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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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The Priority of Friends

February 28th, 2018

Be the friend you hope to have.

“We rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God –
all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us
in making us friends of God.” Romans 5:11 NLT

My thoughts and comments today are about, the priority of friends.”

Priorities are essential not optional. I recognize three Biblical and irreplaceable priorities in my life. In this order, those priorities are: my faith, my family, and my friends. All are significant, but their order is important. Priorities clarify and simplify daily life. When you are right with God, you have the guidance of His Word and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to arrange all other relationships in their proper order.

When that personal, spiritual connection is lacking, other relationships can never reach their potential. Here is the basic, yet grand, truth. The Father is the One who invited you into this wonderful friendship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:9 NLT. Be aware of this fact, “If your aim is to enjoy this world, you can’t be a friend of God.” James 4:4 NLT.

This is true as well. Your family is a Godly assignment with eternal accountability. Family can either be your fulfilling joy or will become one’s greatest sorrow and regret. The Bible has much wisdom and guidance for the relationships of husbands and wives, as well as parents and children. Read Colossians 3:18-21 NIV/Ephesians 5:22-31 NIV. As your fellowship with God is the resource for your family relationships, those relationships have much to do with the potential quality of your personal friendships.

Now, let’s consider the priority of friends and friendships. God established the truth that, “two are better than one.” Solomon advised that righteous friendships make you stronger, more secure, satisfied, and successful. Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV. I have found friends and friendships to be foundationally vital to health and happiness. Friends also are essential not optional. Life is much less without the company and fellowship of true friends.

God’s Word provides a lot of wisdom about friends and friendships. The Bible presents many exemplary friendships – Moses and Joshua, David and Jonathan, Daniel with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Paul and Barnabas, Peter, James, and John, as well as Jesus and the Disciples. Jesus elevated friendship when He said to His disciples, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from My Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15 NIV.

Friendships are based on a simple, Biblical principle. “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” Proverbs 18:24 NKJV. Be the friend you hope to have. Your friends will reflect you or, for better or worse, you will reflect the character of your friends. The quality of friendships entrusted to you reflect the friend you have chosen to be to others. I am extremely grateful for the many friends who have generously included me in their lives.

When I learned the power of this principle, I told a life-long friend, “Thank you for not allowing me to become what I would have been without you in my life.” There are many people to whom I could say the same. Without the principal and priorities of faith, family and friends, I could not become the disciple, husband and father, and friend I want to be. I am far better than I would have been without them. I hope my God, my family, and my friends would feel the same about our relationship.

This is the Biblical origin and foundation for all of this. “For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by His life. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God – all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God.” Romans 5:10-11 NLT. The spiritual health of your family and the authenticity of your Godly friendships rest upon and flow from the depth and steadfastness of your, “wonderful new relationship with God.”

Today, I pray for you to enjoy life-affirming friendships born of the friend you choose to be.

Christian Communications 2018-817

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Success with Satisfaction

October 27th, 2017

Satisfaction is measured by accomplishment not reward.

“I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 2 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“Success with Satisfaction.”

God created you to succeed. And that should be your goal. A desire to succeed is common to the human heart. No one makes plans to fail but many fail to plan. But first, you need to know how you define success? Without that, how do you even measure success? It is important that you determine your personal definition of success and that should be founded on God’s Word. If you don’t have benchmarks for measuring achievement, how will you know when you accomplish it, or recognize when you fail to do so? It is tragic to allow other people’s opinions to dictate what true success should be for you.

You will invest a lifetime of effort and energy to achieve fulfillment and meaning. A good  question to ask yourself is, “When I get where I’m going and have what I’m wanting, where will I be and what will I have?” Too many people end up with full pockets but have an empty heart. Solomon offered sage advice, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23 NKJV. Success with satisfaction begins in your heart.

