Who is a Friend?

Every once in a while a situation arises that appears to be out of line with what I thought I knew. At these times I always go hunting for definitions … often of the most common words… and begin a quest for truth.

The most recent is “friendship”. Two times directly referenced (once about temper and once about haphazard alliance) and each was a warning. So I looked up “friend”. Seven words taught me about who a friend should be and should not be. (Strong’s numbers – 157,441, 3045, 3588, 4828, 4962, 7453)

As I watch my grandson peacefully taking his nap, I am reminded that friendships are so very important. I want wonderful, lifetime friends for him.

Why do parents and grandparents want to influence who children have as friends? Isn’t encouraging them to be a friend, to make any friend or lots of friends enough?

Who a child’s friends are will impact that child for a lifetime. Those relationships will augment or destroy our loved ones. I’d say that’s pretty powerful motivation to keep a close watch and maybe take a turn at the friend-ship steering wheel.

Friends are more than companions they become influential in pivotal moments. Friends are advisors. Friends are supportive in times of crisis. Friends show genuine concern and caring. Friends shepherd each other.  Those are good friends.

Others we count as friends gossip, betray, lead astray, ignore, divide, and desert us. Bad friends. Agreed?

Aside from the obvious that friends are people with whom we spend time and share common experiences, friends can be books (authors or characters) or celebrity athletes (that’s scary), or experts in a particular field of interest – music, science, entertainment —  or pets, or cartoon super heroes. Friends are sometimes invented by our children.  To the glory of God they can even learn to make friends of family members.

Alliances. Everyone needs them. Gamers need them. Politicians need them. The rich, and the poor need them. The successful and the outcast need them.

I guess the common thing there is strategy. Who will help you?

Although friendships are not exactly the same as alliances the same concept is true when determining who to include and who to avoid. Sorting true friend from foe includes knowledge of trust and acquaintance levels, appropriate boundaries, making the most of each one’s strengths, and bolstering each area of weakness.

These things we should teach our children early on. Early because they are exposed to friend concepts early and need us to guide them. “Sink or swim” teaching carries a high price in this training category and the risk far outweighs the gain.

Who will advise you? On whom could you depend in a crisis? Who will speak well of you? Whose company do you enjoy? Whose ways do you want to emulate and whose ways would cause you harm?

God has something to say about that so that neither child nor adult has to navigate friendships alone.

‘Friend’ is mentioned 120 times in the amplified version of Scripture. Who is a friend according to the LORD? Let’s just look at what God shares with us in the Proverbs.

Proverbs 17:17

A friend loves at all times, and is born, as is a brother, for adversity.

 

Teaching Point: Bid farewell to fair-weather friends. Appreciate and invest in those who stay with you through good times and bad.

 

Proverbs 14:20

The poor is hated even by his own neighbor, but the rich has many friends.

Proverbs 19:7

All the brothers of a poor man detest him—how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but they are gone.

 

Teaching Point: If money is the motivator for the friendship, be on your guard.  The friendship will not last.

Proverbs 16:28

A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.

Proverbs 17:9

He who covers and forgives an offense seeks love, but he who repeats or harps on a matter separates even close friends.

 

Teaching Point: Close friends can be separated by gossip and perversity. Stay away from both. Do not allow offenses to rule relationships.

 

Proverbs 18:24

The man of many friends [a friend of all the world] will prove himself a bad friend, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

 

Teaching Point: Relax. There is less stress and better friendship when you invest your time and effort in a few key people. Friendship is a time commitment. Know your limits.

 

Proverbs 22:24

Make no friendships with a man given to anger, and with a wrathful man do not associate,

 

Teaching Point: Drama is drama, not friendship. Stay away in order to protect  your heart.

 

Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend [to show rage or worthy purpose].

Proverbs 27:6

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are lavish and deceitful.

 

Teaching Point: Honesty, though painful at times is beneficial. Welcome honesty in friendships no matter how intense or difficult when presented.

 

Proverbs 22:11

He who loves purity and the pure in heart and who is gracious in speech—because of the grace of his lips will he have the king for his friend.

 

Teaching Point: What you say and how you say it are extremely important.

 

Proverbs 27:9

Oil and perfume rejoice the heart; so does the sweetness of a friend’s counsel that comes from the heart.

Proverbs 7:4

Say to skillful and godly Wisdom, You are my sister, and regard understanding or insight as your intimate friend—

 

Teaching Point: Information exchange builds friendship. Make certain your advice is honest, knowledgeable and heartfelt.

 

Proverbs 27:10

Your own friend and your father’s friend, forsake them not; neither go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near [in spirit] than a brother who is far off [in heart].

 

Teaching Point: When investing in new friends, pay attention to those who’ve invested in you AND your family.

