The Worth of Trusted Friends

A wise man develops a small number of people who become close, intimate friends with whom he can be authentic and transparent even to the deepest levels of his life.  Notice what Proverbs says about friends:

  • 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  You are not on a performance basis with true friendship but are always accepted.
  • 18:24, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  A friend is much more than a companion.  Don’t mistake a companion for a friend.  You will be disappointed.  Friendship takes time and effort to develop as well as compassion, kindness, patience, faithfulness, and forgiveness.
  • 22:11, “He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.”  These are the qualities of a true, dear friend of character.
  • 27:6, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”  Candor and honesty are foundational to friendship.  Don’t be confused with and misinterpret superficial emotions.  Again, when the rowing gets rough, times are tough and money is lean, you will be disappointed with acquaintances. Friends do not coddle when you are wrong.  Trusted friends “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). They speak straightforwardly without a judgmental attitude willing to ruffle some feathers when their words are not initially well received.
  • 18:1, cautions us not to isolate ourselves.  We need friends to help keep us on the straight and narrow path.  “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.”  Our lives will not be lived fruitfully alone without trusted friends.

If you don’t have close friends, intentionally look at your neighbors, at the parents of your children’s friends or join a Life Group (small group) at your local church.  Don’t forget, you have to be friendly, vulnerable and willing to invest the time and effort to develop friendships.  Ask God for friends.  It is worth it!!  I remember the jingle that our kids sang as children.  It is laden with truth, Make new friends but keep the old; One is silver and the other is gold!” 

Are You Climbing the Wrong Ladder?

A number of Pam and my friends have worked their tails off setting aside money and investments for retirement and security to the detriment of their spiritual life.  Often, the result of their journey is that they found themselves incompatible with their spouse who had developed different dreams.  Frequently, they are no longer living with their original spouse which then creates the complication of seamlessly integrating an additional spouse and his/her kids and even step grandchildren.  My observations are that folks who have treasured the world of things and prestige often end up disappointed living life out superficially. Many have climbed the wrong ladder to success.

Jesus ran into a prominent, wealthy businessman who had discovered that he had climbed the wrong ladder to success.  Mark 10:17-22 tells the story, 17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”  20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth.  This well respected, religious man came to Jesus inquiring sincerely if the ladder he was climbing ensured his inheritance of eternal life.  Jesus listed a number of commandments that were important of which this rich man assured Christ that he had followed.  Here’s the problem. Jesus was able to penetrate deeply inside this man’s mind “discerning the thoughts and intents of his heart.”  He saw that this man’s heart worshipped at the altar of his wealth and prestige.  When lovingly challenged, this man treasured his things and “went away sadly.”  He had spent his life working very hard climbing the wrong ladder.

Paul is crystal clear in 1 Timothy 6, But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Please make sure that you are not climbing the wrong ladder!  It’s not too late to get refocused. 

Carrying Each Other’s Burdens

Galatians 6 “1 If someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently… Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Bible scholar J.B. Phillips translates this passage, “1Even if a man should be detected in some sin, my brothers, the spiritual ones among you should quietly set him back on the right path, not with any feeling of superiority but being yourselves on guard against temptation. Carry each other’s burdens and so live out the law of Christ.”

As stated in both of the translations above, restoration must always start with someone who “lives by the Spirit.” Earlier in chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul the Apostle explains why by contrasting the acts of the flesh vs. the fruit of the Spirit. “19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: impurity, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy and the like.”  Acts of the flesh do not restore.  They tear down.

On the other hand, genuine, sustainable restoration is produced by the Holy Spirit,22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.”

Always begin restoration “in the Spirit.”

Paul says to restore gently.”  J.B. Phillips translates this, “quietly set (the wrong doer) back on the right path.”  These are wonderful descriptions of what true restoration, healing looks like.

Verse 2 says for the restorer to Carry each other’s burdens.”  We lessen the load by helping carry the burden.  As readers of this passage, we respond by describing this action as “wonderful, Godly, the real deal, need more of this, this kind of action will change the world.”  However, in real life, carrying a burden is very difficult and most likely “tough, tedious, time-consuming, frustrating, selfless, costly, even hurtful.”  Hence, the reason that restoration must be done in the Spirit.  This kind of effort with a gracious attitude flows from the heart of Jesus alone.

