Monday, April 30, 2012

Friendships Filled with Life

-Photo credit-
Why do we need friends?  I mean, why not just live the life of a hermit, secluded in a tiny cabin all by ourselves?  You can’t get hurt there. You would be safe there. Or is it really a safe place? 

Actually, we’re never safe with sin and ourselves around. (But there is safety in the arms of our Savior amidst the troubles of this world.) We need friends. A good friend will sharpen us (Proverbs 27:17) and encourage and give hearty counsel (Proverbs 27:9). In Proverbs it tells us that it is foolish to seek our own desire and to isolate ourselves (18:1), but that there is actually safety in a multitude of counselors (11:14).

I’ve known both the pain and the joy friendships can bring. Except for a few pen pals that I had as a young girl, the only good friends I had as I grew up were my sisters, (and we’re still very good friends!). Not all, but most of the “friends” that my family and I had at a certain point in my childhood didn’t exactly manifest grace or forgiveness or words of truth.  I was keenly aware that I could do one wrong thing and that would possibly be the end of the friendship. I’ve had to accept that God had a reason for those unusual friendships. I think experiencing the tension of that has intensified my desire to become a good friend. It makes me eager to know what being a true friend really is, because I want to be that friend. 

But as much as we need friends, we need to find our total rest and confidence in the Lord, otherwise we run the risk of becoming bitter from hurts, plus we’ll have something worth imparting to others when the Lord is our joy! If we’re in constant fellowship with our Friend, He will seep through us more and more and we will grow more and more into the friend we would like to have.

Christ laid down his life at the cross and showed true sacrificial love. His grace is boundless. He is full of joy. Through His word He gives us words of refreshment and warning. He cares for us. He is faithful and forgiving (He doesn’t suddenly give up on us if we mess up). The list goes on. Aren’t these characteristics that we’re drawn to in a friend? (I’ve also come to the conclusion that the Lord has a sense of humor, and I love that in a friend!)

A friend is an imitator of Christ. They die to themselves and are someone who is there in the thick and thin and display the selfless love and forgiveness of Christ. They show interest in what another is doing. They're able to confront sin and also are affirming and pointing others to Christ. 

It’s easy to become dependent on our friends, especially when we see these qualities in them. But that is the surest way to collapse into discouragement. The Lord is the dependable one and the only one worthy of this reliance. When we’re not depending on a friend, there is really no room for retaliation or bad feelings towards them because you’re not having unrealistic expectations of them.

This means that if we feel weak and unable to be a good friend, we’re then more qualified than ever to be a true friend! For He tells us: “”My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”’ {2 Corinthians 12:9}. He is perfected in our weakness. (That’s encouragement!)

When we live in the awareness of our sinfulness and Christ’s mercy and grace, we are the best equipped to be a selfless friend!  There’s safety in this kind of cross centered friendship. It’s easy to want to keep a record of wrongs and feel sorry for oneself when someone doesn’t treat us the way we think we should be treated. This is why we need to look to the cross to find the source of being a good friend. We have been forgiven so much. In light of this amazing forgiveness, this erasing of our wrongs against a Holy and just God, how can we, who are forgiven, keep a record of wrongs against a friend? In a true friendship, whenever we fall there is forgiveness waiting.

True friendships are built in the unchanging grace, love, and joy that only come from Jesus. When we spend time in the presence of Jesus and bask in His character we will be able to be a true friend – loving people truly, for no selfish gain of our own. All of our deepest needs are met in Him (and a faithful friend will remind another friend of this when they’re struggling).

Let’s be occupied with Someone much greater than ourselves. Treasure Jesus. Be steadfast in Him. Let’s see every pain in a friendship as an opportunity to extend and manifest His grace. What a beautiful thing that we can manifest our Friend’s character to the friends that the Lord has chosen to place in our path. It’s not a painless journey by any means. It’s a constant living out of God’s grace. It’s a constant dying to bring life. It’s setting our gaze outward. Life-filled, God-glorifying friendships are worth it!
~Ana R. Wolf

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gifts of His Providence

Photo credit: Evgeni Dinev

"It is a mercy that our lives are not left for us to plan, but that our Father chooses for us; else might we sometimes turn away from our best blessings, and put from us the choicest and loveliest gifts of His providence."