Will wealth and possessions be your proof of success? The applause or acclaim of others? Some time ago, I saw a bumper sticker that said. “At the end, the one with the most toys wins!” But do they? True success must be so much more than having the biggest pile of unnecessary stuff. God’s Word says, “Each one should be careful how he builds. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is. The fire will test the quality of each man’s work.” Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 NIV. Eternal values differ immensely from what the world values.

I think that satisfaction, and contentment with what you achieve, is a more reliable measurement of success than the weight of public opinion or the tangible and external rewards of one’s accomplishments. Success without satisfaction is a myth. Where you find your supreme fulfillment is where you will find your greater success.

“[Blessed is the man who is] like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Read Psalm 1:1-3 NIV. What a great promise! For me, the arenas where I intend to succeed, find satisfaction, and most prize any success are in the opportunities and responsibilities of family, friends, and ministry.

As regards Family, I will evaluate success by the Godly fruit to be found in our children and grandchildren, and the generations who will follow them. I will measure the faith and values we hold in common, the times we love and enjoy one another’s company, and our family’s continued love and service for the Lord. However anyone else chooses to evaluate my success, our family is central to my definition of success or disappointment.

As regards friends, life is richer because of the example, encouragement, and fellowship of friends who share life and faith with you. Life can be lonely, even unfulfilling without people who gladly share your joys and sorrows.

As regards ministry, I choose to evaluate success based on obedience and faithfulness to God’s call and meaningful service to God’s people. I am grateful for whatever measure of outward success that we have experienced these fifty plus years of pastoral ministry, but in my heart, I know that whatever success might be attributed to us, God’s grace and people’s graciousness have been its true source.

So, I will thank God, my family, and friends, and celebrate every year of blessing and privilege extended to us. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Read Galatians 6:8-10 NIV. My prayer for you encompasses all you are and all you do.

“I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 2 NKJV. It all starts in in your heart of hearts where, “your soul prospers.”

Today, I pray for you to not waste time on empty dreams but instead pursue God’s will.

Christian Communications 2017

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The Company of Friends

June 7th, 2017

Navigating difficulties requires the support of friends.

“The Father of compassion and the God of all comfort Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV.

My thoughts and comments today are about,

“The Company of Friends.”

Trouble is a common experience. You won’t always cause it. You won’t always enjoy it. But you can and must learn from it. Trouble is never enjoyable, but it can yield a maturity of life and faith that is learned in no other way. Trouble can be faced with faith, not fear. The Bible says, “Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow.” Read James 1:2-5 NLT.

According to James, there are three elements which develop character and spiritual growth. Trouble – on occasion, everyone experiences troubled times or troubling people. Time – you must exercise patience and endurance to rightly learn from trouble. Truth – Godly perspective brings wisdom. Trouble is something you will have; time is something you must give; truth is something you must learn and in which you must be confident.

Among the things I have learned about trouble, this is most important. Navigating difficulties successfully requires the company and support of friends. Solomon wrote, “Two are better than one . . if one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble . .” Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NLT. Value those friends who will accompany you in your struggles and sorrows. Everyone needs someone alongside on their journey.

When you face troubled times or troubling people, which the Bible calls, “tribulation and persecution,” there are two questions your soul ponders about friendship. Are you there for me? And, do you care for me? Prize the gift of those friends who offer their company and compassion when you struggle most. “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need . . As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 17:17/27:18 NLT.

Jesus taught a simple yet profound truth, “Do for others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the Law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12 NLT. Be that kind of friend to others. My Dad taught me a valuable lesson about the responsibility and mutuality of friendship. By his words and example, he taught me that, “You will have the kind of friends that you choose to be for others.”

I have learned the irreplaceable value of friendships. Friendship is a treasure not available for purchase or barter, and a treasure nothing else can replace. I am grateful for friends who have invited me to share their lives and inspired me to live the best version of God’s plan for my life.