Finally, the biblical passage says the action of restoration “fulfills the law of Christ.”  What is the law of Christ?   Matthew 22 tells us, 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Let’s carry one another burdens in the Spirit of Jesus.  We are operating smack in the center of His heart when we do.  And, our world, our family, our friends change little-by-little when we do.  Living this out “preaches much louder” than our talk.

Due Time Zone

As frustrating as it seemingly may be, God does things in His time not ours.  He speeds us up sometimes, and other times slows us down.  The Lord may want to get our attention and says to us, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Another time, He will tell us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The speed that God moves is according to His will and is called “Due Time Zone.”

  • 1 Peter 5 (NIV) challenges you to Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  The Apostle Peter instructs how one lives in the “Due Time Zone.”  First, you must “humble yourself under God’s mighty hand.”  Each of us must submit to Him, His Word and His timing placing Him first.  Second, He teaches us that the proof of humility is “casting all your anxiety on Him.”  If you remain in control of your life and deal with the issues of life in your own strength, own wisdom and own discernment, you will never live in the Due Time Zone.  However, if you live in humility casting your cares on Him, in “due time,” He will lift you up.
  • Galatians 6 (ESV) exhorts us to “not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  in the spiritual world, the Apostle Paul explains that whatever one sows, he will also reap.”  Many of us have sowed bad seeds and these seeds have sprouted and are now reaping problems in your life.  Some of these problems are very hurtful and complex.  We want Christ to remove these problems along with the resulting issues quickly.  However, that’s not how God works.  Paul encourages not to “grow weary of doing good, for in due season (Due Time Zone) we will reap (a good harvest) if we do not give up.”  Living in Due Time Zone means to patiently and steadfastly continue to sow the right seeds.  In Due Time you will reap an abundant harvest.

Be careful not to impatiently run out ahead of God or fearfully lag back living in your own “comfortable” or “fear bound” world and are unwilling to live in His timing.    Galatians 5 “25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  Walking in the Spirit is living in God’s Due Time Zone.  Here is the beautiful thing… Isaiah 26:3 declares,You (God) will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”  Live in the Due Time Zone.

Pit Bull

I happened to see Armando Christian Pérez aka “Pit Bull”, popular rapper and singer, on a national newscast give an impassioned appeal for people of substance and/or skills to save Cuba, his family’s native land, from violence and potential obliteration. He appealed for people to “stand up, step up…wake up!” 

Thinking about this, isn’t this same impassioned plea that the Bible through Jesus and the Apostles has given us?  Looking at the condition of the world and the lack of response from His followers, he cries out to us “stand up, step up…wake up.

Stand up.  Jesus calls us to give our hearts wholly to Him…not partially but totally.  Jesus says it this way in Matthew 16:24-25, Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”  Paul the Apostle pleads to us in Romans 12:1-2, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship not conforming to the pattern of this world but being transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Step up.  Jesus calls for us in Matthew 28:19-20, Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Jesus empowers us to fulfill what He calls us to do.  Acts 1:8 declares, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Wake up.  Ephesians 4:14-16 is clear, “’Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’  Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

It’s time for all of us to get with it.  I make a plea, “Stand up, step up…wake up!” I have heard it said, “a few people make it happen, others watch it happen with most left to wonder what happened.”  Christ-followers, make it happen!

Practice That Leads to Abiding Peace

As a 4th grader playing organized football for the first time, I can remember practicing the fundamentals of blocking and tackling over and over again.  In fact, after loosening up with calisthenics, fundamentals were the first thing we practiced every day.  Fast forward to my last year of NCAA Division 1 football, immediately after calisthenics, we broke into our groups to practice the fundamentals of blocking and tackling over and over again.  Putting fundamentals into practice is essential to winning football or any sport. 

Much like sports, the Bible often emphasizes the importance of practicing the fundamentals of our faith.  Philippians 4:9 is not a popular verse but one that is dynamic, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”  Abiding peace not intermittent peace resides on those who practice His Word.

