Enabling Grace

David was reminded of God’s grace.

David was in a season of turmoil. His family was a mess; there were many reasons for the messiness, and one of David’s advisors wanted to help him clean it up. He drafted a woman to tell David a parable.

The parable consisted of a widow with two sons. One son murdered the other, and the community shouted for the murderer’s head. If he was convicted, the widow would have no hope of continuing her family line. She pleads for mercy from the king.

David compassionately says she should receive mercy. Then, the woman applies the parable to David’s situation.

She points out David has a banished son needing reconciliation, and reminds David God himself makes plans to enable a banished person to be reconciled to the Lord. 2 Samuel 14:14 says, “All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again, but God does not just sweep life away. Instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him.”

Mistakes; they have been made. Regrets exist. The list of things we would not do or redo can be extensive, but God knows how to handle all of it.

God has devised a plan to restore us to the family.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only son, so everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his son into the world, not to judge the world but to save the world through him,” Jesus explains in John 3:16-17.

Jesus also says in John 10:10, “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

Jesus is the plan which enables man and God to reconcile.

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3 Be’s of Cultivating True Friendship

Social distancing does not have to be a barrier to true friendship.

Proverbs 18:24 states many unreliable friends will bring a man to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

True friendship, especially with Jesus, is an invaluable possession worth seeking. It is a priceless treasure worth offering. You and I have the challenge of being that true friend. We ought to be the type of friend to others Jesus is to us. Cultivating this type of friendship is neither quick nor easy.

In an era of social distancing, developing true friendships may seem impossible, yet the season is right for growth. Placing six feet of physical distance between ourselves does not require distancing our hearts. We can meet digitally, give someone a call, or have a social distanced gathering. Fostering true friendship may be more difficult and look differently than before, but it is a fruitful time for development.

Here are some keys to keep in mind as you meet the challenge of true friendship.

Be Intentional

Be intentional while interacting with others. Our interactions may be via digital platforms like Zoom and Skype, but we can still be intentional in building relationships. No matter the platform, we can place others interests ahead of our own. We can express genuine interest in their lives. We can help others meet needs they may have. Being intentional is essential to starting a true friendship.

Be Bold

Be bold in meeting new people. For some of us, this is the hardest part of building a friendship. We are introverted, so stepping out of our comfort zone is unnerving. Experiencing the rare treasure of true friendship is worth mustering the boldness necessary to step out of our comfort zone.

Be Open

Be open to new relationships. We should be open to new relationships, and not dismiss someone based on his or her interests or age. Most of us have a wide array of interests, so we can find commonality in some way. Intergenerational relationships can produce rich friendships. Older generations have a wealth of life experience and wisdom to offer, and younger generations have much technical expertise and a fresh viewpoint worth noting. We should keep an open mind when approaching someone new.

Finding true friendship is certainly challenging. The outcome is worth the work. We will gain the priceless experience of sharing life with a true friend. We will have someone to help carry our burdens, celebrate our victories, and encourage us through rough times. We will have a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

 

 

Friendship is a Rare Treasure

A friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 18:24 says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Many friends come and go. We have a temporary friendship which produces nice memories, but the relationship eventually fades. It does not stand the test of time. Distance between people, disputes, and other changes in life cause friends to drift apart.

Solomon states these types of relationships are unreliable; however, there is a friend who will stick with us through thick and thin.

A true friend is a rare treasure. It is someone with whom you can be transparent; there is no need to hide your feelings in fear of judgment. It is someone who celebrates your victories and mourns your losses with you. It is a person who answers the call at midnight when you are in need. A true friend is worth much.

Jesus offers this rare and true friendship to all.

Scripture helps us understand the type of friendship we have with Jesus.

He always remains open to us.

Any time day or night we can ask Jesus for help. The Bible tells us Jesus understands our needs, and the writer of Hebrews encourages us to ask for help. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need,” says Hebrews 4:16.

Jesus is a friend who will never leave us.

He will walk with us through life. In John 14:18, Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” Jesus is not the friend who runs away when life gets hard. He sticks around.

Jesus is the friend who went to the cross for us.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” Jesus remarks in John 15:13. He laid down his life for us. He sacrificed for us. Jesus is the friend who sticks closer than a brother.

A CHALLENGE

True friendship, especially with Jesus, is an invaluable possession worth seeking. It is a priceless treasure worth offering. You and I have the challenge of being that true friend. We ought to be the type of friend to others Jesus is to us. How well do we do?

