A True Friend

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A Friend Loves at All Times


“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
[Proverbs 17:17]

[Recommended Reading: Job 2:11-13]

How many ‘true’ friends do you have? I’m not talking about social media connections on Twitter or Facebook. I’m talking about real friends. Friends who truly care about you. Friends who are compassionate and careful to level criticism at you. Friends you can count on when the ‘tide goes out.’ Friends who love you at ‘all times.’ If you are like most people, especially with social media, you may have hundreds or thousands of ‘followers’ but very few real friends who hurt when you hurt and would do anything to help you if you needed any help. I have noticed quite a few people today ‘pose as friends’ ‘act like they may be for real,’ but only do so to ‘keep up with you’ because they are nosy. That’s not a real friend. 

What about Job’s ‘friends?’

When Job lost everything (Job 1–2), his three friends came to commiserate with him. Their intent was to be loving: to “mourn with him, and to comfort him” (Job 2:11). They wept, mourned, and sat in silence with Job for seven days, seemingly loving him as best they could. But then, after a week, they couldn’t help themselves. They had to explain to Job that his suffering was his fault, that he was being punished by God. They had no proof beyond their judgments and opinions. Their support turned to legalism and discouragement—exactly what Job (in the midst of great suffering) didn’t need.

If Job’s friends had stuck with their original efforts, things would have been better: consolation, love, shared sorrow. No words of advice, just acts that demonstrated, “We know you are hurting. We don’t know the answers. We are here to go through this with you.” That’s what friends are for—love in times of adversity. Unfortunately, they decided to become “Job’s Theologians” and explain to him that all his troubles from God was his fault. Doesn’t sound very loving does it?

Sometimes, when a friend is suffering, the best talking we can do is none. Just be there for them. You don’t have to have an answer for the riddles of life; especially suffering. For goodness sake, showing compassion and kindness is the bare minimal we can do for anyone hurting.

If you know someone who is suffering, someone who is going through adversity or hardship, take the love-leap. Sit with them, pray with them, write to them, take a meal to them, babysit their kids. A friend loves at all times.

“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 24:24)

Who would that be? Jesus. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” like the hymn goes.

Do you believe that? He knows all about you, good and bad, yet loves you anyway. His love for you never changes. He wants to help you experience life with a capital “L” — but for you to know Him better—you must start showing Him you want to be HIS friend.

How?

Spending time with Him, in His Word, in prayer, in the fellowship of His people in church, during the week in your thoughts. Friends of God, friends of Jesus always make room for Him in their lives. Don’t expect God to be your friend when you are not willing or wanting to be His. He desires to be closer to you than you realize. Give God a chance and He will show you just what friendship is all about because He can help you be a better friend to others who need your friendship. Life is not all about us. If we treated our friends like some of us do God, we would have none. God is a Person, not a thing or the Star Wars ‘Force.’ He created you in His image.

I challenge you, start spending time with Him, get to know Him, love Him, respect Him, like Him, be His friend and watch your life be totally transformed.

“Our job is to love people we don’t have to love. If we won’t do that, then we can’t call ourselves true believers in a God who does.”
—Keith Miller

Worry is ‘Practical Atheism’

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Worry is “Practical Atheism”

There is an important distinction we need to make between good worry and bad worry. There are matters that ought to concern us, things that deserve our immediate attention and action. Being carefree is not the same as being careless.

Good Worry, Bad Worry

The Greek word for “worry” in Matthew 6 is sometimes used elsewhere to convey legitimate concern for something or someone. In fact, this word is used by the apostle Paul to describe the mental and pastoral weight he carried daily, his “deep concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28). He also used the word to describe Timothy’s sincere “care” for the spiritual growth of believers in the city of Philippi (Philippians 2:20). We should, therefore, sometimes express intense care and concern for the advancement of the Lord’s work and the welfare of his people. There is such a thing as good worry and appropriate anxiety. We should be concerned about the welfare of our nation, the state of our own souls, the health of the church, the peril of the lost, the future of our children, and the care of our aged parents. The Christian is not a happy-go-lucky kind of character who breezes through life with a thoughtless attitude and naïve approach to living for God. So what does Jesus prohibit?

Jesus gives the command abruptly to his followers: “Therefore I say to you, do not worry.” There are no “ifs” or “buts”: this is a command to immediately refrain from worrying. The construction of the Greek here carries the idea that those listening to the sermon had already given themselves over to worry and that Jesus is therefore telling them to immediately stop being anxious. This is a blanket ban on “bad worry.” Bad worry is inappropriate in light of God’s promises, providence, and power. The apostle Paul repeats this imperative in Philippians 4:6: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

Anxious care, or illegitimate concern, is out of place in the company of Christians and certainly in the presence of God. Anxiety is not a personality trait or culturally accepted norm, but a violation of God’s will for which we need forgiveness. However, too often we treat worry as a “respectable sin.” When you and I worry, we are being disobedient. We are sinning. I believe it was John Wesley who said, “I can no more worry than I can curse or swear.”

