Thursday, May 30, 2013

Joy-full Friendship ~ Series on Friendship

"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."  Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV

Discontentment leads to resentment, resentment to rage, rage to shouting, shouting to abuse; this is the chain of events that acts of malice ignite. These intentional malignant actions, each one fueling the next, cause pain and distress. Negative emotions like resentment and animosity are toxic and destroy relationships. Warren Wiersbe says, "Corruption from the lips only means corruption in the heart." 

Augustine in his Confessions lists the joys of friendship: “to make conversation, to share a joke, to perform mutual acts of kindness, to read together well-written books, to share in trifling and in serious matters, to disagree though without animosity.. and in the very rarity of disagreement to find the salt of normal harmony, to teach each other something or to learn from one another, to long with impatience for those absent, to welcome them with gladness on their arrival.” 
The way we interact with others reveals not only our heart's attitude, but it gives insight into our relationship with God. The joys of friendship with God include holy conversations and divine instruction, unconditional love and unrestrained fellowship, peace and hope, all wrapped up together in Amazing Grace. His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of our life. (The Message Ephesians 4:30) Our expressions of kindness and tenderness and forgiveness that we offer one another measures our friendship with God. ~ dho

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Unrestrained Fellowship ~ Series on Friendship

Thus, the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend... Moses said to the LORD, "You have been telling me, 'Take these people up to the Promised Land.' But You haven't told me whom You will send with me. You call me by name and tell me I have found favor with You... And the LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." ...And the LORD replied to Moses, I will indeed do what you have asked, for you have found favor with Me, and you are My friend."
Exodus 33:11-17 NASB/NLT

God calls Abraham and Moses by name, speaks to them as friends, identifies each one as friend. In studying these heroes of Faith, it is clear the privilege of friendship with God comes with many responsibilities but also provides deep, intimate fellowship. These ancient words in Exodus reveal not only the trust and responsiveness of Moses to God, but also God's promise of His Presence to Moses. This relationship demonstrates reciprocity, mutuality, and unrestrained fellowship!

God's promise, "My Presence will go with you," reassures Moses. In Hebrew My Presence literally means My Face. (NKJV Study Bible) Moses asks for God's Presence, His personal companionship; God willingly responds. Of all the nations on earth in Old Testament times, only Israel would go forward with the presence of God Almighty! With Jesus Christ, God completes the picture of His abiding presence. For through Christ, each of us can have this unrestrained fellowship with God.

Philip Yancey, in his book Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference, "keeping company with God involves two parties, and I have an important role to play in the relationship." There are those people who seem content with a superficial relationship with God, those who settle less. Some people deeply desire a growing faith walk with God, some who long for more. God is waiting for those who want to experience an intimate relationship with Him. In God's Presence, the Believer is called by name, feels His nearness, and can hear Him speak, face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. In Christ, Unmeasured Grace and unspeakable joy fuse in unrestrained fellowship! I want MORE of this! What do you want?  ~dho 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pentecost Sunday!

"Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place;
I can feel His mighty power and His grace.
I can hear the brush of angels' wings.
I see glory on each face;
Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place."

As promised, Jesus returns to Heaven to be with God, but His presence will remain with mankind in the form of the Holy Spirit. After Jesus returns to heaven, the Holy Spirit descends to the earliest believers like a mighty windstorm, like flaming tongues of fire. The living breath of God becomes the life source of the faithful. God's plan for the Christian church begins with the outpouring of His Spirit in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago. For anyone believing in Christ, the Spirit leads and teaches, intercedes and empowers, even in this place, at this moment! 

Spirit of the Living God, fill me with Your presence. Holy Fire, kindle my soul. Gift of God, open my heart to truth and wisdom. Anywhere and all the time, You refresh my soul! ~ dho   

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability. 
Acts 2:1-4 NLT

" . . . Spirit of holiness, on us descend. . ."