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Firm Foundation

“The house don’t fall when the bones are good.”

The Lord’s truth often shows up in song lyrics. Our ears are hearing and our hearts absorbing valuable truth that can help in life.

Maren Morris’ The Bones packs a valuable truth into a cool song. The story has love holding a romantic relationship together in adversity, but the idea of having a firm foundation can help all aspects of life.

The Bible tells a parable about two men who built houses. One man built his house on the sand, while the other dug through the sand to place his foundation on the rock. A storm came, and the plain flooded. The house sitting on the sand was wiped away, while the house resting on the rock remained standing. It stayed in place because of its foundation; its bones were good.

Life has its storms. They are unavoidable. The difficulties of life will strain our marriages, families, friendships, and business partnerships; however, those relationships will stay intact if they are built on a solid foundation.

The Bones reminds us to build on a solid foundation. Where are you building?

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a crowd of people walking

His Friends Didn’t Quit

Overwhelming circumstances and situations are hard, and they can be a barrier to accomplishing goals and fulfilling dreams. We become overwhelmed, so our natural response is to quit. Mark and Luke introduce us to four friends who encourage us not to quit. The Gospel writers introduce these four men through a fifth friend who is unable to walk.

Totally reliant on other people, the man spent his days on a mat. He was unable to move, and his friends cared about him. They made sure his needs were met. They wanted to help the man as much as they could, but there was only so much they could do.

The friends heard how Jesus was performing miracles and helping all kinds of people. “if they could only get their friend to Jesus,” they thought, “what could he do?”

Jesus came to their town one day, so the friends carried the man to see him. They arrived at the house only to see the crowd was large. They had to get their friend to Jesus, but it seemed there was no way to get any closer.

It would have been easy for the friends to quit at this point. They could have given each other a high five for trying and went about their day. What would have happened if the friends quit? There are times in life when it would be easy for you and me to quit. What happens if we do?

Thankfully, the man’s friends decided not to quit. Their persistence helps us understand what it looks like not to quit.

Not Quitting May Be Unconventional

The four friends faced what seemed to be an impossible task. They had to carry a man through a large crowd to get Jesus’ attention. They devised a plan to bypass the crowd and go through the roof. Their plan was unconventional and risky. They could fall; the man could fall, and deroofing might upset the homeowner. To spite the risks, the men proceed.

The friends practiced what John Maxwell calls the Law of Victory. They did not give up when obstacles were standing in their way. They were determined to get their friend to Jesus. “Fulfilling a dream often does not come easy or within the realm of the conventional,” Maxwell says. In this case, the men had to proceed with a plan built on faith. Realizing their goal of placing their friend before Jesus meant stepping out on faith.

We, too, must build our plans on faith and step out on faith to see our dreams fulfilled. Obstacles may stand in our way, so we must be determined to allow the Lord to help us step around them. While it may be risky and unconventional, not quitting may require us to step out in faith.

Not Quitting May Exercise Our Faith

In He Still Moves Stones, Max Lucado says, “Faith does these things. Faith does the unexpected, and faith gets God’s attention.” It certainly did in this moment. Jesus was so moved by the men’s faith that he healed the man lying before him on a mat. The man who couldn’t walk into the house was able to walk out of the house. And, it is safe to say the crowd stepped aside so he could walk through the door.

Though facing overwhelming odds, the four friends were determined to get the man to Jesus, so he was able to walk out of the house. They stepped out on faith rather than quitting.

You may be facing overwhelming odds today. Life may be in a horrible place right now, but please don’t quit. Rather than quitting, devise a plan built on faith

Stop and think about your plan for a moment. Ask yourself these questions.

  • What’s the next step in accomplishing my goal?
  • What’s the next move in fulfilling my dream?
  • What can I do to start going around the overwhelming obstacles? Perhaps it is getting more information, enrolling in a class, asking for help with my resume, or taking the first step to reconcile a relationship.
  • What action step can I take today to start the plan in motion?

Follow the example of the four friends and put your plan in motion. I can’t promise the outcome, but I can relay a promise the Lord gives. That is, he will always be with you. He will not ignore your faith.

Acting

Identify the obstacles standing in your way and enact a plan to overcome them. Ask the Lord to help you each step of the way.