~Susannah Spurgeon

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

~Be faithful, not fretful~

Photo credit: Photostock 
My heart is prone to fret some days. I see so many directions in life that I could go in. So many areas I could pursue. So many dreams. I keenly feel the need for the Lord's guidance, and I wonder, (it's fretting, really), what if I don't do the right thing? What if I were to come to the end of my life and realize that I didn't spend my time on the right things? A pitiful plight indeed!

But Christ died to save me from this plight. To wash away this sin of fretting and anxiety. How can I travel down this road any longer? Thankfully the Lord rescues me with His truth! The other morning as I read in the book of Mark, the Lord highlighted something in His word that warmed my soul so much!! Here it is:
"And as He (Jesus) walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him." -Mark 1:16-20

See it? Simon, Andrew, James and John were all doing what was at hand. They were faithful to their work. And? When it was time for them to change their course of action, God called them. God called them from their duties as fishers of fish, to be fishers of men! They didn't need to worry or wonder.

Which reminded me of another passage in the Bible:

"He also chose David His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the ewes that had young He brought him, to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance. 
So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands." ~Psalm 78:70-72

Oh the peace that sweeps over me when I see, that when it is time, God will call me from where I'm serving Him at the moment to something else that He has scripted in my story since before time began. Cast my care on Him, oh my soul! Pray, and roll these cares on Him! He will direct. He will call.

And, oh, the sheer bliss of knowing that I'm not in control! I can rest while I work, as I trust His sovereign guiding hand! Fretting is ridiculous at the least. At the most it's dishonoring to an all powerful God.

Let's trust the Lord's heart as we give our desires and longings to Him! This time of life may just be the training ground for something greater down the road. As in the verses from Psalm (above), God was training David in the skillfulness of shepherding sheep to someday shepherd His people, so he is using us right in this moment to specifically train us for something He has planned for us in the future.

Never despise the day of small beginnings {Zachariah 4:10}. May our hearts be faithful and trusting, not fretful and troubled.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Victory over death!

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

"The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain."
~1 Corinthians 15:54a, 56-58

He is Risen!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Yet live by Him I killed..."

"The cross is the place where our sin is seen as most horrible and God's free grace shines most brightly." ~ John Piper

I was amazed while reading in Deuteronomy one morning when I ran across the verses that talk about how to put to death a man who has committed a sin deserving of death, especially when I came to this: "...for he who is hanged is accursed of God." {Deuteronomy 21:23b}  Wow! That is how Christ died for me. He died an accursed death for my sin. Amazing. I guess I was aware of that, but it hit me in a totally different light as I read it in the context of Deuteronomy.

A friend of mine shared this song with me a few weeks ago.  The lyrics are so touching and true!:

"I saw one hanging on a tree 
In agony and blood 
Who fixed His loving eyes on me 
As near His cross I stood 
And never till my dying breath 
Will I forget that look 
It seemed to charge me with His death 
Though not a word He spoke 

My conscience felt and owned the guilt 
And plunged me in despair 
I saw my sins His blood had spilt 
And helped to nail Him there 
But with a second look He said 
“I freely all forgive 
This blood is for your ransom paid 
I died that you might live” 

Forever etched upon my mind 
Is the look of Him who died 
The Lamb I crucified 
And now my life will sing the praise 
Of pure atoning grace 
That looked on me and gladly took my place 

Thus while His death my sin displays 
For all the world to view 
Such is the mystery of grace 
It seals my pardon too 
With pleasing grief and mournful joy 
My spirit now is filled 
That I should such a life destroy 
Yet live by Him I killed." 

~John Newton

You can listen to it here: