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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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Profitable People

March 9th, 2017

Never overlook the treasure in an earthen vessel

“[Onesimus] once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.” Philemon 9

My thoughts and comments today are about “profitable People”

The bottom line for every business endeavor or financial investment is calculating the potential for profit and loss. If you only generate a loss, you are soon out of business. Without a profit, you have a hobby, not a business. Profit and loss is easy when adding or subtracting numbers in a spreadsheet or database. But life and relationships require more than data and numbers. Numbers are static; people are dynamic. In relationships, you are dealing with lives, not ledgers. Figuring profit and loss there is more complex, less plain and simple. Numbers are just what they are. People can become more than they were.  

In Paul’s New Testament letter to Philemon we are introduced to Onesimus, a runaway slave from Philemon’s home. To escape recapture and punishment, Onesimus fled to Rome where Paul was imprisoned. Whether by intention or divine appointment, he met the Apostle and through Paul’s witness was converted. In his letter to Philemon, Paul wrote of Onesimus who, “once was unprofitable to you, but now is profitable to you and to me.” Read Philemon 1-25 NLT. Those words intrigue me. His past was past; his future was changed. It seems ironic that his name, Onesimus, means “useful,” yet he was once considered, “unprofitable.” Paul affirmed the sincere conversion of Onesimus in these words, “[Onesimus] now is useful to you and to me.”

Paul’s description of Onesimus piqued my thoughts with a practical question. How can you and I increase our worth in another’s life? Doing things worthwhile to another’s well-being increases your worth to them. As a beginning, the New Testament is filled with multiple, practical instructions of appropriate, unselfish, Godly behavior toward one another, such as, “Serve one another in love . . the entire Law is summed up in a single command: love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14 NIV.

Humility is a virtue in your dealings with others. “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” 1 Peter 5:5 NIV. You and I are profitable to others when we contribute more to them than we require of them. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV. Profitable people never overlook the treasure in an earthen vessel. As the Lord’s servants, we are called to encourage one another, recognizing the profit and potential in others and affirming that with our words to them and our actions toward them.

On another occasion, Paul also affirmed another young companion who had previously disappointed him. See Acts 15:37-40 NKJV. Older and wiser, Paul asked Timothy, “Take Mark and bring him with you, for he is profitable to me for the ministry. 2 Timothy 4:11 KJV. Ask yourself, have I lived in a practical, beneficial way toward others today? Every day, find practical ways to serve others. And begin at home.

Today, I pray for you to be found profitable in the purposes of God for your life and others.

Christian Communications

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Roots and Fruit

March 1st, 2017

Your influences determine your natural expressions

 May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.” Ephesians 3:17 NLT

My thoughts and comments today are about, “roots and fruit.”

You gradually become more like the persons you admire and choose as companions. You may not intend to do so; you may not even notice when that is happening, but your relationships shape the process of who you are becoming. Unnoticeably, you will begin to think like, talk like, and act like the people you are most frequently with and most comfortable being around. The strongest influence you allow will eventually determine your most honest and natural expressions. Those influences could be the friends you seek, as well as the music you prefer, the books you read, the movies you attend, the television programs you watch, or the people you envy or admire. Regarding those things, what do you presently see expressed from your life, through your opinions, attitudes, vocabulary, choices, values, priorities, or lifestyle?

Now, consider the vast difference when God and His Word are the strongest influences in your daily life. Spend time with God. You will notice the difference. What about you could be – should be – different and better than you are now? The Apostle Paul offers a description of the sordid expressions of your natural enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil. See Galatians 5:19-21 NLT. Paul contrasts that with the beauty the Holy Spirit brings into your life. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV.

Let those spiritual qualities describe what you really want your life to be. The Bible describes the process; “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your life will produce these evil results . . but when the Holy Spirit controls your life, He will produce this kind of (Christ-like) fruit in us.” Galatians 5:19/22 NLT. Your choice makes a difference, for better or worse. The worst expressions come from your carnal, unholy flesh. Christ-like expressions come from the Holy Spirit who dwells within you.

The problem is not as evident as it may at first seem. The root is the problem, not the fruit. For better or worse, fruit merely reflects the life that is at its source. Be clear about this. Symptoms are external and superficial; they only reflect the problem. The source is internal and always influential. You waste your time trying to control the fruit, when you should first choose the right Source. Jesus said, As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.” See John 15:1-8 NKJV. Time spent with God’s Word and Holy Spirit is valuable beyond price, transforming everything about you in the best possible way.

Today, I pray “. . that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” Ephesians 3:17-19 NLT.

Christian Communications 2017

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Tiredness

February 9th, 2017

Exertion is not the only cause of exhaustion

My thoughts and comments today consider, “tiredness.”

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 NLT

Being tired is tiresome. Tiredness seems more pandemic than at any time I recall. In today’s high stress and success driven society, burnout is an undeniable fact. If all weariness was only physical tiredness, a nap or a good night’s rest would be a remedy. Exertion is not the only cause of exhaustion. And rest is not always the solution. Feelings of exhaustion can come from less obvious sources also. Mental tiredness may result from too many demands on your thought or attention. Anxiety is tiring, producing emotional tiredness. Worry is exhausting, as is fearfulness. Spiritual weariness from a restless soul is even worse. Disobedience is draining. “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” James 4:17. Sin is debilitating, even self-destructive.

Just as busyness is not always productive, idleness does not cure tiredness. A person soon tires of doing nothing. You were not created to only work, nor to remain idle. Life has a rhythm – work and rest, activity and inactivity, productivity and replenishment. At creation, God Himself modeled the helpful and healthful rhythm of work and rest. “By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.” Genesis 2:2-3 NIV. Those are not exactly equal parts, but they certainly are equally important parts.

Discover that rhythm and you will have all the strength and energy that you need. Ignore that balance and life doesn’t work as well for you, no matter how much you want or need it to do so. “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, Jesus said to them, ‘Come with Me to a quiet place and get some rest.’” Mark 6:31 NIV. Even though they were involved in good things, that was not enough to make it good for them. Do you ever identify with what the disciples must have felt?

I heard a person announce, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” If that could be you, life will only change for you when you finally tire of being tired; only then will you make the necessary adjustments for that to change. David, the Shepherd and Psalmist had it right; “[The Lord] makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:2-3 NKJV. When you most feel like you cannot afford to take time off is often the time you cannot afford not to do so. Rest is wise when you are weary, indicating neither weakness nor a waste of time. The price that is exacted from marriages, personal relationships, quality of life, and spiritual fulfillment is inestimable. Don’t be a statistic. “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NKJV.

I think you can trust the Creator to know what works best with His creation. “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.’” Matt 11:28-30 NLT.

Today, I pray for you to do God’s work God’s way so you will have God’s blessing.

Christian Communications 2017

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Hope and Optimism

January 6th, 2017

You crown the year with Your goodness; Your paths drip with abundance.” Psalm 65:11

Optimism is the language of hope.

My thoughts and comments today are about “hope and optimism.”

God’s Word holds so much promise for this time of year. Optimism hears God’s whisper in your heart that your past need be no predictor of your future. Optimism is the language of hope. Let the New Year reflect your hope, not your tears. Tears express yesterday’s disappointment; hope affirms the promises and providence God holds for your future.

My thoughts have been drawn to the Psalmist David’s declaration of hope, “You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance . . the pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered with grain; they shout for joy, they also sing.” Read Psalm 65:9-13 NKJV. Take a moment and re-read those verses, deliberately and thoughtfully. A more contemporary translation reads, “What a rich harvest your goodness provides! Wherever you go there is plenty.” Psalm 65:11 TEV.

Pause and reflect over what King David wrote. He joins the past, present, and future and rejoices that amid all, God is generously benevolent. I love David’s poetic imagery. The year – every single day of it – is crowned, adorned with the faithfulness and goodness of God. Prophetically, David declares that his and your journey throughout the year, “overflows with abundance.” David further describes God as the One, “Bless the Lord, o my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord o my soul and forget not all of His benefits . . Who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things.” Read Psalm 103:1-5 NKJV. Out of His goodness, God, “heals . . forgives . . redeems . . crowns . . satisfies.” There is consistency in the nature and character of God.

Deliberation at the close of a year and the fresh beginnings of a new year can be beneficial when appraising the recent past; a lovely place to visit, not a place to dwell. Whatever your previous experience, God has even better things ahead for you. Embracing and rejoicing in God’s provision is your righteous response to God’s goodness. David had no doubts; the goodness of God was assured and unchanging. “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6 NLT.

A New Year can be, and should be, a freshly hopeful season for you. But a change of calendar alone is inadequate to accomplish that. Whatever your circumstances, I do know that all things didn’t always go the way you planned last year. They never do. Expectations are rarely as you hope. Relationships seldom endure as you would like. Explanations rarely come when you expect. But God will be as He has promised to be. Your past is settled in grace; the present is safely in His care; your future is secure in His providence and, “crowned with goodness.”         

Praying for a Blessed and Graced New Year for you.

Christian Communications 2016

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