Thursday, July 27, 2017

Friend to Friend ~ Series on Friendship

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17 NLT
(unknown photographer)

The sharing of the Holy Spirit lays at the root of Christian friendship. Mutuality involving encouragement, good counsel and accountability remain essential components, but a relationship that has Christ as its core becomes a priceless interrelationship. Ecclesiastes 4:12  describes the strength of more than one: A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better than one, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. A common proverbial expression in ancient literature, this "threefold cord" indicates value in companionship and preparedness. Experiencing unity and grace through Christian relationships helps to deepen our understanding of God's love.

While every relationship differs, certain characteristics define Christian friendship. God must be first. This friendship must share a common love for God which brings spiritual joy, even in times of distress and chaos. Communication involves giving and taking both encouragement and counsel. Within the relationship, security comes from loyalty, from honoring confidences without fear of betrayal. Christian friendship can be an enduring kinship ~ but only if Christ makes three! 

Consider this Yiddish Proverb: There are 3 types of friends; those like food without which you can't live, those like medicine which you need occasionally, and those like illness which you never want. Then ask yourself: What kind of friend am I? ~ dho

Christian friendship can be an enduring kinship ~ but only if Christ makes three! Donna Oswalt

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Jesus-Centered Friendship ~ Series on Friendship

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your current culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Romans 12:1-2 The Message

The old hymn, Jesus Is All The World To Me, begins, Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all; each verse ends with He's my friend. The words of this hymn reinforce the theology of living a Jesus-Centered life. In times of sadness, trials, and blessings, at beginnings and endings, and into eternity, Jesus provides everything we need. This divine promise for us hinges on whether or not we make Jesus the center of our world. The world stands full of contradictions and excuses luring us away from an intimate relationship with Jesus.

To become a living and holy sacrifice, an offering to God, one must accept the cost of obedience. The world's prince, Satan, never reveals the price of disobedience; rather, he charms the mind with unattainable more, teases the heart with fading hope, and leaves the soul with elusive satisfaction. To conform to culture's expectations only fuels futility, but through the Holy Spirit comes a spiritual transformation that is the foundation of discipleship. A Jesus-Centered life merges righteousness and holiness combining spiritual worship and holy living.

God's Grace opens the door to having a Jesus-Centered life. Our response comes next. Peterson's The Message describes how to take our everyday, ordinary life and embrace God! To recognize God in a culture that proudly denies Him, to give generously within a culture that takes selfishly, to hold faithfully to God's promises in a culture that persecutes His truth, to value life surrounded by a culture that marginalizes weakness, to love others more boldly than culture hates God - THIS is to be transformed by Jesus. When one truly embraces God, every aspect of living should reflect Christ's Light into the world. Then the soul can sing, "Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all. . . Eternal life! Eternal joy! He's my friend!"  ~ dho

In times of sadness, trials, and blessings, at beginnings and endings, and into eternity, Jesus provides everything we need. This divine promise for us hinges on whether or not we make Jesus the center of our world.  ~ Donna Oswalt

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Divided Loyalty ~ Series on Friendship

You are My friends, if you do what I command you... I have made known to you everything that I have heard from My Father." John 15:14-15 NRSV

In the early first century, Roman emperors expect the people to declare their loyalty to Caesar acknowledging him as the supreme power. This annual public declaration of loyalty requires every citizen to place an offering on the altar saying, "Caesar is Lord!" Those who refuse, such as Christians who profess their loyalty to Christ, are frequently mocked, arrested, tortured and killed. Under Nero, one of the cruelest Roman emperors, Peter and Paul are put to death, crucified upside down and beheaded respectively, for spreading the Gospel message, and claiming "Jesus is Lord". The message of the Jesus-followers explains there is a kingdom greater than Rome, directly in opposition to the Roman world view. 

Everyday, the outward expressions of our values conjoin with our commitments to demonstrate where our deepest loyalty lies. When material possessions, political affiliations, and social rankings become priorities, when want replaces need, when spiritual riches dwindle, divided loyalty exposes us. The very first of the Ten Commandments clarifies, "You shall have no other gods before Me." Jesus tells us, "No one can serve two masters for either he will hate one and love the other or he will be devoted to one and despise the other." In another lesson, Jesus reminds that just like you can identify a tree by its fruit, you can identify people by their actions. Loyalty becomes the fruit of our fellowship. 

The Old Testament uses the word hesed for loyalty 249 times, and according to Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary it "is one of the richest, most theologically insightful terms in the OT," Meaning "unfailing love, kindness and devotion," this kind of loyalty usually grows within a relationship, often in a covenant relationship. A covenant relationship involves a promise or vow, whether between God and a person or between individuals.When we enter into a covenant relationship with God, His divine, everlasting promises of reconciliation with Him and victory over sin lavish us with Grace. Remaining in fellowship with God develops our spiritual understanding of trusting Him. This trust blossoms into love evidenced in our lives - in our relationships. The Kingdom of God is greater than Rome, greater than the world, greater than this universe. Does your public declaration of loyalty declare "Jesus is Lord" of my life, my everyday, my every moment? ~ dho

Everyday, the outward expressions of our values conjoin with our commitments to demonstrate where our deepest loyalty lies. Donna Oswalt

Loyalty becomes the fruit of our fellowship. Donna Oswalt

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Christ, the Law of Liberty~ ~ Series on Friendship

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged 
under the law of liberty. James 2:12 ESV

Liberty actually means "freedom from captivity", and America celebrates its freedom this week on July 4th! For Christians, liberty is true freedom from sin, genuine freedom to walk in obedience to Christ. In Christian liberty there is freedom from the bondage of sin through faith in Christ. With the Holy Spirit helping our every effort, the Believer walks in obedience with God. Wiersbe writes, "We are judged by the law of liberty - the law of love written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit." Christ is the Law of Liberty.

In James 2:8 the "royal law" [also known as the Supreme law of God, the law of love, Sovereign law] states:You shall love your neighbor as yourself. This law comes from the King of kings and defines our response to others. As someone freed from the captivity of sin, someone given eternal life through the law of liberty, God's freedom-plan redefines our purpose. In word and deed, we are to love our neighbor as someone under the Law of Liberty. Our words and deeds - free from prejudice, from oppression, from exploitation - should reveal Christ's love written on our hearts! His Grace and Mercy become ours to share. Celebrate Christ - True Freedom - this July 4th week! ~dho