In John 8:31-32, Jesus made a similar proclamation, “31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue practicing My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

Notice how Matthew states the impact of practicing His word in our lives in chapter 7, 24 Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”  The “wise man who built his house on the rock…hearing the words of Jesus and putting into practice” will stay at peace no matter what “winds blow and beat.”

James, the brother of Jesus, states it this way, “22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:22-25) If you do (practice) what the word says, you will be blessed in what you do!

An old, wise adage states, “Practice makes perfect!”  It is so true.  Practice His word daily, and you will not fall, because your foundation is built on the rock.  Be “do’ers” of the Word and not merely listeners.

Anger Torpedoes Relationships

Christ stated on multiple occasions that His teaching could be summed up with two things.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.  It is all about relationships.

Anger disrupts our purpose as Christians because it torpedoes relationships.  James 1:19&20 admonishes us, “19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”  Notice the first two parts of James’ admonishment (“be quick to listen, slow to speak”) focus us on others by being a listener not trying to get the first word in, winning the argument, nor over-powering a person.  Jesus wants us to show compassion and concern for the other person.  We honor Christ when we do. 

Then, in verse 21, James cuts us to the core when he declares, be “slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  Anger leads to destruction, pain, bitterness, and violence stunting growth and creating the same tendency in others especially your children.   Proverbs 18:13 speaks to this, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”  Proverb 15:1 explains it this way, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Anger begats anger!

Ephesians 5: 26&27 says, “do not let the sun go down on your angerand give no opportunity to the devil.”  Don’t stew on angry thoughts.  Passive aggressive people be careful.  Angry thoughts internalized are like tumbling bullets that tear the person apart.  Get rid of these thoughts.  They are cancerous and spread emotional cancer to others

I recognize that many of us grew up in anger ridden households.  Anger becomes a part of your being.  Start cleaning this stuff up.  It won’t be easy.  Let Jesus know today that you humbly want to change. 

  • Get into His word, memorize it, and meditate on it.  When you meditate on His Word, you are cycling healing thoughts that will clean up your being.  Do this at home, in your car, while waiting on a client, at the Doctor’s office, etc.  Make this a habit.  There are some wonderful apps on you mobile phone like Bible Gateway.
  • Pray honestly, truthfully, candidly often. 
  • If you are being overpowered by anger, get in a recovery group like Re:Gen or Celebrate Recovery.  There are others like you who are fighting through the same battle. 
  • At least, find a trusted, mature Christian friend(s) who will walk through the journey of healing with you.  James 5:16 states, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” 

Take time to be made whole.  Be authentic and patient cleaning up the rubble caused to others by torpedoes fired from your anger.  Do what needs to be done to restore broken relationships allowing victims time to work things out according to their pace not yours.

There Is No Fear in Love

Almost every day, Pam and I deal with couples who are trying to reconcile their relationship or families that are broken.  There is such fear in relationships especially in the most important closest ones.  Jesus greatly desires for healing and is heart broken over hatred, bitterness, rudeness, and selfishness.  In 1 John 4:18, the Bible is clear about God’s love, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 

God’s heart is all about relationships.  True Christianity reduced down is simple. When asked what we must do to inherit eternal life, “Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27).  Then, Jesus “commands” us how we are to love each other, John 13:34, As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  The word for love here is agape (unselfish, serving love).

H-O-W-E-V-E-R, we may have a problem: 

  • Many of us are emotionally unhealthy.  We have trouble loving others because we are bogged down within ourselves.  It could be depression, hyper- anxiety, mood disorders, or fear driven.  It is difficult loving others like yourself when you can’t stand yourself. 
  • You could be envious, bitter towards another.  How can you lovingly, sacrificially care about a person when you can’t stand them?   
  • Others are caught up with themselves.  They are so narcissistic that the sun rises and sets on “me”.  How do these folks get past their ego and massive insecurities to love others?

The priority for these folks is to get well and/or cleaned up so that they are set free to love others.  Do not let today end without crying out to God to guide you to health and freedom. 

