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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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A Prayer Strategy

January 22nd, 2014

“After they prayed . . they were filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 4:31 NIV.

Prayer and faith are the door through which God enters powerfully.

My thoughts and comments today are about “a prayer strategy.”

There will be times when you have to do something, but don’t know what to do. You will experience situations, unfamiliar or even desperate. The Bible is filled with times and places when people have felt much like you do. Consider Moses facing an impassable Red Sea while pursued by Pharaoh; imagine Daniel awaiting imminent death from ravenous lions; the Apostle Paul endured a terrible storm in a ship being torn apart, and sailors ready to abandon ship; feel the isolation of the Apostle John, callously exiled to die on a remote island. Inevitably, they and others turned to God in their worst circumstances and God did not fail them. You are wise to study others’ faith and its results, and to learn from their experiences.

The Bible reports of Peter and John that the religious leaders, “took note that these men had been with Jesus.” If you spend time with Jesus, others notice a difference. Soon after Jesus’ ascension, Peter and John were arrested and threatened with worse if they dared speak of Jesus again. Read Acts 4:21-33 NIV. Jesus always had faced the opposition, always knowing what to do. But Jesus was no longer with them as before; they were on their own. “After they prayed, the place was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly.” Acts 4:31 NIV. Like those early disciples, this is what you do when you don’t know what to do.

(1) First, pray with faith. “Lord, behold their threatenings.” Acts 4:29 NIV. Prayer is too often the second, third, or last thing you think of doing when facing threatening situations. Begin with prayer; then, you may not need to worry. Here is good advice, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer . . let your requests be made known to God . .” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV.

(2) Ask God for what you lack. “Lord . . enable Your servants . . with great boldness.” Acts 4:29 NIV. They had reason to be afraid, but fear like faith is really a choice. Fear thrives when you feel threatened. Faith grows when you choose to let God be God. Stop listening to your fears; listen for God’s assuring word. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing [comes] by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17 NKJV. The Word in your heart makes you bold in your faith.

(3) Expect God to do the extraordinary. “Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders.” Acts 4:30 NIV. Why pray at all, if you aren’t going to expect something spectacular from God? 2 Chronicles 16:9 KJV. Give God an invitation to display His power. Genesis 18:14 NKJV.

(4) Prepare yourself for things to change. “After they had prayed, they . . spoke the Word of God boldly.” Acts 4:31 NIV. More than expected happens when you pray; not a lot can happen until after you do. Prayer and faith are the door through which God enters a desperate situation powerfully. And His entrance is to fill you with His abiding Spirit. See Ephesians 5:18-20 NKJV. A Spirit-filled heart expects something marvelous and miraculous from God. “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24 NIV.

My prayer for you today is that you rely on the power of the Spirit in every situation.

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Still Waters

August 19th, 2010

“He leads me beside the still waters.” Psalm 23:2 NKJV

“God knows what you cannot, does what you could not, and offers love you should not live without.”

My thoughts today are about “still waters.”

Where do you go when life tumbles in on top of you? That’s really important to consider. Think about it for a moment; if your world seemed to be collapsing in ways you never imagined, what trusted name comes to your mind first? When you need to get away from where you are, to see things more clearly the way they are, where do you go?

Some years ago for my 44th birthday, a friend took me white water rafting in Colorado. It was not really something that I had ever wanted to do, but he insisted it “would be fun.” Most of the time, it was – beautiful scenery, cold, crystal-clear mountain water, and shallow, fast moving current.

But occasionally those cold Colorado waters became terrorizing, crashing against huge boulders as the river quickly dropped elevation. Suddenly, our raft would be thrust into minutes of white knuckle, white water experience. Our brief instructions previous to pushing off from shore were to prepare us in the inevitable chaos to listen for the guide’s voice, follow his directions exactly, and paddle fiercely only when instructed to do so. Quite an adrenalin rush!

And then almost as suddenly as it began, we were past that treacherous section and in the calmest of still waters at the river’s edge. Life can be a bit like that. All is well, even routine, and then there’s a severe pain you haven’t felt before; unexpected loss of job with bills and financial obligations you can’t meet, long saved investments worth fractions of what they were days before, a soul-numbing betrayal unanticipated, a cruel and stinging unkindness undeserved, or a doctor’s startling diagnosis unexpected. Suddenly you are in the middle of white knuckle, white-water life. That’s when you need the One who knows what you cannot, who does what you could not, and whose love you should not live without.

The disciples experienced that. Their trip across the lake began simply and safely enough, until a violent storm threatened to turn their world upside down. As the waves stung their cheeks and the wind howled its menacing threats, Jesus stood and “rebuked the winds and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ . . and it was completely calm.” Mark 4:35-41 NIV. Whatever your worries, whatever your fears, whatever the threats and dangers you feel, fear, and face, God knows when and how to lead you to still waters – sometimes far away from the storm and sometimes right in the midst of it! Either way, in His care you are safe, unharmed. See Psalm 46:1-4 TEV/Isaiah 43:2 NIV.

I have read that sheep will not drink from turbulent, fast moving waters. Innately, they are fearful, and rightly so. So a shepherd would find suitable, free flowing waters to refresh the flock and then gather enough stones to redirect the current, forming a shallow pool at water’s edge where the sheep could quench their thirst without need of fear. A good shepherd – and Jesus is a Great Shepherd! (See Hebrews 13:20-21 NLT) – would find a place, or with his own hands create a place, of safety and satisfaction. “The Lord is my Shepherd . . He leads me beside still waters.”

My prayer for you today is that you know the safety of God’s amazing love.

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