Posts Tagged friend

Friend or Enemy

James 4: 4              NIV

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.

On a recent trip out of town I visited a YMCA in that city. Of course, many of you know the YMCA is a Christian organization. This particular Y says of its mission: “To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.” A noble mission statement, you would agree. You know, as well, that I am a fan of the YMCA organization and its mission. Ivey Ministries, in fact, has donated to the Y and I have personally too. It is a great organization which is helping many people.

Even the Y, though, is vulnerable to the wiles of the world. Each of us is susceptible to becoming so friendly with the world that we become enemies of God. On this day I rode a bicycle spin class. The instructor gave each song title as it began to play. Imagine my surprise when she announced the song playing as, “Summer of the Occult.” Really? I said, “What?” So, she repeated it. Yep, that’s what she said alright. I just knew I misheard her. After class I approached her and mentioned that, in my humble opinion, songs of the occult are not appropriate for a Christian organization. She immediately looked threatened and began walking away but answered me saying, “Well, it’s just music.” Of course, that is not a sufficient answer. That is called friendship with the enemy which puts us at enmity with God, or hostile to God.

You know, for the first time in my life I had a very clear picture of what it must have been like in the story of the Gadarene demoniacs from Matthew 8. Verse 29 reads, “And they cried out, saying, ‘What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’” That woman could not get away from me fast enough. The spirit behind that song selection could sense the Spirit in me and it wanted no part of Jesus’ Spirit.

We need to exercise caution in our lives because that easily could have been you or me. For all I know, that instructor may love Jesus intensely. This is not a criticism of her or the YMCA but if this is happening in a declared Christian organization, don’t you think it can happen other places too? Our homes and our churches are not even immune.

The problem is that we fall in love with the things of the world, such as the world’s music. We may say to ourselves, like the instructor said to me, “It’s only music.” Well, first of all, few things have the power to move our spirits more than music which is exactly why this is problematic. As it is, we use worldly music at the Y for our classes but occult music goes too far. It makes me wonder, though, if we have tolerated or befriended too much of the world’s music.

For some of us it isn’t music but rather television shows and movies. Their very themes fly in the face of holiness and godliness, but we enjoy them. So, bit by bit we sequester our Christianity to give lee way to the things of the world. We court the world and its many enticements, but the price is very high. Look at today’s verse from the Passion translation, “You have become spiritual adulterers who are having an affair, an unholy relationship with the world. Don’t you know that flirting with the world’s values places you at odds with God? Whoever chooses to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy!”

This is a big problem which, I think, needs attention brought to it. Our Christianity is often more worldly than holy. Just a little of this or a bit of that and the next thing you know, we are more heathen than Christian. It is a challenge. We live in this world but we are not to be a part of it. We are supposed to be sanctified, which means set apart. We shouldn’t look like, sound like or sing like the world.

I do not want you to react in fear over this, however. This is a call to faith, prayer, and devotion. It is a caution too. We should pay attention to ourselves, our churches and our church programs, especially youth programs. Most of us want to be cool but at what price? I hear pastors saying things that make my skin crawl. It is not that they are bad people. They have just been enticed by the world. Guard yourself. Guard your family and home and guard your church and all its programs. Pray for your workplace and your workout place. Pray for the stores you frequent and every place you go. All these places need the presence of God in them.

The enemy is on the move and we are fools if we don’t understand that. He is infiltrating our Christian sanctuaries. We must awaken and get our heads out of the sand. We have floated around too long in the comfort of worldly pleasures. Now we are about to pay the price and a very high price at that if we don’t awaken and become the vigilant force we were always meant to be. The time for fat, cultural Christianity is at end. Take up your sword, which is the Word of God, and stand for your God. And by all means, push back. Don’t just tolerate this heathen infiltration of your life and organizations. Pray but also do not be afraid to speak up. Even if you are the only person willing to stand, stand just the same. Write to me and I will support you. You are not alone.

Friends of the world are enemies of God. We are forced to choose. Don’t tell me your choice. Show me!

Big Worship

Psalm 95: 6

Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

This is a famous scripture on worship. It is a call to worship. It is also an Old Testament call and we certainly think differently on worship these days, but, do we have a good definition of worship now? Do we really know what worship is? How many of us kneel to worship? Do we consider kneeling or bowing down a form of worship? Search the Old Testament and you will find a lot of bowing down. I am not saying there is anything wrong with it. I am simply suggesting that the reality is that our ideas about worship have changed yet we haven’t fully grasped, especially in a way we can recite, what our current ideas of worship include. Today, I would like to suggest something for you to think about and perhaps include in your definition of worship.

