I JOHN 1:7 (KJV) If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanseth us from all sin.
Nearly every day I talk with people who struggle with painful friendships. Betrayal, broken trust, abandonment, deceit, hatefulness, and hurtful words weigh down their heavy hearts. They long for close, healthy friendships that will support, help, encourage and meet their god-given need for relationship.
The strongest foundation you can have for building healthy friendships is making sure that your own relationship with God is right. When you are born again and have His Spirit living within you, then the good fruit of the Spirit begins to grow. As you daily read His Word and seek to live in the light of what He teaches you, godly character naturally develops. You learn to treat others with His love and grace. Things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are evident in your life, and these are all conducive to satisfying relationships.
If I walk in God's light and you walk in His light as well, then it is impossible for us not to have a healthy friendship! We automatically have things in common. Our overall goals and values will be in harmony with each other. Our relationship will not be destroyed by pride, anger, hurt, unkindness or jealousy. We'll confront when necessary, speak the truth in love, and leave past hurts and frustrations at the cross of Christ.
Walking in His light and living His way doesn't guarantee that others will do the same, however, but at least you know you are doing right and that you bring to the friendship ingredients for growth and harmony. Remember you are only responsible for your part in the relationship not the other person's. You can only control your thoughts, feelings and actions, no one else's.
For and interesting study, take a look at 1 Corinthians 13 considering this to be an instruction manual for developing healthy relationships. Think about each of the characteristics of love described in that passage and see how it applies to starting and growing a satisfying, lasting friendship.
Lord Jesus, thank You for being my Friend and for blessing me with other friends as well. Help me to be a faithful friend to You and to those you've placed beside me.
Mark 12:17 NKJVAnd Jesus answered and said to them, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.'
Micah 6:8 NKJVAnd what does the LORD require of you, But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
It's income tax time! I don't know one single person who looks forward to that time'-unless, of course, it's the tax collector! We grumble and complain, but wind up sending in our checks anyway. It's the right thing to do because it's the required thing. Christ clearly told us to give to our government the things that are owed to it. What does the government want from us? Primarily, payment of taxes, obedience to the laws, and loyalty to the country.
Ultimately, as a follower of Christ, I serve a Higher Power. I serve Almighty God. What is it that He requires from me? Micah 6:8 shows me three things:
First God wants me 'to do justly.' In the context of the passage it means to stop trusting my own righteousness and religiosity and live according to God's way of doing things.
Second, I'm 'to love mercy.' That means being generous in giving and forgiving with both others and myself.
Third, God instructs me 'to walk humbly' with my God. To do that I must put aside pride and self-gain, seeking only what is for His glory and the good of His kingdom.
As I ponder how I can give God the things He requires of me, I realize that it's not about writing a check, or doing more good works, or attending more church services. It's about being surrendered to His will and being obedient to His Word'-without grumbling and complaining. This means giving up self and putting on Christ-and it's the right thing to do because it's the required thing.
PRAYER: Father in Heaven, hear my prayer today as I give myself to You, starting with the gift of my thoughts and desires. Let my mind be surrendered to think only on things that please You. May my body act in ways that bring You glory. May my spirit reflect an attitude of unselfishness and holiness.
WORDS TO PONDER: 'Everyone who professes to be a Christian should ask himself, 'Is there evidence of practical holiness in my life? Do I desire and strive after holiness? Do I grieve over my lack of it and earnestly seek God's help to be holy?''
Psalm 145:8The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.
Psalm 37:1-4Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.
When our children were little, we taught them the simple prayer that many children say before they eat: "God is great. God is good. Let us thank Him for our food." We said that prayer three times a day, over and over again. Truly our hearts were thankful, but I know we never have fully comprehended what the full meaning is of those first two phrases: "God is great. God is good."
The scriptures remind us over and over again of the goodness and the greatness of God. Psalm 145 says, "The Lord is good to all." Every human being experiences the goodness and the greatness of God. Sometimes that may seem unfair to us, and we may worry about the evil person getting a blessing, when really he or she does not deserve it; however, Psalm 37 reminds us, "Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart."
I love that phrase 'Feed on His faithfulness." Have you been feeding on His faithfulness, goodness and greatness? The Lord is good! He is good to all. He is good to you, and He is good to me.
Heavenly Father, thank You that when I meditate on Your goodness my heart rejoices and the burdens of the day get a little bit lighter.
Isaiah 53:5 (KJV)But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed.
I Corinthians 15:3-4 KJVFor I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures . . .
In this Easter season, my mind returns again and again to words of the wonderful hymn written by W. G. Ovens and Gladys W. Roberts in the late 1800's, 'Wounded for Me'. With simple words in verses one, two, and three, these two poets tell the profound story of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ-the fulfillment God's promise to send a Redeemer to atone for man's sin. Verse four reminds us of the present ministry of Christ as He daily intercedes for His children before the throne of God. Verse five looks to the future as it declares the glorious promise of the return of Christ. Read the words carefully and ponder them, and you will be blessed, I'm sure.
Wounded for me, wounded for me. There on the cross He was wounded for me; Gone my transgressions, and now I am free, All because Jesus was wounded for me.