 

Well, that’s a lot to map out. How would these teaching points realign your relation-ships? … or those of your loved ones?

The Widow’s Green Lights

At each green light, I would praise God, thanking him for it. Out loud. With joy. My excitement was building with each intersection we entered and exited.

One morning this past week I forgot my Widow Lady’s insulin.  We needed her insulin with us because we were going to a special luncheon with one of her friends. Going back to the house to get it would make us late but I, her driver, had to admit my fault, turn the car around, drive safely and retrieve her medicine before going anywhere.  (Don’t miss the realignment formula here; admit, turn, make it right …the right way.)

I hate that I messed up. So did my widow lady. It distressed her not to be on time for her visit with her friend.

There was her insulin all packed up and ready to go just as I had intended. God had something more spectacular in mind and went ahead with his plan not mine.

Once more in the car  with her insulin pack right beside me and on our way out to the Harbor, I prayed while driving (yes, I had my eyes open).  Father God, please go before us. Clear the way.  Help us to get there in time for lunch. Please help everything to go smoothly.

Widow:  Are you talking to me?

Me: No. I was just asking God to help us to get there in time and for everything to go smoothly.

Widow: Oh

Friend, we got green lights all the way into the Harbor and that doesn’t happen very often. At each green light, I would praise God, thanking him for it. Out loud. With joy. (That actually is a habit I began when my children were very young and I just keep thanking God for green lights.)  My excitement was building with each intersection we entered and exited.

As we round the last two curves, the speedometer reads a few notches more than my passenger is comfortable with.

Me: Hang on

Widow:  I am

Last street . Turn made calmly.

Widow: Go on up there [through the breezeway to the front door] and let me off, then you go park.

Me: Yes Mam. I can do that.

We arrived safely and the best parking place was open.  Praise God!

Lunch went well. We got there in plenty of time and enjoyed a nice visit. I got to share with my lady’s friend how wonderful God had been to us.  He agreed, green lights all the way was a red letter day.

As we are getting ready to leave there for a shopping trip, I get this text from my husband:

 

Do not blush or be ashamed then, to testify to and for our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for His sake, but [[a]with me] take your share of the suffering [to which the preaching] of the Gospel [may expose you, and do it] in the power of God.

[For it is He] Who delivered and saved us and called us with a calling in itself holy and leading to holiness [to a life of consecration, a vocation of holiness]; [He did it] not because of anything of merit that we have done, but because of and to further His own purpose and grace (unmerited favor) which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began [eternal ages ago].  2 Timothy 1:8-9(AMP)

 

The rest of the day there was a markedly positive difference in my passenger’s mood. … A 180 degree turn from the previous day’s mood. (Praise be to God! Thank You, Jesus.) During our time in the car, I would hum the old hymns I could recall. One of them might strike a chord in her memory of childhood church days and prompt more positive God-thoughts.  Oh God, please let it be so!

I may never know.

Near the end of our day quite out of the blue she speaks.

Widow: I’m sorry I’m such … a… pain in the butt. I just get so agitated.

The truth is she can be very cranky at times. Instead of agreeing with her or expressing forgiveness protocol, my first thought was to blow that off with an, “Oh, you’re not a pain in the butt.” None of that came out of my mouth.

Me: Well, I’m praying that God would grant you peace, [Widow Lady].

Widow: Looks away and half laughs in a ‘yeah right’ kind of grunt.

Me: [Widow Lady], He granted us green lights all the way today. We’ll just have to see what he says.

A pleased grin took the place of her distrustful contempt.

Finally it dawned on me.  The night before I’d left a note on her freshly hung note pad for visitors which read, “Good night, [Widow Lady] May God bless you and guard you and grant you peace.    ♥ Christine”

Yes, God cares about traffic lights. He cares about the obedience of writing a small note. He cares what comes out of our mouths …and is able to control that tongue of ours. I’m so glad He remembers what we often forget. God’s agenda is better than ours.

26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious (piously observant of the external duties of his faith) and does not bridle his tongue but deludes his own heart, this person’s religious service is worthless (futile, barren). James 1:26 (AMP)

Father God, we desperately need to be fruitful. Please grant us a worthwhile harvest. Amen.

 

God and the Widow

I have never been more religious in my life!! I’ve gone to church since I was a child. I’ve been active in church programs for years and tomorrow I will be able to sing with our worship team as my husband leads us all  to the throne of God musically. Some would say I’m very religious. But would God? Why is this part of life any different ?

I am care-giving for a non-believing widow (James1:27)  and I truly need the LORD every minute. This is a new adventure. The learning curve is rather steep. Skills are coming directly from my Savior as I work with the family to tailor make a care plan, to negotiate my pay, to navigate tough issues involved with helping their aging loved one….