Fortunately, even when no one else can be there for you – when they cannot, or will not – God is there! “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.” Psalm 27:10 NIV. Though the dearest of friends may not be able to be near, God can and will be there for you always. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble. Therefore, I will not fear . .” Psalm 46:1-2 NIV. Though any circumstance and emotion may suggest differently, God is ever present. Always cares. Always there. “For God Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to be confident in God and His care for you.

Christian Communications 2017-6810

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Healing Laughter

May 18th, 2016

Dear Readers of EDL: I will be taking a few days of leisure with my wife and some dear friends, away from my office and writing responsibilities. In these next days, visit the Archives of previous devotionals at the Wedbiste, if you need a bit of God’s Word to brighten your day and lighten your heart. I so appreciate your partnership in EveryDay Life. I’ll meet you here again next week. Blessings In His Name.

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“A merry heart is good medicine.” Proverbs 17:22 NIV.

Laughter is a gift you give yourself and others.

My thoughts and comments today are about, “healing laughter.”

When humor is good-natured and without sarcasm or portraying others disparagingly, it can provide a mental and emotional mini-vacation that lightens and lifts a heavy heart. “Laugh and the world laughs with you; weep and you weep alone.” (Solitude, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1850-1919, American author and poet). People don’t laugh enough and they, as well as their family and friends, are the worse for the lack thereof. A common saying is: “Laughter is the best medicine.” Solomon was the wisest of men, and he wrote that “Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time.” Proverbs 17:22 TEV. Lighten up; brighten yours and others’ lives. “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” Proverbs 15:13 NKJV. Laughter is healing to the soul. Humor freshens attitudes, refreshes emotions, relieves worry, and releases tension. Solomon was the wisest of men, and he wrote that “Being cheerful keeps you healthy. It is slow death to be gloomy all the time.” Proverbs 17:22 TEV.

As I was growing up, our home was a happy place. Our family laughed freely and frequently. My Dad had a big smile and a ready laugh. When friends were in our home, I remember that there was lots of laughter and funny stories. Solomon wrote, “For the happy heart, life is a continual feast.” Proverbs 15:15 NLT. A favorite childhood memory of mine is sitting by my Dad watching comedians on television, laughing together at the antics of Red Skelton, Milton Berle, or George Burns and Gracie Allen. Admittedly, that was before comedians considered profanity and vulgarity to be funny.

My Mom was always my most appreciative audience. I enjoyed making her laugh. None too seriously, my Dad would occasionally say, “Don’t laugh at the boy, Mildred; you’ll just encourage him!” Apparently, she ignored his pretended discouragement. I still love a well-placed humorous ad-lib, probably more than continues to be funny sometimes. I love laughter that is joyous and spontaneous. Does that happen to you often enough?

Laughter is a gift you give yourself and others. Do your friends and family a favor; make them laugh. My Dad also said, “Everyone brings joy, some when they come and others when they go.” Be the first of those; bring joy whenever and wherever you come. People don’t laugh enough, especially at themselves. Don’t take yourself and everyone else so seriously. When things are as serious and sobering as our world seems to be presently, a few more people with a healthy sense of humor does not seem to me a bad thing, especially ones able to laugh at themselves.

Jesus must have had a terrific sense of humor, judging by the stories He told. Imagine a camel trying to go through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24 NIV), or a judgmental person trying to get a speck out a friend’s eye with a sizable log in their own (Matthew 7:1-5 NLT). Read the Gospels. People loved being with Jesus; children and crowds sought His company. I think everybody was happier being with Jesus, except those who thought themselves too religious or self-important. I envision Jesus with the broadest of smiles, most uninhibited laugh, and the most joyous of hearts – all the while loving life and living abundantly. His desire for you is simple and clear, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and your joy may be full.” John 15:11 NKJV. The world – and the Church – needs a lot more of His joy.

Today, I pray for you to have and enjoy the company of friends who find humor healing.

Christian Communications 2016-11810 laugh; it’s good for you

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