Practical Atheism

Anxiety takes God out of the picture, causing us to respond to a situation as if he were not present. That’s what I mean by practical atheism: we are thinking and living as if God has vacated the throne of heaven. Clearly, then, anxiety is no small sin. But not only that, it is not a solitary sin; it spawns others. Worry is a sin that gives birth to ugly offspring.

Let me give one example. Let’s say you worry about your financial security. If you’re not careful, worrying about your finances will trigger other sins, such as covetousness of others and discontentment regarding God’s providence in your life. But Jesus wants us to be worry-free. He tells us to stop worrying about whatever is worrying us.

Remember, with Jesus’ commands comes his enablement to grow in grace. He doesn’t command us to do something that he is not willing to strengthen us to do. You see that principle at work in the story of the man with the withered hand being asked by Jesus to stretch it forth (Mark 3:1–6). Humanly speaking, that would have been impossible, but with any divine commandment comes divine enablement. Therefore, don’t say, “I can’t stop worrying.” You can, and you must. And by God’s grace, you will.

 

The Son-Rise in Our Hearts

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“We also have the prophetic message [Scripture] as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the Day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts.”

—- 2 Peter 1:19

For Peter, the Word of God shone like a Light in a “dark” place (some translate the word dark as “squalid,” “dirty,” as well). That’s why he’s so clear that we need to take “heed” to that light, to follow it until “the day dawns and the Morning Star rises in [our] hearts.” We are fallen beings, living in a fallen and dark world. We need the supernatural power of God to lead us out of this darkness and to the Light, and that Light is Jesus.

 “For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light of knowledge shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” 
—-2 Cor. 4:6

Peter is pointing his readers to a goal. Some believe that the expression “until the day dawns” refers to the second coming of Jesus. Though that’s certainly our ultimate hope, the idea of the “Morning Star” rising in your hearts sounds more immediate and more personal.

The “Morning Star” refers to Jesus (Rev. 2:28Rev. 22:16). His rising in their hearts seems to be about knowing Jesus, fully taking hold of Him and experiencing the reality of the living Christ in their own individual lives. Jesus shouldn’t be just a doctrinal truth; He should be the center of our existence and source of our hope and faith. So Peter is establishing a clear link between studying the Word of God and having a saving relationship with Jesus, the “Morning Star.”

And of course, with the light shining in us, we will spread it to others. “The whole earth is to be illuminated with the glory of God’s truth. The light is to shine to all lands and all peoples. And it is from those who have received the light that it is to shine forth. The Day-Star has risen upon us, and we are to reflect His Light upon the pathway of those in darkness through our good deeds of kindness and compassion, our demonstration of His love toward the lost and our unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Whenever others can see and sense the Light of the love of Christ in us, in our words and our works, then they encounter the cosmic illumination that can make them desire the same warmth and glow of God that fills our souls today. 

Your Focus Determines Your Future

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YOUR FOCUS DETERMINES YOUR FUTURE 
(A Devotional Reflection for the 2020 New Year)

“It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on God who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).

Your focus now determines your future later. That’s a pretty big statement. But in the life of Moses, we see that it’s true. Once Moses “keep his eyes on the God who is invisible,” his whole destiny was transformed. He was enabled “to keep right on going” with the divine assignment God had for him.

(Hebrews 11:27) says, “It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on God who is invisible.

Focusing your life on Christ does two things for you; It gives you the courage to let go of the past, and it gives you the courage to walk into the future.

Moses “left the land of Egypt.” He had the courage to let go of his past.

In the Bible, Egypt always represents slavery and bondage to something. So here’s the question: “What’s your Egypt? What’s enslaving and controlling you? Do you have the courage to walk away from it? When you start focusing your life on God, He will give you the courage to see your past in a new way and also give you great strength to move forward.

Next, “he kept right on going.” He had the courage to walk into his future, his destiny.

Your focus now determines your future later. The Bible says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

When you receive Jesus by faith, God forgives your sins. He gives you a whole new identity in Christ. People sometimes call it being “born again.” It’s a fresh start, a clean slate, a new destiny.

Once Moses focused his whole life on God, he was like an Olympic runner who doesn’t look to the right or left, but just looks ahead to the finish line.

(Hebrews 12:2) says, “Keep your eyes fully on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in” (The Message).

(Colossians 3:1-2) puts it this way: “Set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits . . . Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

When your life focus is taken off yourself on put on Christ—not on other people’s priorities or opinions but on the realities of heaven, the Holy Spirit will give you incredible supernatural power to run the race God has given you to run.

Focus on God totally. Walk away from your past. Move forward into your destiny.

Questions to Ask Yourself for 2020

What part of your past do you need to walk away from?
When do you find it most difficult to keep your eyes focused on Jesus?
What specific step can you take today to move toward your God-given destiny?