Friday, May 17, 2013

Covenant Benefits ~ Series on Friendship

"Don't you remember that our ancestor Abraham was declared right with God because of what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, he was trusting God so much that he was willing to do whatever God told him to do. His faith was made complete by what he did - by his actions. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say, 'Abraham believed God, so God declared him to be righteous.' He was even called 'the friend of God'." James 2:21-23 NLT (see Genesis 22, story of Abraham and Isaac)

How does this New Testament verse describe Abraham, and what does his behavior reveal about his faith? First, after remembering Abraham's ancestry and the Jewish lineage, Scripture tells us he is declared righteous by God because of his obedience to God's command. We then understand Abraham's faith foundation comes from fully trusting God. Abraham's faith was made complete in his obedience. Then, God calls Abraham "friend". 

Last week in defining friendship, one idea centered around a trusted confidential relationship. Abraham fully trusts God, and we understand this in observing his actions. Back up a few decades and read Genesis 15; God makes a covenant with Abram, long before this act of obedience demonstrates his faithfulness. A Promised Land and many descendants will become his legacy. When Abraham is 99 years old, God again blesses Abraham, renewing His covenant calling him the father of many nations and millions of descendants, and promising him a son, to be named Isaac. This relationship exemplifies a trusted confidential relationship that evolves into a genuine friendship with God.

A lifestyle of spontaneous obedience is the most compelling evidence of our friendship and affection for Christ. [Blackaby Study Bible] A growing intimacy with Christ reveals an increasing awareness of His Presence. Christ chooses us, but our hesitation or reluctance or denial to respond creates barriers. Without an intimate relationship with Christ, our offerings to the world are of limited significance. Christ meets us where we are and offers us His covenant benefits.  How does your lifestyle describe you, and what does your behavior reveal about your faith? Can God call you friend? ~dho

Friday, May 10, 2013

Privileged Intimacy ~ Series on Friendship

". . . I have called you friends. . ." John 15:15

Scholars find numerous references to the philosophy of friendship when they study the great thinkers of centuries long ago like Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato. Frequently the Greco-Roman writers discuss the topic of friendship suggesting it takes a variety of forms, as alliances or patrons or clients. Greeks traditionally hold a concept that friendship is mutual companionship, emphasizing loyalty and equality. The Greeks maintain that a true friendship is an intimate relationship where there is mutual sharing of possessions and confidences. This is the kind of friendship that Jesus reveals in John chapter 15, when He denotes the differences between a servant and a friend. 

When John retells these last conversations of Jesus, he uses the Greek word philios for friends. This means a friend dearly loved, a personal, intimate bond, a trusted, confidential relationship. In one of His last conversations, Jesus is telling the Disciples that they are His dearly loved and trusted friends. Jesus describes His deep love for them, "I've loved you the way my Father has loved Me." (vs.10) During these last hours together, Jesus once again reveals Himself as Lord and Master, but instead of servants, He calls them friends. Friendship with Jesus exceeds loyalty; He defines holy friendship as a promise of privileged intimacy. - dho 

Friday, May 03, 2013

Genuine Friendship ~ Series on Friendship

We can never replace a friend.  When a man is fortunate enough to have several, he finds they are all different.  No one has a double in friendship.  
Johann Von Schiller

Although we all have friends for seasons, those who come and go, they are individually unique, irreplaceable for those particular times and certainly not forgotten. Yet, as new seasons arrive, it would seem God does fill their void, sometimes, both different and same. I also find those who remain true soul friends, despite time and distance, are NOT so irreplaceable. When circumstances claim them, for a while or for eternity, their place remains; because life returns them with time, in planned reunions or at unexpected intersections. In these moments, we either pick up where we left off with today and then, or we pause reflective and grateful. Genuine friendship is a matter of the soul, a holy engraving by the Giver. They are all different! ~dho

"And these God-chose lives all around - what splendid friends they make!"
Psalms 16:3 The Message