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Connections

March 13th, 2015

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” Proverbs 18:24 NKJV.

When shared with a friend, sorrows are divided but joys are multiplied.

My thoughts and comments today are about “connections.”

ED pix connecting

Life can be lonelier than it’s meant to be. Loneliness results from a lack of meaningful and mutual connections with others. You can feel lonely in the company of a crowd but loved in the companionship of a friend. Godly companionship is nurturing to the soul in good times and nurses the wounds in difficulties. “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17.

The Bible tells the story of Naomi. Read Ruth 1:1-22 NIV. In a famine, Elimelech and Naomi, with their two sons left Bethlehem for Moab seeking a better life. Elimelech died and their sons married Moabite wives, Ruth and Orpah. Within 10 years, both sons died, leaving their Moabite wives as widows. Tragedy left Naomi and her daughters-in-law with a shared sorrow. As often happens, in their common dilemma they discovered a shared life. In Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep and the lost coin, each story concludes with these words, “When he has found it, He calls together his friends and neighbors saying, ‘Rejoice with me.’” Luke 15:6-7. When shared with a friend, sorrows are divided but joys are multiplied.

Longing to return home to Bethlehem after her tragic loss in Moab, Naomi urged Ruth and Orpah to remain in Moab. But Ruth voiced her sense of Godly connection with Naomi. What began as incidental became personal and mutual. In their shared experience, God connected their hearts in a way they could not have anticipated. Ruth’s response to Naomi was definitive, “Where you go, I will go; where you stay, I will stay; your people will be my people, and your God my God; where you die, I will die.” Ruth 1:16-17 NIV. Their destiny became linked in Godly ways of mutual affirmation and blessing. Godly connections are engendered by recognition that God’s purposes envelop a common future. I love the providential occasion of their return to Bethlehem, “They came at the beginning of the barley harvest.” Ruth 1:22. Naomi left for Moab in a famine but in the loving benevolence of God they returned from Moab at the time of harvest. Maybe your harvest is just ahead also.

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” Proverbs 18:24. Ruth affirmed her conviction and personal commitment, in the most practical way. In Ruth’s words are relevant truths about mutual connections. (1) Connection requires proximity and priority of time. “Where you go, I will go; where you stay I will stay.” Self-absorption and busyness minimize meaningful connection. Make time to be together purposefully and take the importance of that seriously. (2) Connection includes room for others. “Your people will be my people.” Exclusiveness and possessiveness diminishes the life God means to flow freely. (3) Connections occur when God is at the center. “Your God will be my God.” Connections require a bond with spiritual orientation and purpose. (4) Connections require significant commitment. “Where you die, I will die.” Friendships can grow and deepen over a lifetime; stay committed to them. Value and protect meaningful connections where God is directing and blessing.

I am privileged to enjoy such friendships, and hope that I can be such a friend. Though there must be some things enjoyed in common, they are usually not the more superficial things you might think, such as age, social status, or personality. I cherish friendships with people both older and younger, of diverse personalities from mine, of both modest means and wealth, and of varied experiences and interests. But there is one very important thing that we share in common that strengthens the life connection we enjoy – our common faith and commitment to Jesus. Lasting connections will have a spiritual commonality with people on a journey whose destination is as yours.

I love the providential timing of Naomi’s return to Bethlehem, “They came at the beginning of the barley harvest.” Ruth 1:22. Naomi left for Moab in a famine but in the benevolence of God they returned from Moab at the time of harvest. Maybe your harvest is just ahead also.

Today, my prayer for you is that you provide others the company you enjoy.

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Up Close and Personal

February 11th, 2013

“That which . . we have heard . . seen . . touched.” 1 John 1:1 NIV.

The spiritual experience of others is no adequate substitute for your own.

There are two things I notice about people’s lives today; most lives are busy, therefore isolated to varying degrees. I think the former is likely to be the origin of the latter. People don’t have enough time for much other than their crowded schedules, therefore lacking energy for meaningful fellowship or spiritual community. Tiredness and loneliness of soul are the effects. God created you for spiritual and personal community, establishing the Sabbath principle for its accommodation. The principle of Sabbath sustains a rhythm of pace and peace that allow your soul to discover refreshing and rest in God’s presence and others’ company.

You can’t really know anyone from a distance. You may have much information about them from what others know or report of them, but a real relationship requires personal interaction and first hand knowledge. Do not be content with a second-hand acquaintance with God. Your everyday experience with God must always be “up close and personal.” Settle for less at your own loss. John, the once fiery and competitive disciple of Jesus – once willing to call fire down from Heaven on an occasion and on another pressing Jesus for His promise of prominence at His right hand – changed incrementally as he walked alongside Jesus and received His teaching.

When John’s experience with Jesus became “up close and personal,” his natural temperament altered as a result, as yours can be. John described this process for himself and others as: “That which . . we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” 1 John 1:1 NIV. Hearing, seeing, touching – no one does that for you; that’s personal, even individual. Peter was witness to the same, “We did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”  2 Peter 1:16-19 NKJV. Imagine; eyewitnesses of His majesty! Today, will you open your heart to be enraptured by His unrivaled majesty?

The spiritual experience of others can never be an adequate substitute for your own. You can learn from theirs, even be inspired by theirs, but your experience of God must be personal in order to be life-changing. “We all . . beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image [in ever increasing shades of splendor], by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV/JBPhillips. God has even more for you than salvation.