God has a special concern for widows. He mentions them 85 times in Scripture with a focus on giving widows help. It is never a suggestion.

Which widow(s) should I give to? Answer: The one the LORD leads me to…just like Elijah was led to one lady in a foreign place. It is a great miracle story. I hope you will read it. 1 Kings 17:9-24; Luke 4:24-26 

There is no doubt in my mind that the LORD has led me to this job opportunity. I was wondering though, what limits, if any, he has set for this often overwhelming, draining endeavor.

He does prioritize who. Not that every widow I give care to must be in my congregation or family but they absolutely must depend on and have relationship with the LORD.

No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband,10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. 1 Timothy 5:9, 10

Does God care about the “what”? Absolutely.

What should I – a non relative – do for them? Feed, clothe, and render impartial judgments. Deuteronomy 10:18; 14:29; 16:11,14;  24:19-21; 26:12,13; 27:19

Why? I am God’s representative. They depend on God for everything.  1 Timothy 5:5

 

What should I – a relative, child, or grandchild of theirs do for them? Bring them relief, not let the church be burdened with them.

Why? It is the religious duty that pleases God.  1 Timothy 5:4; James 1:27

 

The boundaries: Those who live for God get help. Those that live for themselves are on their own.

Whereas she who lives in pleasure and self-gratification [giving herself up to luxury and self-indulgence] is dead even while she [still] lives.

1 Timothy 5:6(AMP)

 

And some become idlers and gossips which apparently leads them away from the LORD and out of his provision.

15 For already some [widows] have turned aside after Satan.

1 Timothy 5:15 (AMP)

Well, that’s a dog gone shame!  Would a timely word bring them about to a proper alignment with God?

Just like Elijah, I think I am sent to this widow so that she will know the Word of the LORD is true.  God needs to be the one to make that happen. My time with her is almost done. I’m never sure if she listens to me or if I say the right thing. Her needs are quickly exceeding my abilities and others more equipped will be brought in to help her.

Whatever she decides about God, I know whom I have believed   and am persuaded that he is able….

He Judges Us

Does God judge? Of Course he does. …At the end of time, right? Yes he does.

He judges us during our lives here on earth too. Certain things matter so much that he just steps in with a point of action; for example, mistreatment of the poor and afflicted, a king’s poor choice .  I’m sure if we looked longer we could find other examples. If you do,  please share them with us in the comment section below.

Dear Friends, lest you think the God of Christians is only concerned with judging his own people,  the truth is that he judges non-Christians and Christians. That means all of us. He does so with justice and righteousness and he is absolutely true to his word no matter who you are. (Kinda cool there is only One Real Judge for everybody.)

Though we try to engage judgment, settling disputes is a rough go for us as a society and personally  but not for him.

Jesus is the True Judge and judgment belongs to Him because the One who exists and causes all things to exist has handed judgment over to him.   Yet he constantly gives his Father that title, that place of honor as the ultimate judge.

 

30 I am able to do nothing from Myself [independently, of My own accord—but only as I am taught by God and as I get His orders]. Even as I hear, I judge [I decide as I am bidden to decide. As the voice comes to Me, so I give a decision], and My judgment is right (just, righteous), because I do not seek or consult My own will [I have no desire to do what is pleasing to Myself, My own aim, My own purpose] but only the will and pleasure of the Father Who sent Me. John 5:30 (AMP)

 

I’m so glad that judgment is his responsibility.

In fact, when it comes to judging, I have followed the example of Jesus when people expect a decision, a pardon, or an indictment from me. This takes the form of apologizing for swearing in my presence, laughing at course jokes while I am in the room then backpedaling because I’m there, sharing stories of how an individual has been wronged severely or slightly, being pressed to take sides between others who have disputes of various kinds with other people. Though I’m still not quite sure what elicits these conversations, I try to convey the concept very clearly that I have not been appointed as a legal judge in their case but that judgment belongs to Jesus. When I communicate this effectively, I realign my relationships perfectly and enjoy a lot less stress.

Jesus, though all judgment has been given to him, had no desire to intervene when presented with the same opportunity of judging a legal earthly matter saying, “Who made me  your judge?”

Because we humans are hardwired with a sense of right, wrong, and justice, we must train ourselves to release ourselves from the burden of judging and place it exactly where it belongs – on the shoulders of Jesus.  We do this through repentance and prayer.

Take a moment and think about Jesus’ shoulders. Picture that long arduous trudge to Golgotha bloody step after bloody step. The One to whom all judgment was given bore all God’s wrath against us. Yet ever since God raised him from the dead, he lives to intercede   on our behalf.

Amazing! Freeing. True.

