Thursday, October 26, 2017

"God-chosen...Splendid Friends"

"Keep me safe, O God, I've run for dear life to You. I say to GOD, "Be my Lord!" Without You, nothing makes sense. And these God-chosen lives all around - what splendid friends they make!" Psalm 16:1-3 The Message

These last months, I have shared my thoughts and studies about friendship, with God and with others, and His friendship with us. When I happened upon this picture, I wondered how closely we cherish the friendships God gives us. My grandmother made me this "dancing doll". If you look carefully, you can see the elastic straps that attached the dancing doll to my feet. We moved together, no matter how or where, when or why I moved, connected and certain. I love the way The Message  describes the people that God gives to us on earth. I want to share something from Macrina Weiderkehr's book A Tree Full of Angels.

It is difficult to fathom the potential of each person you meet. This depth and potential are like treasures hidden in a field... When your depth meets the depth of another, what a sacrament that can be... The heart cannot live without intimacy. We all need special people in our lives to whom we can show our souls... How do you feed your friendships?

In our relationships, with others and with God, opportunities wait for knowing and being known. Although God knows us completely, He desires us to come to Him. With prayer and mediatation and through reading the Living Word of the Holy Bible, our relationship grows ever deeper with the Lord. The same goes for friendships. Spending time together, sharing thoughts, being there for each other, and praying for one another, the friendships God chooses for us begin to evolve - even when we don't expect friendship. The words "God-chosen" and "splendid" perfectly describe divine friendships in my life, even when I was not looking for such. 

Making God Lord, the One we choose first, gives us a joy that exceeds the boundaries of the heart. The Amplified Bible says Psalm 16:11 this way: In Your presence is fullness of joy. During this series, I pray you have examined your relationship with God and each other. I hope you will spend some time reading David's psalm, listening for God's promises, praising God for being our refuge, our inheritance, our secuirity. "You will make known to me the path of life." I'll conclude with a variation on Macrina's question - How do you feed your God-chosen, splendid friendships?  -dho

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Jesus, Friend of Sinners - Series on Friendship

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.

Opposition to the ministry of Jesus, which the scribes and Pharisees join, intensifies. Jesus responds to obvious hostility from the religious establishment. Selfish and stubborn describe the actions of those rejecting His ministry. Because Jesus has dinner with everyday, ordinary folk, with "tax collectors and sinners", He is accused of being a glutton and a drunkard.** Enduring religious and political ridicule and ultimately physical violence, Jesus, Friend of sinners, continues to seek those in need of spiritual healing. 

Today's times mirror this period in Greco-Roman civilization. Just as Jesus speaks to the growing crowds in the villages, He calls to the masses all over the earth. Both then and now, people are too busy or too tired, critical and calculating, looking for escapes or making up excuses. People are still consumed with fear and desperate for hope. The world stands in stark contrast to God's Kingdom. Jesus, Friend of sinners, continues to seek those in need of spiritual healing.

Jesus says wisdom will reveal her own results. What is this wisdom? Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced! You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work, treating each other with dignity and honor. [James 3:17-18 The Message] If I, a sinner, am a friend of Jesus, then my life will reveal Jesus in my acts and deeds. Jesus, Friend of sinners, break my heart for what breaks Yours.  ~ dho 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Greatest Friendship - Series on Friendship

Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:7-8 NLT

During the Greco-Roman times that Jesus teaches about loving, forgiving and serving others, genuine sacrifice of one's life for another is as rare as the concept of "a good man". This kind of heroic act would not be common, and for the Jewish people, this kind of offering would not be praised. When the Greeks talk about enemies becoming friends after some conflict, these conversations stay within the context of individuals and certainly did not include God. Jesus enters this culture, introduces the idea of reconciliation between a person and God, and offers His own relationship with God, the Father, as an example of divine fellowship. Jesus says, I have loved you even as the Father has loved Me. Remain in My love.

Jesus not only describes the blessings of fellowship with God but willing lays down His own life for His friends. As Jesus tells the Disciples, There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends, He knows that in a few hours He will live out these words. But for whom? What friends? For those who beat Him and those who nail Him to the cross, for those who watch and mock, for those who fled in fear and hide, for those barter for His robe, for the liars and hypocrites, for the selfish and greedy, for the lazy and defiant, for the sick - the weak - the poor, for the healthy - the strong - the rich, for the leaders and the followers, the merchants and the farmers, the scholars and the students, for those who steal and murder and commit adultery, for those who hate and those who pretend not to care, for those who smile and pretend not to grieve, for the hopeless and helpless, the homeless, the orphan, the widow, for the elderly, for the children...for those then and those to come, for you...for me? Yes... for all!

Dying for someone upstanding or even good remains a rare, heroic act. Perfect Love lay down His life for the unworthy, the unclean, the sinner, the shunned. No person is worthy of such love, but Jesus chooses us. When Grace meets the enemy, possibilities are endless. This holy relationship can exceed all expectations. Grace invites each of us, I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in My love. This is the greatest Friendship~dho

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Fruit-Full Friendship - Series on Friendship

"You didn't choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, He will give you." John 15:16 CEB

For Jesus, friendship with the Father and His disciples implied shared understanding and commitment to a common, higher purpose.(Doyle Theimer) 
Jesus chooses us and then assigns us the task of producing lasting fruit. As the Holy Spirit infuses the soul with righteous living, a new nature with new characteristics evolve.Being ambassadors for Christ, we must accurately represent Him. The depth of our relationship with Christ is expressed in our relationships with others. Jesus invites us into a radial faith and reveals infinite possibilities. 
But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Galatians 5:22-23
Faithfulness to the Father, obedience to Christ, and response to the Spirit produces a fruit-full garden. These fruits of the Spirit become our testimony, our mission, our common purpose with Christ. In sharing these fruits with others, the door to God's intention swings wide to righteous living. Henri Nouwen gives clarity to Jesus choosing us with we are called to give our very lives to one another and that, in so doing, we become a true community of love. Jesus chooses us to be fruit-full friends, and promises us a personal, intimate relationship that exceeds imagination! ~ dho

We are called to give our very lives to one another and that, in so doing, 
we become a true community of love.