Friend or Acquaintance?

“I am a friend of God”1.  This is a lyric from a popular chorus sung in many churches today.  This is a great claim to be a friend of God so let’s look at this word more closely.   “Friend” – A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection (Oxford Dictionary);  a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard (Dictionary.com); a person who has a strong liking for and trust in another (Merriam Webster).  I would venture to guess after considering these definitions that many of the people that we have categorized as friends are really more like acquaintances.  Because according to these definitions, friendship requires a bond, an attachment and strong trust.  And if we use these three requirements, many of whom we considered friends would no longer qualify.  There is only one person in all of the Old Testament that God called a friend – Abraham.  Why?  Why not Moses, or David or Samuel or Isaiah?  If we used the definitions above, we see that most friends become friends because of common experiences or bonds that attach them together through mutual trust in one another.  The common bond between God and Abraham was the sacrifice of their one and only son.  This was a test that no other was asked to take but Abraham and he passed this test.  It was an unimaginable request.  But Abraham wavered not at God’s promise that through Isaac his descendants would be as numerous as the stars so, if He was asking this of him, somehow God would provide.  Some think it too casual to be considered God’s friend.  But they really have a too casual definition of what a friend really is.  Are you a friend of God or just an acquaintance?

8 “But as for you, Israel my servant, Jacob my chosen one, descended from Abraham my friend,  Isaiah 41:8 (NLT)

23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. James 2:23 (NLT)

4 I will cause your descendants to become as numerous as the stars of the sky, and I will give them all these lands. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Genesis 26:4 (NLT)

20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. Romans 4:20 (NLT)

17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, 18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” 19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.  Hebrews 11:17-19 (NLT)

1 Friend of God – written by Israel Houghton and Michael Gungor

Be More Like Rover!

(Disclaimer:  The following Food For Thought holds nothing against cats, parakeets, hamsters, gerbils or any other variety of pet.  I’m just a dog owner and lover!)

There are not many creatures out there as perfect as a dog.  A dog’s main desire always seems to be to please.  They want you to be happy with them and they know when you are not.  When your voice raises, even if you are not speaking to them, their ears slump and they come and sit at your feet as if to say “I don’t know what I did but I am so sorry”.  They are also very quick to forgive.  They just want to get on with being your best friend.  And you won’t find many people as loyal as your dog. They’d go through the fire for you if they need to. And there’s not much that can surpass the joy they bring to you as you walk in the door and they seem to say “I’m so glad you are home.  I’ve been waiting to be with you!”  Pleasing, obedient, repentant, forgiving, loyal, faithful and full of joy.  No judging, no condemnation.  Only unrestrained and unreserved love for their master!  Maybe we could learn a thing or two from our dogs.

 

22 But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’  Acts 13:22 (NLT)

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ Matthew 22:37 (NLT)

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. John 10:27-29 (NLT)

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I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 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 is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT)

 

Unstable?

Why is it so important to establish in our hearts that neither God nor His word ever changes? We probably have all experienced people who continually change their mind or can’t make up their mind. It can be very frustrating not knowing how a person might react from moment to moment. Have you ever gone into work and wondered what kind of mood your boss will be in that day? Have people ever had to wonder that about you? The reason people can be “unstable” in their ways is they are allowing themselves to focus on things that can fluctuate such as the stock market or the price of gas or even other people. In other words, they focus on the world around them. If you allow yourself to be pulled back and forth between what God offers and what the world offers, you are double-minded. And we know that a double-minded person is an unstable person. But when a person is able to see past these worldly things and focus on a God in whom there is no variation or shadow of turning, this produces a rock-solid confidence that cannot be shaken! There is only one place you will find complete stability and that is in Jesus!

6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do. James 1:6-8 (NLT)  

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, neither shadow that is cast by turning. James 1:17 (ASV)  

24 “These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. 25 Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock. Matthew 7:24-25 (MSG)

Go and Sin No More

We continue this week with the same thought from last week – God’s Word is sure and never changes!  Today we find segments of society doing its best to convince the world that Christians are exclusive and intolerant because we won’t compromise on God’s Word.  Old fashioned and out of touch are common descriptions of the Christian. And ironically because Jesus was so loving and merciful, He is often used to support this misguided wave of acceptance.  Just enough scripture is selected to support this mindset.  One such portion of scripture is the story of the woman caught in adultery. The “religious” leaders wanted her stoned for her sin because that’s what the law prescribed.  But Jesus, as the loving Lord He is, pointed out to them that none of them standing there was without sin so who would cast the first stone?  The point of this story is not that “love doesn’t condemn, therefore it accepts”. The beauty of this story is that the only one who could throw a stone raised this woman up out of her sin by His grace and mercy.  But it didn’t end there.  Jesus knew that the wages of her sin were death.  So in love, He instructed her to “go and sin no more”.  God’s Word is sometimes uncomfortable because it exposes what is not right in our lives. (The woman was not the only one exposed that day.)  But, God’s Word also illuminates the path which leads to righteousness!

10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” v11 “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”  John 8:10-11 (NLT)

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Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.   John 17:17 (NLT)

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.   2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT)

105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.   Psalm 119:105 (NLT)

Unchanging Word!

In our church building, there are exactly 17 steps from the main level to the lower level.  I have ascended and descended these stairs hundreds, maybe thousands of times.  And the number of steps never changes.  There are always 17.  I have counted them because I have descended them many a time while carrying items in my arms preventing me from seeing the bottom.  So I count as I go down.  And each time, when I get to 17, I reach out with my foot to make sure I am at the bottom.  Now this sounds sensible, because perhaps I miscounted.  So most times my hesitation is just precaution.  Could it have changed?  Could there be, say, 18 steps this time?  No!  There were 17 yesterday, there are 17 today and there will be 17 tomorrow.  There is no need for hesitation.  Faith is similar.  We know that we know what God promises us in His word, but sometimes there is that slight hesitation on our part in acting upon those promises.  “I wonder if God really meant what He said!”  God’s Word is firm.  It is unchanging.  It is the same yesterday, today and forever.  I want to come to the place where I have no hesitation – I trust Him so much that whenever God speaks, I move!  I won’t even have to know where I am going because I trust the One who is leading me!

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)

20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 2 Corinthians 1:20 (NKJV)

19 God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?  Numbers 23:19 (NLT)

Pause and Reflect

Me and my big mouth!  How many of us have lamented that statement before?  Most of us have all experienced much hot water because of our untamed tongue.  The Bible has a few things to say about this issue.  In fact, scripture is downright humbling when it comes to holding our tongues.  We are told in Proverbs 29:20 “There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking”!  We’ve all done it a time or two.  You hear something that just doesn’t sit right with you and then, phew, out comes exactly what is rolling around in your head. This has also become a more vast problem with the world of Facebook and Twitter.  There’s a little word we find quite often in scripture and it is “Selah”.  You’ve probably passed right over it many times.  This word means “to pause and think about this for a moment”.   We most often think this means not to read along so quickly that you don’t stop to think about what you just read.  But we could apply this to listening as well.  When you hear something that is unsettling to you, pause to consider it before allowing your first thought to roll past your lips. You may discover that that space of just a few seconds or minutes can prevent much regret.    So…Selah!

 19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.  James 1:19 (NLT)

28 Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. Proverbs 17:28 (NLT)

20 There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.   Proverbs 29:20 (NLT)

Apology or Excuse?

I recently read a little quote that gave me a chuckle.  It read – “Never ruin an apology with an excuse” and was credited to Benjamin Franklin.  On the surface, it is humorous but when given more thought, it is the way with so many people.  There is always a good reason for what they did or said.  Apologies are never easy.  What makes them so difficult? A big reason might be that a person has to actually admit they are wrong or made a mistake.  And for some people, they’d rather get hit by a Mack truck than admit they were wrong. A great excuse for many is “Well, I didn’t know!”  So does that make it  alright, just because they didn’t get all the facts?  Not to the person on the receiving end.  Everyone makes mistakes – everyone speaks out of turn – no one is right all the time.  Stupid things are done and said and require apologies to begin the healing process.  A crucial element, though, is sincerity!  A phony apology is almost as offensive as what the apology is actually for.  “I’m sorry you feel that way” is not an apology.  It’s like saying “My actions were right, your reaction was wrong”.  A genuine fear of apologizing is whether it will be accepted.  If your apology is sincere, your burden is met and hopefully the offended will accept and allow emotional repairs to begin.  Old Ben had an important insight – if you’ve offered an excuse, did you really apologize?

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV)

16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.  James 5:16 (NLT)

14 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. 15 Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.  Hebrews 12:14-15 (NLT)

Feed My Sheep

The portion of scripture in John 21:15-17 is a pretty familiar one where Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him.  And many times we focus in on Peter’s frustration with Jesus for the repetition of the question and his apparent feelings of offense at Jesus for even having to ask the question.  Some stress the importance of Jesus asking three times because previously Peter denied knowing Jesus three times.  But one important thing that is often overlooked is Jesus’ reply to Peter each time.  First Jesus replied “Feed my lambs”, next He replied “Take care of my sheep” and third His reply was “Feed my sheep”.  Jesus was showing the true shepherd in Him.  His concern for His sheep, or in other words, those who had come to follow Him, was of major importance to Jesus.  What should be extremely humbling to us is the fact that, in the scripture, God’s people are compared to sheep.  And the reason we should be humbled is because sheep are not the smartest of animals.  From the lambs to the adults, they need a shepherd and face much peril without one.  Jesus warned of hungry wolves (false teachers) who were on the prowl waiting for an opportunity to pounce, especially for the one who wandered off alone, away from the protection of his shepherd.  Unprotected sheep, those without a shepherd, are easy prey.  The nourishment and protection needed for His sheep was His Word!  Peter was to take up that assignment and make sure that Jesus’ words remained strong and vital in the lives of the people.  Keep yourself protected with the Word and be sure you remain under a shepherd who nourishes you with the Word!

15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.  John 21:15-17 (NLT)

4 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?  Luke 15:4 (NLT)

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“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. Matthew 7:15 (NKJV)

Survival!

Survival shows have exploded on television.  Just what is it that compels a person to prove they can exist in no-man’s land with very little and even sometimes without any clothes?  To me, that can be compared to using an old outhouse in the back woods when I have a perfectly good bathroom right here in my house.  I could do it, but do I have to?  It seems these survivalists need to prove something, either to themselves and/or to others as well.  That has been the nature of the beast since Adam.  Self-sufficiency  and independence – I can do it myself thank you, no help needed here!  So many people are trying to go through life that way, doing it their own way with no assistance from anyone.  Unfortunately, we were not created that way.  We were created by God for God – to look to Him for our survival!  He WANTS us to depend on Him!  And He WANTS to provide for us.  All we need to do is look to Him and ask!  Like all good fathers, He wants to bless His children!  Oh, if you want to prove you can survive 21 days with just a knife and a cooking pot, go for it.  I’ll be sitting in my comfy sofa, drinking my ice cold bottle of purified water watching you!

19 And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:19 (NLT)

11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 4:11 (KJV)

3 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place— 4 what are people that you should think about them, mere mortals that you should care for them? 5 Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. Psalm 8:3-5 (NLT)

2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.  James 4:2-3 (NLT)

Happy Birthday America!

 

This week marks 241 years since the United States officially became an independent nation. It began with only 13 states and an estimated 2.5 million people. Today America’s population is over 325 million making it the third most populated country in the world behind China and India. America has come a long way since its beginning. And she has been blessed by God, in great part because her founding was deeply rooted in Christian principles and values. There is no better way to succeed in any endeavor, whether it’s a business, a career, a marriage, raising children, and yes, forming a nation, than to heed the words and counsel of the Creator. And it is up to us to make sure our nation continues to do so. We pray for God to inspire, direct and guide those who are in leadership from the President on down to the city councils and county boards. God, continue to bless this nation and may your will be done in the United States of America!

 

Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.  II Chronicles 7:14. NLT

 

Pray like this:  Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10 NLT

 

Any enterprise is built by wise planning, becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts.  Proverbs 24:3-4. TLB