He will Lift You Up

25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way traveling with him, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Matthew 5:25 AMP)

 

Sometimes bad stuff happens. I’d like to think that bad stuff only happens to bad people. Or at least, bad stuff only happens to other people. Both concepts are about as false as false can get. Sometimes God wants us, the ‘good’ people, to experience difficulty. It might just be that how we handle the difficulty will bring about a much better outcome.

I started a new job this week care-giving and driving for an elderly lady. I had such high dreams of being able to pay for all the things I needed. Fix the dishwasher, replace the bathroom fan, pay down some debt. God had other plans.

My morning devotional was all about humility. Humble yourself in the sight of the LORD. No problem, I thought. I am quick to recognize God’s supreme kingship. In fact, I take comfort in his high position because the reality of his awesomeness helps me to trust him. I’m safe. That’s what I thought anyway.

Here are the verses I was reading:

12 Haughtiness comes before disaster, but humility before honor. Proverbs 18:12 (AMP)

 

When swelling and pride come, then emptiness and shame come also, but with the humble (those who are lowly, who have been pruned or chiseled by trial, and renounce self) are skillful and godly Wisdom and soundness.  Proverbs 11:2 (AMP)

 

34 Though He scoffs at the scoffers and scorns the scorners, yet He gives His undeserved favor to the low [in rank], the humble, and the afflicted. Proverbs 3:34 (AMP)

 

Honestly I didn’t pay much attention. I just read them and moved on with my day.

 

Well, then it happened.

I was driving my new employer’s car and …OH NO! Now I think I’ll have to spend my pay check or several paychecks investing in its repair. I will because it’s the right thing to do.  It sure will make my work week different.

All the work with the insurance and auto body shop fall to me. The shame of it weighs me down, how could I have been SOOO careless!?! They’ll never forget. They’ll always think of THIS event when they think about me. The inconvenience, the trouble…it’s so hard to find good help these days….I want to be good help. I want to do this job excellently because it reflects on me, my family and my God. I was a mess on the inside while trying to keep up the strength to carry on through the day.

I thought I could do this but I can’t do it very well. I am weak in ways I thought I was strong.

God is encouraging though.

For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He goes on living by the power of God. And though we too are weak in Him [as He was humanly weak], yet in dealing with you [we shall show ourselves] alive and strong in [fellowship with] Him by the power of God.
2 Corinthians 13:4(AMP)

 

For me, after the minor accident, there was no choice but to be humble before both God and everyone else.  I can’t do anything on my own but by God’s power I can live with him in my dealings with everyone.

Later that same day my husband says to me, “Lift up your head. I love you. God loves you. God lifts up your head.”

Yes, even when I feel like I’m worthless…like I am of no account whatsoever, God is there walking with me through my dealings and my interactions with people. He loves me and I do not have to hang my head. I can walk tall through real life—mistakes, accidents, extra work, dashed dreams, horrible first impressions — because of who he is and his amazing love for me.

God has called us to walk with him through real life; To shine in the midst of darkness; To lift up our heads with faces of imperfection and revel in the warmth of his face, his love, his joy, his strength, His glorious absolute perfection.

Different things bother different people. Stresses may be caused by insignificant things or truly catastrophic ones. Troubles range in severity and in longevity. But the solution is the same. Jesus is the lifter of our heads. By God’s power we too can live…really live real lives with real people and real events.

If you know this song, sing it with me. If not, click the link and just listen…

“Cry In My Heart”

There’s a cry in my heart
For Your glory to fall
For Your presence to fill up my senses
There’s a yearning again
A thirst for discipline
A hunger for things that are deeper

Could You take me beyond?
Could You carry me through?
If I open my heart?
Could I go there with You?
(For I’ve been here before
But I know there’s still more
Oh, Lord, I need to know You)

For what do I have
If I don’t have You, Jesus?
What in this life
Could mean any more?
You are my rock
You are my glory
You are the lifter
Of my head
Lifter of this head

 

Father, God, I can’t do this without you…live this life, care for this difficult person, work this job, love my family and tend my own home  My every breath comes from you and is sustained  by you. I am truly nothing without you . By faith I trust that you are the lifter of my head and cause me to shine brilliantly. I believe you will use my circumstances to benefit your glory and your kingdom. I need you so much! I need you each moment. Thank you for loving me and meeting my needs without finding fault.

Here is the LORD’s response to me

10 Humble yourselves [feeling very insignificant] in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you [He will lift you up and make your lives significant]. James 4:10 (AMP)

Therefore humble yourselves [demote, lower yourselves in your own estimation] under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you,
1 Peter 5:6(AMP)

I confess, I do not know right now how this will bring about positive change. By faith I accept that God’s ways are higher than anything I can think of and HE can make this life experience significant in the best way possible.

