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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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Grace and Comfort

October 14th, 2015

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father.” 2 Corinthians 1:2 NKJV.

Your comfort remains incomplete until shared with others.

My thoughts and comments today are about “grace and comfort.”

In the Bible, there are many descriptions of God’s attributes. Of all the writers who attempt to describe the Indescribable, I love the Apostle Paul’s description best. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all tribulation.” 2 Corinthians 1:2-4 NKJV. Read those words deliberately – grace, peace, mercies, comfort – and embrace them personally. Were it not for His grace, there could be no peace. And were it not for His mercies, comfort would be elusive. Flowing from God’s grace and peace, mercies and comfort abound.

Life can be difficult and trying times confusing. That is when and where you and I need the One, “Who comforts us in all tribulation.” By New Testament definition, tribulation is, “pressure resulting from a too narrow place.” Maybe you presently feel discomfort in a situation with undesirable options in an uncomfortable context. Such a place is sometimes described as being, “caught between a rock and a hard place.” Tribulation is something more than a brief inconvenience from the antagonism of persons or adverse circumstances.

Paul knew such times and also knew the sufficient grace and peace he found in every experience, “We are hard pressed, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NIV. You need a powerful God with a tender heart and gentle hand, “the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.” From personal experience, Paul wrote, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NKJV.

Comfort is wrongly assumed as merely kind, emotional support. However, the word’s origin implies a strengthening impartation of courage and fortitude. See Acts 28:15-16 NKJV. For Paul, the Father’s purpose is clear; you are comforted by God to be a comforter of others. “If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.” 2 Corinthians 1:6 NIV. Your comfort remains incomplete until shared with others. “Therefore, comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NKJV.

Today, I pray for you to be fortified in spirit and confident in every circumstance.

Christian Communications

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Pressures

May 10th, 2011

“Under pressure . . your faith . . shows.” James 1:3 The Message

“Pressure, rightly responded to with grace and faith, produces valuable, spiritual qualities.”

My thoughts today are about “pressures.”

Pressure of one sort or another seems an unavoidable part of everyday life – whether financial, relational, occupational, emotional, or spiritual pressure. It’s not all that pleasant when it’s happening, but all pressure is not bad. Some pressure is normal, and any pressure can turn out to be profitable. Without any pressure, you would under-achieve, never accomplishing your fullest potential. You get stronger by resisting what would weaken you; you become better through overcoming challenges requiring that you do so. Neither deadlines nor difficulties are unprofitable, except when self-imposed by your lack of planning or poor choices.

Though long ago, I still remember a high school science class when the teacher demonstrated the power of surrounding air pressure to crush a metal can when the air pressure inside was reduced significantly. The can collapsed! The object no longer had adequate pressure to withstand the forces against it. Don’t let that happen to you.

You may have heard the practical advice, “Don’t let the pressure get to you.” Is that possible, and if so, how? Pressure externally is not the problem you think it to be, as long as there is a sufficient force internally to resist and withstand it. Pressure exists; the answer is not found in life that is free from stress, strain, and anxiety.

Jesus both promised and warned, “These things have I spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NKJV. Listen to what God says to your heart. God’s Word inside your heart is the inner strength that withstands every outward force to the contrary. “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might . . that you may be able to withstand . . and having done all to stand, stand therefore . .” Read Ephesians 6:10-18 NKJV.

“You are of God . . and have overcome, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 NKJV. Safely in Christ Jesus and abiding in the truth and power of God’s Word, you are more than equal to any task or trouble you encounter. The Bible says that you need perseverance, character, and hope strongly within you. Do you know how those dynamic, spiritual qualities develop? Paul wrote, “knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance (produces) character, and character (produces) hope.” Romans 5:3-4 NKJV. Pressure, rightly responded to with grace and in faith, produces valuable, spiritual qualities. Tribulation, is a translation of a Greek word, “thilipsis,” describing “a pressing from all sides.” Paul describes an occasion of his being “pressed beyond measure, above strength . .” 2 Corinthians 1:2-10 KJV.

James, the brother of Jesus, confirms in his letter, “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, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” James 1:2-4 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that in every pressure you will find His strength to withstand.

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Adversity and Opposition

December 2nd, 2010

“If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” Romans 8:31 NLT

People give too much worry with too little wonder at the Almighty God.”

My thoughts today are about “adversity and opposition.”

Ever have times when you felt like everything was working against you? Everyone can feel like that on some occasion. Be careful; that’s when you could easily begin feeling sorry for yourself, but that is a major waste of your time and emotion. Life is not always fair, and the winds of circumstance are not always favorable. Time and circumstance happen to one and all.

Your success in life is not the good fortune of favorable events. Everyone will have their share of laughter and tears; so will you! The tears are usually the result of troubling times and troublesome people. Be advised; Jesus warned that those experiences have the power to steal the word of God from your heart. Read Matthew 13:20-21 NIV. Jesus called such moments, “tribulation and persecution.” Much of your success and well-being comes from how successfully you handle such times and people.

When adversity – big or small – seems to beset you or opposition seems to array against you, ask yourself the same question Paul asked, “If God is for us, can ever be against us?” Romans 8:31 NLT. Let me first note what that verse is not saying, even if I wish it were. The Bible does not promise you exemption from challenging times and cantankerous people. In fact, Paul is addressing exactly such times.

Paul asks some probing questions that expose the raw nerves, yet persevering faith, of a man that experienced the best and worst of everyday life. Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 NLT/6:4-10 NKJV. In his letter to Christ-followers in Rome, he asks, “Who dares accuse us . . who then will condemn us . . who can separate us . . does it mean He no longer loves us?” Romans 8:33-35 NLT. What questions do you ask, and what does your heart answer in response?

You too may feel the sting of those who accuse you, believing that adversity and opposition is the just result of some wrong that has angered God, just as Job’s friends suggested of him, or those who loudly or privately condemn you while you are just trying to survive, or those who would say that God has withdrawn Himself from you and the pain and loneliness you feel is Heaven’s reaction, or maybe even the nagging questions of your own heart, doubting God’s love. Don’t waste valuable time believing any of those.

The Apostle Paul was establishing this simple truth: resting safely and confidently in God’s care, adversity and opposition that is against you is never an equal counterpart to God who is unchangingly and altogether for you. It is sad to have so much worry, with too little wonder at the Almighty God, who is ever at your side!

Here is Paul’s answer, and I hope it will be yours: “No, in spite of all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us. And I am convinced nothing can ever separate us from His love.” Romans 8:37-38 NLT.

My prayer for you today is that you find your rest and refuge in Christ alone.

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