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four people sitting at an outdoor table eating

3 Keys to Remember when Others Judge you

Have you been unfairly judged by others, or maybe even yourself? Here are 3 points to remember.

It was time to choose a new leader. The current king’s reign was coming to an end, so Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to anoint a new king. This was a secret mission since Saul was still on the throne, so Samuel was to anoint the future king at a private event.

Jesse’s family was invited to the dinner. As the family entered, Samuel took one look at Eliab, and thought, “Surely this is the next king. His credentials say he’s qualified.” The Lord told Samuel it wasn’t Eliab, nor was it any of Jesse’s sons who were at the dinner.

Samuel discovered the one the Lord had in mind was not even at the dinner. He was still in the field tending the sheep; he was the youngest, and no one even considered it important for him to be at the dinner. He had to stay behind caring for the sheep.

They sent for the young man, and when he arrived, Samuel was instructed to rise and anoint him. For he would become the next king of Israel.

Substitute a few details, and we see this scene played out in modern times. Resumes and credentials are heavily weighed, while character is a secondary consideration.

We naturally want to place a higher value on things we can see rather than things we cannot see. We value credentials, appearance, and accomplishments because we can see them, but a person’s heart may be a little harder to see so we don’t spend as much time there. The Bible tells us there is a better way; in fact, we are taking an upside-down approach.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height. For I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The Bible suggests we put the heart first in our evaluation of others. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world in which this does not always happen. You and I may be evaluated unfairly; we may even judge ourselves unfairly. When this happens, here are 3 points of encouragement to remember.

1. God sees your heart.

God knows you and me. The Lord knows us better than anyone else, and he sees what is genuinely in our hearts.

  • 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord looks at the heart.”
  • “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards according to what their actions deserve,” says the Lord in Jeremiah 17:9-10.
  • 1 Chronicles 28:9 advises, “…learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him, but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.”

God knows our ideas and motives. He knows what drives us. When others negatively judge us for making decisions, the Lord knows why we made those decisions. The Lord knows our hearts, and he does not judge unfairly. He is fair and just in all he does.

2. God sees our potential.

No one thought David would be the next king. He was not even at the dinner. The family left him behind to care for the sheep. Samuel, Jesse, or no one else realized David’s potential. I wonder if David even realized his own potential. Perhaps the only one who knew what was possible was God.

We have a tendency not to recognize our own abilities. We want to go after that goal, but we don’t think we have what it takes.

You and I desire to accomplish goals, yet we say to ourselves, “I can’t.” We do not recognize our own potential.

God knows our potential though, and if he’s put the goal in our heart, we can trust him to get us there. No one realize David’s potency until he beat Goliath. No one may recognize our potential until you and I accomplish a goal. When you judge yourself unfairly, remember God does not judge unfairly. He is fair and just in all he does.

3. God will prepare you for the next stage.

For the most part, I don’t like clichés, but this one fits. God does not call the equipped; he equips the called. You and I are qualified for the first stage of a project; however, we look down the road four or five stages and convince ourselves we are not qualified, so we do not allow ourselves to act.

We are not the only ones who have ever struggled here. Moses and Jeremiah did, and the Lord responded by saying, “I will give you the qualifications.”

  • In Exodus 4:10-12, “Moses pleaded with the Lord, ‘O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been and I’m not now even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue tied and my words get tangled.’ Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go. I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct in what to say.”
  • Jeremiah 1:6-8 says, “O Sovereign Lord,’ I said, “I can’t speak for you. I’m too young.’ The Lord replied, ‘Don’t say I’m too young for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you and don’t be afraid of the people. For I will be with you and protect you, I, the Lord, have spoken.”

God qualified Moses and Jeremiah, and he will qualify you and I for what he has called us to do.

Many stages of education and training are required to be a doctor, but if God has called you to be a doctor, he’ll get you through the stages. It takes several steps to be a teacher, but if the Lord has given you the desire to teach, he’ll guide you in taking those steps. God qualifies us so we can be in the place he wants us. When you are unfairly told you’ll never be able to accomplish your goal, remember God does not judge unfairly. He is fair and just in all he does.

Acting

What desire has the Lord given you? Make a list of steps you can take toward accomplishing your goal. Start taking those steps, and remember as you go, while the world may judge unfairly, the Lord does not judge unfairly. He sees your heart, knows your potential, and will guide you through the stages to your goal. God is fair and just in all he does.

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