  • Hebrews 12:1&2 challenges us to rid ourselves of every obstacle and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of the faith.”  God wants to make you “perfect in love” without fear (1 John 4:18).
  • Proverbs 29:25 is straightforward, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.

Start T-O-D-A-Y getting this done in your life.  Never forget, the Holy Spirit walks with you and the Word of God empowers you throughout the whole process.  I strongly suggest you get in a small group (it so worth it!) where others can support you to wholeness.

“There is no fear in love…Perfect love drives out fear.” 

It’s an Inside Out Thing Not Outside In

I woke up this morning feeling beat up recognizing that a full day is ahead of me lasting until 8:00 tonight.  My first responsibility is to get a devotional out to you that will help support your day; however, my heart is stale needing to be refreshed. 

In each of our relationships with Him, Jesus always starts with our heart.  He never begins by telling us what we need to do but focuses on who are we.  It’s an inside out thing not outside in.  It is all about the heart.  Proverbs 4:23 tells us why, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”  True life begins with the heart because “everything you do flows from it.”  Jeremiah 17:9 warns us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?”  How’s your heart?  

Christ began His ministry discussing the “beatitudes”, attitudes of the heart that are in synch with Him and Who He is.  He never starts by talking about what we do but who we are at the heart level.  Each “beatitude” begins with the word, “blessed”, meaning enjoying God, His presence, and His goodness.  Being blessed emanates from the heart.  Jesus tells us what He wants our heart to look like in Matthew 5:3-12:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

 Once the attitude of our heart is synched up with Him, Jesus says we will 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”

I do not know the condition of your heart today.  Hopefully, you are not starting the day on empty like I did.  Reflecting on Him and His grace has recharged me.  It all begins with the heart…it’s an inside out thing not outside in.

How’s Your Team Playing?

I used to play a lot of baseball when I was young and have been a crazy fan of the game since.  I really didn’t have much choice. Both my Dad and Mom as well as my brother and sister are all fanatical about the game.  This evening, less than four weeks from a hip replacement, what do you think that I will be doing?  Yep, my wife, Pam (a baseball fanatic also 😊), and I are planning to physically watch the TX Rangers MLB baseball team play this evening…an hour trip each way with the game lasting probably more than three hours.  By the way, the Rangers are the 4th worst team in baseball.  Evatt, are you are crazy?!  Busted!

As a Christ follower, I am a member of another team, Team Jesus.  The Coach on this team is the Holy Spirit, who is a wonderful teacher, counselor, and motivator.  For you to play on this team and contribute, you have to be filled with the Holy Spirit, not living life in the flesh (Ephesians 5:18).  When filled, like baseball, you will discover that there are nine “players” or “fruit” for everyone on this team.  Galatians 5:22&23 lists the “fruit”, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.”  If you are being the contributor that God wants you to be, your life will have these nine fruit playing on the field all day long. 

If your life does not reflect the “fruit of the Holy Spirit”, you will keep Team Jesus from being effective.  In fact, it gives Team Flesh a great chance to ridicule and jeer you belly laughing out loud calling you a “hypocrite”.  Galatians 5:24 explains to us what could make us ineffective as a player, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  On Team Jesus there is no place for the “flesh” as well as its fruit, “passions and desires”.  In fact, Jesus took the flesh on the cross with Him so that we do not have to live a defeated life but can experience the power of “Coach” Holy Spirit moment by moment.  Galatians 2:20 explains it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Jesus has made it possible for us to live victoriously.

Team Jesus, listen to the last coaching tips in Galatians 5:25&26, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking, and envying each other.”  Allow the Holy Spirit to continue to teach you daily “keeping in step” with Him.  For sure, as a team player, do not become “conceited” and do not “provoke” or “envy” your teammates.  If you do, your team will become ineffective.

As believers in Jesus, “How’s Your Team Playing?”  It’s up to you.  Are you back in the flesh or have you died to self, “keeping in step with the Spirit”?  Look at the fruit.  It is a beautiful thing when the fruit of the Spirit are evident.  It glorifies Jesus and transforms our world.