Dying for me, dying for me, There on the cross He was dying for me; Now in His death my redemption I see, All because Jesus was dying for me.
Risen for me, risen for me, Up from the grave He has risen for me; Now evermore from death's sting I am free, All because Jesus has risen for me.
Living for me, living for me, Up in the skies He is living for me; Daily He's pleading and praying for me, O, how I praise Him, He's living for me.
Coming for me, coming for me, One day to earth He is coming for me; When with what joy His dear face I shall see, O, how I praise Him - He's coming for me!
May the truth of the resurrection, the comfort of Christ's intercession, and the hope of His returning fill your heart with joy and peace this Easter.
PRAYER: Lord God, thank You for Your amazing love which gives us the gift of salvation past, present and future.
WORDS TO PONDER:'Amazing love! How can it be That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me.'
-Charles Wesley, (1707-1788) 'And Can It Be That I should Gain'
LUKE 2:34 (NKJV)Then Jesus said, Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do.
All around the sanctuary, in groups of two or three, hundreds of people were praying as the service began, yet but I doubt that many, if any, of them dared to say what my prayer partner asked of the Lord. Most prayed for that service, for the pastor, the church staff, the missionaries around the world, even for those who were ill or sorrowing'-but this? It's just not a prayer that we hear often, and sadly, one that we don't think to pray.
In those moments, I heard the tender voice of compassion next to me pray, 'Lord, I pray for our enemies, that you would bless them and open their eyes that they will hear and see You.'
I was stunned! I can't remember when I last heard someone praying for the hearts of our enemies, those who cause us pain and are trying to destroy us. Instead most of us ask God to stop our pain, end our agony, or just get us though the trial. But to actually pray a blessing for those causing our suffering and anguish- how often do we do that?
More than 2000 years ago, Someone else prayed for His enemies. After being falsely accused, mocked, ridiculed, humiliated, beaten, and nailed to a rough wooden cross to die, the Lord Jesus Christ prayed a blessing for those who so tortured Him. 'Father, forgive them,' was His plea.
In the early days of His earthly ministry, Christ instructed His followers, 'Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.' (Matthew 5:44) On the cross, the Lord Jesus lived out His own command. Now, let us live it, too.
PRAYER: Gracious and Merciful Lord, give me a heart that is tender and compassionate, even toward those who are my enemies. Help me to see them as You do.
WORDS TO PONDER: 'The true purpose of prayer is not to get God to see things as we see them, but to make us see things as He sees them.'
Psalm 28:1 NKJVTo You I will cry, O LORD my Rock:Do not be silent to me,Lest, if You are silent to me,I become like those who go down to the pit.
Today is St. Patrick's Day'-the day to remember and honor Patrick, the great preacher who devoted his life to sharing the gospel of the Christ with the lost and dying world around him.
As you read the stories of this selfless and dedicated man, you realize quickly that he was a man of great passion and courage'-and also a man of much prayer. He recognized daily that all he accomplished in doing God's will was done through the power of Christ living in him, and that without the true and living God, he would be nothing.
Many of his Patrick's prayers were written and preserved through the centuries for us. Below is a blessing he prayed for his people. Today, it is my prayer for you as my fellow believers.
May the strength of God pilot us,May the wisdom of God instruct us,May the hand of God protect us,May the word of God direct us.
May this also be our prayer for the United States and for all nations. Without God's strength, wisdom, protection, and direction, we would all become 'like those who go down to the pit.' Praise God, He is our salvation!
PRAYER: Father, we are so aware of our need for You and Your blessings. Thank You that as we cry out to You, You hear our prayers and meet every need for us as individuals, as fellow travelers, and as nations.
WORDS TO PONDER:'Prayer is our pathway not only to divine protection, but also to a personal, intimate relationship with God.'-Shirley Dobson, Certain Peace in Uncertain Times (2002)
PSALM 46:10 (KJV)Be still, and know that I am God.
Ugh! Right now I'm feeling pulled in so many directions. It seems that no matter where I look, there are things that need to be done and each one is labeled 'URGENT'. Thankfully I know that this too shall pass and this intensity won't last forever. Whew! That's a relief. But how do I get through each day when my list is long and my time is short?
The first step is to make sure that I don't give up my quiet time with the Lord in the morning. It's so easy to tell myself, 'I don't have time,' and go on my way, but I need to make the time to center my thoughts and heart on the only One who can truly help and guide me. So I sit down and ask the Lord to calm my mind and body enough to read His Word and allow His Spirit to speak to me in those moments together.
Making a list of things that need to be done helps me to set aside those thoughts so I can concentrate on what God has to say to me. Later, in my prayer time, that list also helps me see and remember what I'm facing that day so I can bring those concerns to the Lord. (Actually, I usually make my list the night before. It helps me sleep better because I don't keep going over it in my head all night trying to remember everything. If other things come to mind in the morning, I just add them to the list.)
As I conclude my prayer time, I take my list and review it asking God to help me discern what truly needs to be done that day, and what is the most important. Often I number the items and try to estimate how long each one will take. That's the really hard part because it seems nothing is ever as easy as I think it will be!
