Breaking Bread

Hebrews 10: 25

Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.

Many people take this verse to mean that we should attend church. Okay, that is a fair reading but I see so much more in here. This verse has always spoken to me equally, if not more so, in the context of personal relationships. Some of the best church I have every attended has been around a dinner table at a restaurant.

Implied here is that our assemblage has spiritual purpose. There is a verse which comes to mind. It is Ephesians 5: 19 which encourages “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” Taken together, these two verses paint an image of people gathering socially but where the Word of the Lord is central to the get together.
You will have noticed that part of the purpose in gathering together is for encouraging one another. It isn’t about just having a beer with your friends. The real power of social gathering as well as church gatherings is to be an encouragement to each other. What brings more encouragement and hope than God’s Word? That is why speaking to one another in spiritual songs, psalms, etc. is prescriptive. Any word from God or about Jesus infuses hope. There is joy in our thoughts and words about the Lord. He instills within us the belief that all challenges are overcome in him. Problems melt away in his presence. Therefore, when you get together with your friends and the joy of the Lord is present, their burdens lose their weight.

No one is without problems. Jesus told us that in this world there is trouble. However, when we gather in the presence of the Lord, even if that is over a meal at a restaurant, those momentary troubles become less significant. Friends are important but Christian friends are a blessing from God. So the next time you gather to break bread with your friends, remember Jesus. Share his goodness at the table. It is good for your digestion, good for your soul and good for your friends.

Spiritual Revenge

Job 42: 8

Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.

If you read the book of Job you will see that Job’s “friends” spoke against him for the whole book. I mean they really gave him a time. As soon as bad things started happening to Job his friends descended upon him and accused him of some great sin as the cause of the tragedies which were occurring in his life.

Isn’t that just like folks? They probably had been jealous of Job all the while because he was very wealthy and blessed in all things. Then when the devil started stealing his blessing, his friends began to harshly criticize him. In the end God corrected and reproved them.

Now if I were Job, I might not want God to send those chaps to me for me to pray for them. I can imagine saying, “God, I don’t want to pray for those fools that have harangued me for months. Just let them reap the fruit of their seed.” Fortunately for them, Job was obedient to God. I do like that they had to take him a big offering though. And we know that Job did pray for them because the subsequent verses tell us that God did accept Job’s prayer.

You see, the Old Testament teachings are consistent with the New Testament. God had Job pray for his enemies and we are under the same command today. Pray for those who persecute you and despitefully use you (Matthew 5: 44).

Do You Love Me?

John 15: 17

This I command you, that you love one another.

If you knew me would you still love me? My definition of a friend is “someone who knows you and still likes you”. Sometimes we become acquainted with someone but then when we find a blemish on their armor or find that they have needs as well as strengths, we abandon that friendship.

One of our problems is that we make judgments about people based on these perceived faults. Well, when you began becoming friends with them, did you think they were perfect? There has only been one perfect. So discovering that a person is flawed really shouldn’t be such a big surprise.

Our response to these pronounced judgments is to hide away our true selves. Hence my question, “If you knew the real me, would you still love me?” Well, I know how Jesus answers that question and it is probably why we love him so much. He sees us for who we truly are complete with all of our emotional baggage, scars and our faults and yet loves us anyway. In fact, he knew all of my short comings before he went to the cross and seeing my damage chose to go to the cross anyway. Now that is a friend indeed.

Now Jesus directs us. He has said, “Do not judge” (Matthew 7: 1). Instead he commands us to love one another. I don’t see an easy way around these two imperatives. Do you? We are very good at determining what is good and what is bad but remember, that is the fruit of the tree we were never supposed to eat from (see Genesis 3: 2 – 4). Eating the fruit of that tree is what yielded the curse and it is still producing misfortune and torment in our lives today.

We do not need to agree with each other’s politics or even religious views but we do have to accept one another. We have not been appointed to determine who is good and who is bad, who gets into heaven and who does not. Our job is but to love. Period, end of story. Now, if we could really get a revelation of that, we would transform the world.