I had the thought last week that the highest form of worship is fellowship with God. Is that a stretch? Imagine yourself as the first person on the earth. What did worship look like then? Worship to God is not what we, as humans, make it to be. When men have sought worship for themselves it usually involved a lot of bowing and kowtowing. God does not have an ego problem. He does not need people groveling on the ground before Him in order to feel good about Himself. I think there must be more to it than submission.

I had a splendid time with the Lord one day last week; you know, one of those days when His presence was just louder and stronger than some others. At the end of the day, I remarked at my journaling especially. His tone was so different from normal. He was almost childlike in His enthusiasm. Over and over I tried to capture the word for His tone. Was it more personal, more intimate? One thing that became clear is that it was less deific, less like the all-powerful God and more like a Father, even like a friend. I heard His enthusiasm, even excitement. This led me into further contemplation until I arrived at the epiphany that worship is fellowship.

There is not greater level of worship than fellowship with God, nothing He would prefer than time with you. You see, to fellowship with God is to express many things you believe and even feel about Him. First of all, if your fellowship is “hanging out with God” what does that say? It says that you believe He is real, that He is more than a far removed deity, that He cares about your thoughts, that He wants to spend time with you and that He is a personal Father, a personal friend. Can you see this? Worship can become so formal or ritualistic that it takes on the form of an idol. Even in our personal worship time, many of us have stagnated so that our worship has lost any true flavor. God is not a God of ritual. That is all us. We turn worship, praise and prayer into religion and that is not what He wants. He wants us to hang out with Him, to talk with Him as if we are conversing with our very best friend. Do you see why, then, I think this is the very highest form of worship. It is an absolute admission that God is my friend and that I want to spend time with Him. I am declaring to Him that spending time with Him is important to me. It is not something I have to do but rather something I want to do. What would you say if your kids just wanted to come hang out with you. Is there a higher compliment, especially when they don’t want anything from you?

Don’t get me wrong. There should be no reconstruction of this devotional to say I do not believe in worship. According to Wikipedia worship is “the expression of reverence or adoration.” Two comments on this definition: first, it is a human definition, second, there is no articulation of groveling in the dirt. As a human definition goes, I think it is appropriate but ask yourself how God would define worship. Secondly, even in this definition, which must fall short of God’s, the essence is being in love with God. Adoration is at the head. So, worship God with your time. Leave the religion on the altar and just hang out with your best friend.

My Buddy

John 14: 16 – 17

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

I started to send you scriptures today which show the Holy Spirit as the promise of God, there are quite a few, but perhaps you have already come to that conclusion. This scripture from Haggai spells it out simply enough, “As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!” (Haggai 2: 5). This scripture is great assurance that God fulfilled the promise He made. The bigger question, therefore, may be, why is this so important? What does the fulfillment of this promise mean to me? That is the question I would like to attempt to answer today.

Jesus was the first to teach about the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was referred to by many prophets and writers, but Jesus told us about the Holy Spirit’s role in our lives. We find key language in today’s verse. Jesus called the Holy Spirit our “Helper.” If you check this word in your Strong’s Concordance or even in the footnotes, you find the word here which is translated into English as helper also means comforter, intercessor and most interesting of all, one who is called to go alongside. This is the idea I would like you take away from today’s Word of the Day. The Holy Spirit was sent to us by God as a fulfillment of His promise so that we would have a constant companion, someone who will go along beside us regardless of the circumstance.

It is remarkable that God, at the request of Jesus, would send His Own Spirit to be our companion. Even more remarkable, though, is that this cohort, this third person of the Trinity, is called to walk along beside us. This should give even greater insight to the idea of partnership with the Holy Spirit. God didn’t send us a boss. There is absolutely nothing tyrannical in our relationship with the Spirit. At the deepest level of truth, Father God sent us a friend, a buddy. That is the key revelation of the Holy Spirit. That is the revelation that could, and dare I say, should, change your life forever.

There is so much more that he does for us but it all flows from this relationship, or friendship. He is our teacher, an intercessor, he assists us in prayer. He is the Spirit of Truth and leads us in all truth. He is our guide and our confidante. The big revelation, though, is that he is your friend. He is with you every moment of your life. He is the breath in your lungs. There is a scripture which says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” (Proverb 18: 24). This is the Spirit, the living water which quenches our thirst. This is our friend.

My Friends

John 15: 14

You are My friends if you do what I command you.

Jesus defined very clearly what he expects of his friends. He said that he no longer calls us servants but rather friends (John 15: 15). I do not have all the answers for yesterday’s questions but Jesus has answered one for us. His friends do as he says. What does that mean though?

At a minimum it means that we do everything in red type. If we do that, I believe we are doing well. The reality, though, is that everything in the Bible is him since he is the Word. I think we read the Bible and have good intentions. We embrace with our minds, with our intellect the things we see of Jesus in the Bible. It is quite a different thing, though, to actually live by his words. This is what his friends do however. This is the defining difference between slaves and friends but significantly this “doing” must come from our hearts. If it becomes a “work” i.e. something we must do for Jesus to love us, then we have jumped tracks and are headed on a different course all together.