As glorious and transformative as forgiveness and redemption is, your primary encounter with the Savior is the bare minimum of spiritual experience, permitting your initial entrance into fellowship with God. Without that introduction, you remain outside the Kingdom of God, apart from relationship with Him or His Son. Only then can your new life develop to maturity. “Now we are the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:1-2 NIV. You will be like Him! Every day, you can experience more of God, a growing fullness, “new every morning!” The process may seem incremental to you, but the spiritual maturity that results is fundamental. See Ephesians 4:13-15 NKJV. Now, off together on the adventure of a lifetime!

My prayer for you today is that you will experience God for yourself and know Him more fully.

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Near to God

January 18th, 2013

Spiritual intimacy requires intention and initiative.

“Draw close to God and God will draw close to you.” James 4:8 NLT.

Have you noticed that you feel loneliness when isolated from the company of others? You are at your best and happiest when enjoying a comfortable lifestyle that allows plenty of room for others. God created you to enjoy community with others and fellowship with Him. Your Adversary desires your isolation from others and your separation from God, if you will allow it. The Incarnation, when God came into our world, evidenced God’s desire for your fellowship. John marveled that “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us . .” John 1:14 NIV. Spiritually, you are safest when nearest to God and living happily alongside others.

James, the brother of Jesus, urged, “Draw close to God and God will draw close to you.” James 4:8 NLT. Spiritual intimacy requires intention and initiative. What would being “close to God” mean to you? The promise is clear; the process is just as evident. When you move in God’s direction, you will always find God responding in kind. But how do you draw close to God? James describes the process simply. Drawing close to God is evidenced by two deliberate actions by you, “Humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil . .” and a corresponding reaction by the Devil, “. . and he will flee from you!” James 4:7 NLT. The sincerity of the first determines the success of the latter. I am reminded of Solomon’s proverb, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies live at peace with him.” Proverbs 16:7 NIV. Get things right with God and you will find things better with others.

Humility is the proper posture of heart for a right relationship with God and others. How you walk with others will often reflect your heart attitude before God. Peter echoed the principle of humility this way, “All of you, [young and old], clothe yourselves with humility toward one another because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may exalt you in due time” . . when you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on Him [humble yourself], He will lift you up and give you honor.” 1 Peter 5:5-6/10 NIV. Read Colossians 3:12-17 NKJV.

Any relationship either grows or diminishes, not long remaining as they were.By their nature, relationships are dynamic, not static. That is also true of your personal and spiritual relationship with God. Any distance that occurs between you and God results from your lack of initiative, not His. A healthy, growing relationship requires your vigilance in giving a priority of time and attention.

Jesus’ coming gave lasting proof of God’s passion for closeness with you, who are made “in His image and likeness.” The invitation is His; the initiative is yours, “Draw close to God and God will draw close to you.” James 4:8 NLT. When you are closer, it just feels right. “For You created everything, and it is for Your pleasure that they exist and were created.” Revelation 4:11 NLT. God finds pleasure in your company; you will find your ultimate fulfillment in His.

My prayer for you today is that your heart draws ever closer to God’s heart.

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Owners and Managers

June 25th, 2009

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” Psalm 24:1 NIV

Life is at its best when you choose to live generously.”

My thoughts today are about “owners and managers.”

Sometime as I walk through the halls of our Preschools, I pause to watch young children at play. I find that observing them is most interesting. I have noticed that most small children can be divided into two groups: those who share and those who won’t. Some children are eager to play with others and have learned that sharing is required, and a few feel the need to control the activity and claim every available possession as “mine!”

That disposition seems to come too naturally for people of any age. The very word separates friends and destroys closeness. Life is at its best when you choose to live generously. “One man gives freely, yet gains even more. Another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” Proverbs 11:24 NIV. People who hoard for themselves and withhold from others seldom see the connection with the worry, unhappiness, and loneliness they feel. How tragic, and needless.

Contentment is best found by realizing that everything that you have is a gift received. Ultimately, you will give an account for how well you manage the things given to you. See Luke 16:1-3. Owning more does not secure your peace and happiness. Owning actually creates some added measure of worry and anxiety. Jesus used parables, “teaching stories,” to underscore that the things you have and enjoy did not originate with you, nor ultimately belong to you. The earth really is the Lord’s, and “everything in it!” You and I are managers, not owners.

Your time is a gift extended to you, which God expects you to use for more than your own pursuit and pleasure. Your talents and abilities were provided to you by God’s hand and grace. Your possessions and resources are provision for your use and for your service to God and others, not yours to own and spend as you will. Jesus said, “To whom much is given, from him much will be required.” Luke 12:48 NKJV.

True joy comes when you release your need to “own,” and embrace your privilege to manage on another’s behalf. Jesus taught, “If you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will commit to you that which is your own?” Luke 16:12 NKJV. As a student entrusted with the opportunity of an excellent education . . as an employee given opportunity to serve others on their behalf . . and as a steward of God’s practical and daily grace, you are qualifying yourself to receive the greater blessings of God, and be shown the gratitude and good will of others.

Life works best when you truly understand that, “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it; the world and all who live in it.” Psalm 24:1 NIV. Not just figuratively, but literally. The apostle Paul reminds every Christ-follower, “A person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful.” 1 Corinthians 4:2 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is to hold things lightly, love others greatly, and serve God fully.

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