Friend, may your lives and mine be significant to the Lord Jesus Christ…no matter what. Amen.

Parenting from the Word of God

 

18 Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.
Proverbs 19:18 King James Version (KJV)

I found it helpful to define a few terms. You might also.

Chasten: 3256 – yasar – to correct, discipline; to accept correction, be warned, be disciplined; to punish, correct, discipline; to instruct, train, to strengthen; to catch; to let oneself take warning

Hope: 8615 – tiqwa—hope, expectation, cord

Spare: 5375 –nasa—to bear, carry, lift up, forgive; to be forgiven, honored carried; to be carried off lifted up; to elevate, carry along; to cause to carry, to bring; to exalt oneself, lift up oneself; from the base meaning of ‘to rise in elevation’ come the extensions, to exalt, honor as the lifting up of a person in status, and ‘to forgive’ as the removal of guilt and its penalties. ‘to lift up the eyes’ means to look up.

Parenting is tough. I’m so glad that God gives us instructions along the way. ..this passage in Proverbs for example. God’s word teaches us a lot. Think on these translations.

The NIV

Discipline your children, for in that there is hope;
do not be a willing party to their death.

The Amplified

Discipline your son while there is hope, but do not [indulge your angry resentments by undue chastisements and] set yourself to his ruin.

The NASB

Discipline your son while there is hope,
And do not desire [a]his death.

Now the passage as I would translate it might sound a bit different. Here’s what I get from it already….

  • Make the most of every opportunity while your child still feels bound in affection towards you. If you hold back, it’s your loss. That awesome invisible cord tying parent and child together does not last forever and you will KNOW when it breaks. Don’t go cutting it off prematurely… that’s setting your child up for a difficult life not to mention a perilous relationship with you (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21).
  • Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you’re a bad parent because you correct your child. Allowing yourself to become downhearted about the right choice is counterproductive. Correction does not make you a more important person either; it is simply the right choice.  Both the parent and the child must give account to God on the final day for what they do and will be judged by the same God with the same standards for both of them.

Friends, journalists, psychologists, doctors, and grandparents … everybody has their own idea about good and bad parenting. Some are more vocal than others.  The single most important voice in the way you parent is the voice of the child’s Maker…GOD.  Be alert to God’s training, content and methods. Fix your eyes on them. Hold your course.

  • Do not give into the trap that tells you it is better to lift the penalty for a transgression. That’s a lie. Let them feel the consequences. Besides, it’s not a parent’s job anyway. Judgments (passing sentence or handing out pardons) are ALWAYS God’s job. A parent is responsible before God to make the child aware of and enforce the boundaries set by God regardless of personal feeling or the prevailing popular choices.

 

20 My son, keep your father’s [God-given] commandment and forsake not the law of [God] your mother [taught you]. Proverbs 6:20(AMP)

 (Look for a personal example   in the comment section below.
Take a minute to share one of your own)

  • DO BE CONFIDENT in what you teach your child. Insecurities about what and how to train children makes the parent act unreliably. Kids can lose respect for their parents quick enough from outside elements, why add fuel to the fire?
  • Know what is inside your control and what is not. That will help you to act confidently when training your child and when allowing him/her to be in the care of others…grandparents, nanny, sitter, daycare or public school. Sometimes it’s just impossible to have the same rules with everyone and everywhere. As long as each entity is consistent, your child will be stronger and better off for it. Not because of who is better or who is more right or less right but because God is trustworthy and ultimately the one in compassionate control of it all.

If I were going to put Proverbs 19:18 into 140 characters or less, I’d say

Inform, warn and punish a child who seeks your affection. Do so responsibly in view of God’s ongoing and final judgments.

As we head into this next school year, I pray that you, dear and treasured parent, are chastening in a confident and timely  manner. May your parent -child relationships be strong while young and into maturity. may you, together with the LORD, parent in proper relationship. Amen

In View of God’s Mercy to Me and You

Inside the Hess Collection Napa several years ago, there stood a pedestal displaying artwork at exactly eye level. From one angle it was a rabbit. As I walked around this sculpture and its perch, the head of a rabbit appeared to morph into the shape of a man. A different viewing angle brought about an entirely different perception.

The sculpture never moved. I did. Totally fascinated, I walked right then left, smiling and changing my view several times.

We have just such a turning about in Romans 11:25-32. Strong’s word for ‘turn’ here is ‘apostrepho’: to turn away from, rebel, mislead; to desert, reject; to return, put back. The Amplified version translates it as “banish”.

Do you think God has banished Israel from fellowship with him…even today… with all the bombings and talk of war?

How do you view Israel? I’m sure with all the news flying about the internet on The Gaza Conflict, sides are being chosen by armchair politicians and patriots everywhere.