Then once more I look over the list and prayerfully turn it all over to the Lord. When I'm finished, I no longer carry the burden for getting it all done. It rests in the hands of my dear Savior, and my day is much lighter. See what I would miss if I failed to take the time to spend with Him first thing in the morning?
Heavenly Father, I need Your help! Thank You that when I feel overwhelmed, I can rely on You to help me discern and set priorities, and help me handle the interruptions that come my way. Give me strength, wisdom, and supplies to accomplish all that You desire to or me to achieve in this day'-and let me peacefully lay aside all the unnecessary things on my list.,
II Timothy 4:7 NKJVI have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
On February 21, 2018, the world lost one of the greatest religious men in history, Rev. Billy Graham. It is reported that he spoke the Word of God to nearly 215 million people in live audiences during his more than 60 years of preaching. That's more than any other person in history, and of course, that number is magnified into the millions and millions of those who were reached via television, radio, books, recordings and films. Truly, he fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.
As a very young child, I had the privilege of attending one of his crusades with my parents. I couldn't have been more than five years old, but I clearly recall the largeness of the building, the wooden benches, and the awe with which my parents regarded this man, his preaching, and the God he served. It was a special night alright, and making it even more spectacular was the fact that Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were there to sing and give testimony of how Christ changed their lives. It was all so exciting!
Anyone who knew Billy Graham could clearly see that he made it his life's purpose to share the gospel of Jesus Christ 'with everyone who would listen'. Thankfully, although his lips have now been silenced by death, the message he preached will continue to challenge and bless the hearts of millions more through the writings and recordings he left behind'-and by those who will faithfully share what he preached, and taught, and modeled for the world.
Just think, if every living person whose life was touched by Rev. Graham would reach out and touch just one other life for Christ what a tremendous impact for the Kingdom of God that would make!
Have you heard him preach? Have you read even one of the many books he wrote? Are you ready to take the step of sharing with another person the blessed gospel of Jesus Christ? The challenge is before you, and the Lord will provide the opportunity. Don't let it go to waste so that you, too, may be able to say, 'I have kept the faith'.
PRAYER: Holy Father, we thank You for the life of a man who served You so well, and for the legacy of his faith and Your faithfulness that he left for us. Grant us the courage and the passion to live as he did, sharing Your love and the offer of salvation to all who will hear.
JOHN 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me: and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
The bright yellow school bus in front of me slowly came to stop'-lights flashing and STOP sign extended. As the doors of the bus flung open, so did the arms of the little girl who stood waiting in the drive way. Her face reflected her joy in welcoming her siblings home. Surely she had waited all day for them to return.
The neighbor children just passed her by seemingly without notice. Then her brother jumped off the bus steps, gave her a quick glance and huddled with the other boys, refusing the open arms that she wanted to wrap around him. Moments later the big sister emerged from the yellow bus and ran toward the little girl. A smile broke out on her face, but it changed when big sister ran right past her before she turned and came back for a quick hug from the little one.
Then one more sibling jumped from the vehicle and ran straight to the little girl whose arms were still wide open. Long hugs, giggles, and a walk up the hill arm in arm told of their joy. What delight when at last someone accepted the love the little girl had to offer.
Watching this reminded me of the Savior who waits, arms open wide, for all who will come to Him. Many pass Him by without notice, others deliberately turn away, yet some pass by then turn to come back to His comforting embrace. What joy for the one who runs directly into His open arms and feels the warmth of His love and the blessing of His comfort. His arms are always open. We simply have to come. Lord, thank You for open arms that are always ready to receive us!
Psalm 119:103 KJVHow sweet are Thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Did you know that tomorrow is Eat-Ice Cream-for-Breakfast Day? I did a brief, informal survey among the people I talked with since learning about this, and much to my surprise, I discovered that people have mixed reactions to this news. Some think that eating this tasty delight at the start of the day will be glorious and the height of luxury. I'm one of them! Others cringe at the thought. It's really a matter of preference and what your tastes desire.
Whatever your reaction, there's an even sweeter treat with which you can start your day'-the Word of God! Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, and all 176 verses focus on the beauty, strength, and delight of God's Word and its power to bring and sustain life.
Sleepiness, busyness, children or other distractions, can occasionally keep you from enjoying that delight from time to time. It happens. But if there's no desire to enjoy God's Word each day, then check your appetite to see what other things are more appealing.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 19th Century British preacher, said, 'It should be our rule never to see the face of men before first seeing the face of God . . . The morning watch anchors the soul so that it will not very readily drift from God during the day . . . He who rushes from his bed to his business without first spending time with God is as foolish as though he had not washed or dressed, and as unwise as one dashing to battle without arms and armor.'
So, if you're so inclined, eat some ice cream tomorrow for breakfast, but don't forget to take the time to enjoy the sweetness of God's Word as well!
PRAYER: Gracious God, Your Word brings joy to my soul as it enlightens my path. How sweet it is!
WORDS TO PONDER: 'More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine god: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.' -King David, Psalm 19:9-10 KJV