Running Mates

John 15: 13 – 15

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends, if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

Yesterday I wrote to you about being a deep-water devotee. There are few pleasures in this earth that satisfy like finding a deep-water running mate. I once felt so alone, like few people wanted to dedicate their lives and our conversation to the pursuit of Jesus, our Christ. I am here to say today that I am blessed. I have friends, people who want to run in the fast lane of Christian quest. 

I believe Jesus shows us a model for friendship in this passage. First of all, he calls us into friendship with him. Wow, just wow! Then he shows us the dedication he gives to friendship; that he was willing to lay down his life for his friends, i.e. you and me. However, I see another key factor in this friendship equation. Jesus said, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” I am not suggesting that a friend should be obedient to you. I do recognize, though, that we must be of like mind and spirit. In other words, Jesus points out to us that our way should be his way. We should run his path. We cannot really be friends with someone who is running a different path than we are. Sometimes that is sad. Every now and again you lose someone along the way. I grieve those losses but there is joy in the morning when you find a true running mate. When you find someone who is willing to delve into the deep things of Christ with you, who will respect your opinions and questions and call you in even deeper, then it truly is like finding a gold mine.

I dedicate this Word of the Day to my Deep Water friends. You know who you are and I appreciate you. I also wish to extend an invitation to others who wish to jump in the deep water. There is plenty of room in the ocean for you. Come on in, the water is fine and your new friends await you. 

Dangerous Friends

1 Corinthians 15: 33       NIV
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

This is the tune that parents have sung for hundreds and even thousands of years. You will become like who you hang around with. How does the expression go, “Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.” King Solomon would have been benefited from hearing Paul’s sermon. Solomon was an extremely blessed man. His father, David, left him an intact kingdom, one that was finally enjoying peace. Solomon had fame, honor, and extreme wealth. He had everything! Still, he fell. And do you know why? He hung out with the wrong people. He had heathen friends and heathen wives, heathen simply meaning that these were not people of the kingdom. They were not Israelites and more importantly they did not practice the Hebrew ways.

Have you ever noticed that in associations the lower person usually pulls the other down rather than the higher pulling the lower up? I do not know why this is the case but it is typical. It sure was the result in Solomon’s life. These non-believers, if you will, corrupted his testimony. He became like them instead of them becoming like him. He even ended up building altars to heathen gods. It is hard to believe that the son of David could fall so far. This is Solomon who was chosen to and in fact did build the temple of God. Then later in life he built pagan temples and altars. It is hard to fathom. The end of the story is that Solomon fell hard. The throne was torn from his lineage except for one tribe. And all of this happened because he did not choose his friends wisely.

Who you hang out with will affect you. Period. We must zealously guard our hearts or the thief will steal our fervent love for God. The next thing you know your life has made a radical departure from your former self. Of course, the other danger is that we lie to ourselves saying that we are still serving God, we still love Him but in the depths of our hearts we know that we have left our first love. So here is the question, “Where are we allowing our associations to lead us?” We’ve got to be honest with ourselves in answering this question. We should also be aware that it is not only the people that we associate with that entice us away from time spent with God. We can also be lured away by “things.” That new boat can become an idol or even a new house. A book series can become an obsession. In short, there are many things that can tempt us away from God. We’ve all spent too much time at work or too much time at play so this isn’t a recrimination. It is a warning. Look at who you are associated with. Ask yourself if they are leading you towards or away from God. Assess where your time is spent. Besides work, what dominates your time and thought? Be cautious, otherwise the enemy will steal your zeal for God. Before you even know it you find it easy to cut church when you used to attend regularly. You never pick up your Bible anymore and your prayer life has become a burden rather than a joy.  

Everything you need for life is in the Lord our God. Do not be misled. Turn your face to God and be blessed and renewed.