Here is Paul’s take on a true viewing of Israel. They are enemies of the Gospel. They are beloved of God.

How can both be true? Walk around the image and change your point of view.

Standing from one angle where I can see the crucifix, the tomb, and the empty grave, my eyes tell my mind Israel’s out of line with the truth of who Jesus is and therefore, counted  enemies. But if I walk ‘round to another vantage point, my eyes take in the larger picture of God’s choice and I must admit, they are totally beloved of God.

The metal of their sculpture has never changed. Their gifts and calling remain the same.

For they are Israelites, and to them belong God’s adoption [as a nation] and the glorious Presence (Shekinah). With them were the special covenants made, to them was the Law given. To them [the temple] worship was revealed and [God’s own] promises announced.

To them belong the patriarchs, and as far as His natural descent was concerned, from them is the Christ, Who is exalted and supreme over all, God, blessed forever! Amen (so let it be). Romans 9:4-5 (AMP)

 

When I walk around this group of people formed and called forth by the Master Artist himself, I have no other choice but to declare they are loved by God.

Further,  both the enemy thing and the irrevocable gifts and calling things are at the same time one solid piece. Amazing!

It does not make sense to me. I cannot wrap my mind around it. I find myself asking, just like I did about the sculpture in the Hess gallery, “How’d he do that!?!”  I also smile because the talent that made it is phenomenal.

Paul doesn’t leave us without an answer.  He is right there with us in the gallery looking at the fine art of God called “Israel”. He calls our attention to God’s mercy and to our own life struggle.  God, it turns out, bound all men over to disobedience t so that he could have mercy on us all.

The answer is God’s mercy now available to Jew and Gentile alike. How absolutely marvel worthy.

30 Just as you were once disobedient and rebellious toward God but now have obtained [His] mercy, through their disobedience,

31 So they also now are being disobedient [when you are receiving mercy], that they in turn may one day, through the mercy you are enjoying, also receive mercy [that they may share the mercy which has been shown to you—through you as messengers of the Gospel to them].

32 For God has consigned (penned up) all men to disobedience, only that He may have mercy on them all [alike].

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable (inscrutable, unsearchable) are His judgments (His decisions)! And how untraceable (mysterious, undiscoverable) are His ways (His methods, His paths)!

34 For who has known the mind of the Lord and who has understood His thoughts, or who has [ever] been His counselor?

35 Or who has first given God anything that he might be paid back or that he could claim a recompense?

36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. [For all things originate with Him and come from Him; all things live through Him, and all things center in and tend to consummate and to end in Him.] To Him be glory forever! Amen (so be it). Romans 11:30-36 (AMP)

 

God is merciful to men. He is the one who turns ungodliness away from them and brings them fully around to salvation.

Has God fashioned a Hess gallery rabbit in your life? Two apparently different but equally true things with an unchangeable core?

How has God demonstrated his mercy to you?

Smile today at the Master’s artistry you call, “me”.

For the Win: Be Impartial

Impartiality. Choosing to be impartial protects my heart and keeps my thinking clear, sound, and solid when chaos invades my life. It helps me in dysfunctional family relationships to get some distance and view the larger picture, preventing disastrous choices. It helps me in marital relationship to see my own faults and apologize when I mess up, as well as to forgive when my spouse does. It helps me in parent-child relationships to stand my ground or adjust action without giving up anyone’s importance …including mine.

God says:

17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure (undefiled); then it is peace-loving, courteous (considerate, gentle). [It is willing to] yield to reason, full of compassion and good fruits; it is wholehearted and straightforward, impartial and unfeigned (free from doubts, wavering, and insincerity).

James 3:17(AMP)

Google defines Impartial as ‘treating all rivals or disputants equally; fair and just’.

Strong’s Concordance defines it as ‘free from prejudice’ (#87)  in James 3:17. In Matthew 22:16 it is defined as to care, to trouble, to concern(#3199). In 1 Peter 1:17 word # 678 is used to define impartiality as ‘without prejudice’ and translated as ‘without respect of persons’ in the KJV.

I’ve found that impartiality does not take away the pain when someone wrongs me nor does it heighten the happiness when life seems to be going well for me but it does help me to move forward faster with a confidence I treasure. It is never boring.

Jesus evidenced impartiality. We can learn from him what it looks like as we live it.

  16 And they sent their disciples to Him along with the Herodians, saying, Teacher, we know that You are[a]sincere and what You profess to be and that You teach the way of God truthfully, regardless of consequences and being afraid of no man; for You are impartial and do not regard either the person or the position of anyone. Matthew 22:16 (AMP)

Impartiality was so much a part of him that his life was characterized by it according to his enemies. In fact, they prefaced what they thought was a trap about paying taxes (God’s nation vs. God’s people under Roman rule) with those words. Jesus wins with an impartial judgment.