Loving Jesus manifests in wanting to hear his words, read his words and ultimately do his words. Think about the person you love. Remember when you first met. You hung on every word, you did what they wanted to do just because. Friends seem to just like hanging out together. You like hearing their thoughts and they enjoy hearing yours. You share your lives. Would it really be a friendship if your only contact was reading stories about them?

Jesus wants our lives to become integrated with his. He wants us to keep him commands to us because they will lead us into success and happiness. We are going to need to change some of our thinking though. Our minds can be transformed though and that comes through the Word. If we will meditate on Jesus’ words, we will see the way. We will want to go the way Jesus points because it is a good path. Friends are not at odds with each other, they are headed on the same path in the same direction.

Jesus’ friends draw close to him and follow him in his ways. He is calling to you. “Come to me, come with me” he says. He wants to be with you. Draw closer to him today. Call him “friend.”

Best Friends

John 15: 13                     NIV

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Jesus demonstrated true friendship. He also defined friendship in some meaningful ways. Proverb 18: 24 says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Surely, Jesus has modeled this kind of friendship for us and, he has become this kind of friend to us. In truth, isn’t he just the best friend you have ever had?

This verse certainly brings joy and a sense of celebration to the heart but I feel snagged by it also. If a real friend is one who would lay down one’s life for a friend, then it stands to reason that we would lay down a great many other things, as well, for our friends. The most costly of these is that I may have to lay aside my agenda, my wishes and my time for my friends.

We live in an age where we are all so busy that, really, we don’t have much time for our friends. We end up with virtual friends instead of real friends. I even wonder if the word “friend” means what it used to. Perhaps most of our friends are really acquaintances. I remember, as a child, my parents having friends over to play cards. Sometimes we went over to other friends of theirs and sat and sang songs all evening. We also took weekends to go visit relatives. We don’t do many of those things today. If, as the God’s Word translation says, “The greatest love you can show is to give your life for your friends” how do we demonstrate our love and affection for anyone? Or have we stopped caring altogether? Our heartstrings are pulled by the affliction of people who suffer around the world, we give money to groups who rescue abused and neglected animals but where is the real devotion in personal relationships? Are we only dedicated to those whom we can keep at arm’s length. Are my very best friends those on Facebook whom I never see and haven’t seen in years? Or like one person I know, who never intends or desires to see her Facebook friends in person, are many of us learning to isolate ourselves living as islands of one or two? What does it even mean anymore to have “meaningful” relationships? Do you sometimes wonder who would care if you dropped dead?

I think of the people who followed Jesus. They truly loved him. He loved them with all that he had. He loves you and I with all that he ever was and willingly sacrificed his life so that we could be best friends. Are we treating him as a long-distance relationship? What would it be like, how would it feel to treat him as an intimate friend? And what is a friend anyway? He showed us ultimate friendship in laying down his life for us, but what shall I now do, how shall I express my love for him? How does a real, true friendship with Jesus demonstrate itself? And is my relationship with him based solely on what he does for me? What can I do for him or any friend? Perhaps it is not about what you do though. Maybe it is just about being with them.

There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Jesus is one. Is there another?

Peek-a-boo

Isaiah 52: 6

Therefore My people shall know My name; therefore in that day I am the one who is speaking, “Here I am.”

It is cool to be God. He gets to identify how He will be known and He says to you and to me, “I want you to know me as ‘Here I am.’” Oh, how great is that? Come on, let that sink down into the pit of your stomach and see how that feels. That is exciting, isn’t it?

God said, “Hey, I am a God who is near, not far off” (paraphrase Jeremiah 23: 23). He wants to be the God of “Here”; here I am. In other words, His place in the cosmos is not sitting on some far off planet where He uses the moon of that planet as His footstool. He is the God of when you call, there I am. That is God’s self-identity. Many folks would define a true friend in that same language. A friend is someone who is always “there” when you need them. God wants us to call Him.

This also reminds me of playing Peek-a-boo with children. Every time the child moves their hands or we do, there we are. Think about how little children giggle every time they see you. We can be those little children who are comforted and cheered every time we look to the Father because He is always answering, “Here I am.”

You never again have to wonder where God is. He is there where you are. He is the playwright and  He wrote His role as your always present companion. You know, He is known as the great “I Am”. Now you know one important aspect of what that means –“Here I AM.” I am with you.

God can choose any role for Himself He wants and He chose to be your “Here I am.” That is pretty amazing. What a beautiful choice, what a beautiful concept and what a precious scripture. All that God is He brings to you. Glory to God!