your appetite and thirst for God today? Earnestly and diligently are apt descriptions of how you should be seeking God’s highest and best for your life.

David described his passion for God as he wrote, ”My soul follows hard after God.” Psalm 63:8 KJV. Seeking God is not for the easily distracted or readily discouraged, and never for the merely casual or curious. Such is the path reserved for those for whom life without God is not enough.

You will earnestly seek for what you believe is of incomparable value and for which you will accept no substitute. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask [according to His will] – we know that we have what we asked of Him.” 1 John 5:14-15 NIV.

Jesus presented a Biblical progression for those determined to seek God with whole hearted devotion and single-minded purpose. Read Luke 11:9-10 NIV. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you.” Asking is elementary. “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” James 4:2 NIV. Asking reflects your priority of God’s will and your patience with God’s timing.

Jesus also said, “Seek, and you will find.” Seeking involves attitude as much as activity, a time while the Spirit refines the sincerity of your heart. “[God] rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6 NIV. As my Dad often reminded me, “Anything worth having is worth waiting for.”

Jesus concluded by saying, “Knock, and the door will be opened unto you.” Knocking indicates your anticipation more than insistence. Jesus concluded with this promise, “For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:1-3 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to cultivate a heart that seeks after God always.

Christian Communications 2017

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The Language of Touch

June 9th, 2017

A touch communicates more than words will express.

You place Your hand of blessing on my head.”   Psalm 139:5 NLT.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “The Language of Touch.”

Physical touch has its own language. A simple act of touch can communicate comfort, inclusion, assurance, affirmation, or even healing. An extended hand speaks of welcome and acceptance. A pat on the back is congratulatory, affirming a job well done. An arm around a person’s shoulders registers comfort and assurance. An embrace communicates affection. The language of touch communicates what words are inadequate to express – compassion, understanding, sympathy, comfort, or reassurance. In contrast, isolation from human touch can be debilitating to one’s personality and sense of wellbeing.

Along with our family and friends, we each need appropriate, physical interaction. Babies who were touched and held more frequently by attending nurses are found to thrive, gaining body weight more quickly than infants who were not touched and held. It would seem we never outgrow the need for a loving, caring touch from others. For reasons that will have to be explored elsewhere, it seems like we Americans are more inhibited about this than are our European cousins. But no one does as well without frequent interaction and the appropriate touch of other persons.

Jesus was always touching people and being touched by them, even some that others would not have touched. He touched lepers and freed them from their prison of social isolation. He touched the sick and they resumed normal lives. He touched the blind and they could see as before. Jesus laid His hands upon children and blessed them. His touch restored lifeless bodies to life. In Scripture, great importance is given to the “laying on of hands.” Along with the spiritual significance of impartation, there is the very real physical importance of identification and empowerment, evidencing a new connectedness and beneficial involvement with one another.

That personal touch is available to you as well. David seemed incredulous as he wrote, You place Your hand of blessing on my head.” Psalm 139:5 NLT. What would it mean to you today – every day, any day – to know that the hand of God was upon your life for blessing? After David describes the breadth of human experience, he adds, “Even there Your hand will guide me, and Your strength will support me.” Read Psalm 139: 7-12 NLT.

When He lays His hand upon you, God identifies Himself with you. So often in Scripture, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” chose to identify Himself with individuals, even with all our imperfections and frailties. Consider that God would place His Name alongside of yours. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the Throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16 KJV. The double negative of that verse asserts that our God can and will be touched with, “the feelings of our infirmities,” and welcomes us with grace.

When He lays His hand upon you, God commits Himself to you. He commits to provide, protect, and direct.  “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 NKJV. Imagine having the sufficiency of God always available to you.

Today, I pray for you to experience the benevolent touch of your God.

Christian Communications 2017 – 6408

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About the photo: From 1508-1512, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with a series of frescoes that portrayed several Biblical stories. Perhaps the most famous image from the ceiling is The Creation of Adam, which depicts God giving life to the first human, Adam.

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