Let’s review what lifestyle impartiality looks like:

 

  • Teach the way of God truthfully, regardless of consequences
  • Be afraid of no man
  • Do not regard either the person or  the position of anyone.

The word ‘regard’ is ‘blepo’, strong’s word #991. It means to see, look at, to watch out, beware, pay attention. In contrast to ‘regard’ meaning to care for or about, the word used here is all about how a person shows deference to another by altering what he sees, says, or does by getting out of the way for the other person. Simply put, Jesus doesn’t make decisions like that; his judgments are always truth based. He cares very deeply about each one of us but the only one he watches out for is his heavenly Father.

The word ‘impartial’ itself implies a few things; People, interaction, judgment, choices, thoughts, and deeds. Sounds like a community to me.

Every community needs an impartial standard for governance. God’s children have that exact kind of standard given directly from their Father. (As a side note, this is a great time to advocate reading the Bible – not a paraphrase or someone else’s Bible study. I am positive you will find the truth and equally confident it won’t be exactly what you’ve been taught previously. Look up the word “hell” used in the Bible, track it in the concordance and see what I am talking about. The truth will indeed set you free . Looking at people and information impartially is the only way to begin understanding the truth. It will definitely realign your relationships, your religiosity, and impact your life decisions.)

People who align themselves with God really must align themselves with an impartial lifestyle because in the end it matters, says Peter.

17 And if you call upon Him as [your] Father Who judges each one impartially according to what he does, [then] you should conduct yourselves with true reverence throughout the time of your temporary residence [on the earth, whether long or short]. 1 Peter 1:17(AMP)

 

Earth is my temporary home. Every day I reside here, impartiality should pour from my pores  giving the active fragrance of honoring the One True Judge among friends and enemies alike. Work day or Sabbath, each day I should conduct myself with reverence … with partiality… for only one….

Friend, there is a lot less stress in that. We all want less stress, right?

Be impartial.

Profit From a Cheer-Filled Heart

20 Yes, brother, let me have some profit from you in the Lord. Cheer and refresh my heart in Christ.
Philemon 1:20 (AMP)

 

This is important. Profit is important to personal and community well-being… to relationship.

When we are “In” Christ, essentially “friends” of his, what profit is that to us? Indeed, what profit is it to Christ?

Have you ever considered that what we really want from our friends is the profit of a cheerful spirit? Do we get that? Do we give that?

What does it do to our relationship when we find refreshment and cheer outside that relationship?

The answer is obvious: distance widens away from the first fellowship and tightens in the new alignment.

Paul would profit from Philemon whose name means beloved friend [5371 “beloved” from 5384 “friend”]. According to Paul, the obedience of his partner in Christ, Philemon, in conjunction with a cheered and refreshed spirit was “profiting” from him.

Here are some ways to make sure your relationships are profitable:

Encouraging words take a person from anxious to cheerful.

25 Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but an encouraging word makes it glad. Proverbs 12:25 (AMP)

Cheerfulness originates in the heart.

13 A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken. Proverbs 15:13 (AMP)

Cheerfulness is the antidote to depression.

15 All the days of the desponding and afflicted are made evil [by anxious thoughts and forebodings], but he who has a glad heart has a continual feast [regardless of circumstances]. Proverbs 15:15 (AMP)

 When cheerfulness spreads from the heart to the mind, physical healing happens. (It’s a ‘life is in the blood’ kind of thing.)

22 A happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing, but a broken spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22 (AMP)

 …But there is nothing to smile about. Times are tough.

Anxiety lashes out like a cord from the grave threatening to snuff out our lives…our very souls. There are times when factions, wars and troubles spiral us into the depths of grief. Jesus Knows.

My son said to me once, “Jesus can feel it and Jesus can heal it.” He’s right.

28 Come to Me [Jesus], all you who labor and are heavy-laden and over burdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest ([d]relief and ease and refreshment and [e]recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.

30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, [f]good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne. Matthew 11:28 (AMP)

 

Though a friend may be able to comfort us with a cheerful glance or an encouraging word, God himself is the one, the one and only one, who can reverse heaviness of heart, turning it around 180 degrees. He did it for Israel a long time ago. He can do it again.

 To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion—to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit—that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3 (AMP)

 The sack cloth of grieving is totally gone. Whooo Hooo!!!! We don’t just put on happy clothes [pretend to be happy when we’re not], God gives them to us [we are purposely dressed up, truly refreshed and genuinely cheerful for the display of his splendor].

Whether we experience the tumultuous troubles of war or the everyday gear works of living in community with other people, we can choose to profit in those adventures…through the fellowship of cheerfulness and refreshment.

I pray you enjoy profiteering today, that your heart, mind and soul ( and those of the people surrounding you) may be refreshed and cheerful in Christ Jesus. Amen

He is Good News

It’s amazing how much perceptions and altered perceptions impact relationships.

per·cep·tion

noun

  1. the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.

“the normal limits to human perception”

God has important things to say about perceptions… in fact he wants us to use our all of our senses in our relationship with him. As you read Isaiah, notice the progression in verse ten (10) and that understanding in a person’s heart comes before turning and turning before healing.

And He said, Go and tell this people, Hear and hear continually, but understand not; and see and see continually, but do not apprehend with your mind.

10 Make the heart of this people fat; and make their ears heavy and shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and turn again and be healed.

11 Then said I, Lord, how long? And He answered, Until cities lie waste without inhabitant and houses without man, and the land is utterly desolate, Isaiah 6:9-11 Amplified Bible (AMP)

Turning to the LORD with our eyes, ears, mouths and hearts is ALWAYS a good thing. It is not always the easy thing.  Our hearts are intrinsically tied to the process of perception and we need to protect our hearts  by keeping the truth in view no matter what others perceive or tell other people they perceive regarding us.

Take Moses, for instance.  How do you view the man? Many conclusions have been reached using this single passage:

 

10 And Moses said to the Lord, O Lord, I am not eloquent or a man of words, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and have a heavy and awkward tongue.

11 And the Lord said to him, Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the dumb, or the deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

Exodus 4:10-11 Amplified Bible (AMP)

Moses was pointing out to the LORD that he took too long to speak in an extended degree or amount, imagine his content  as heavy as his tongue felt, difficult for others to understand (he was incredibly educated and spoke like it which is not a bad thing, just not popular then or now and Moses acknowledged this before God. I’d bet this was a reason for that heavy reluctance of his tongue). His words had an often harsh quality we can see changing the more he walked with God. From the burning bush experience to busting the first set of engraved commandments and throughout his ministry as the leader of Israel, tracking the change in speech God brings about for Moses’ mouth and indeed his whole attitude is very interesting.

My perception of Moses is colored by the definition of the word translated, “slow” as a descriptor of his speech ( ‘kabed’, strong’s word 3513,3515). Knowing what is really said changes my view; instead of a stuttering, politically bumbling man, lost in his own personal issues, I can look at Moses as the capable leader he was before and after God called him. From the moment of calling to the point of death, we are given a window into God’s transforming power in the life of a powerful man.

We all have a starting point from which God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ, bring us about or turn us around.

Jesus, like Moses, was sent to speak to Israel. At the beginning, he quoted Isaiah:

17 And there was handed to Him [the roll of] the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened (unrolled) the book and found the place where it was written,

18 The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon Me, because He has anointed Me [the Anointed One, the Messiah] to preach the good news (the Gospel) to the poor; He has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed [who are downtrodden, bruised, crushed, and broken down by calamity],

19 To proclaim the accepted and acceptable year of the Lord [the day [a]when salvation and the free favors of God profusely abound]. 20 Then He rolled up the book and gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were gazing [attentively] at Him.

21 And He began to speak to them: Today this Scripture has been fulfilled [m]while you are present and hearing.

22 And all spoke well of Him and marveled at the words of grace that came forth from His mouth; and they said, Is not this Joseph’s [n]Son?   Luke 4:17-22 (AMP)

Let’s think this through with the logic Isaiah was so fond of, shall we?

What would be good news to a blind man? Sight?

What would be good news to a lame person? The ability to walk?

What would be good news to the leper? Clean skin? Clean through their whole system?

What would be good news to the deaf? The ability to hear?

What would be good news to the prisoner? Freedom? No confinement?

What would be good news to the oppressed?  Freedom? No heavy burdens?

What would be good news to the dumb (unable to speak)? A timely, well-spoken word?

What is good news for the moral and the spiritual transgressor ? Removal   of punishment?

The good news for the poor? Not necessarily acquiring riches but that the gifts of God are accessible to them   just like they are to everyone.

Using our own senses (eyes, ears,  hands and mouth ) we can understand with our hearts, turn and be healed.  That is good news for this life. Amen?

IS there any good news for the dead or dying? The event of rising  from the dead.

So then, what we perceive… with our eyes, ears, hearts and mouths… about who God is and what he is capable of is the compass by which our  ‘ships’ are realigned. Changes in direction (life goals and choices), changes in priority/hierarchy of relationship, changes in connection with people, and changes in our attitudes toward people occur as the LORD himself brings us about.

Can I get a “Hallelujah!”? How about an “AMEN!”?

How has the LORD brought you about? Please share your story with us in the comment section  below. :)