Tag Archives: mercy

13. the gift of friendship

girlfriendsFriends

Without them, life would be a miserable, lonely existence based on the mundane tasks of day-to-day living.

Come to think of it, life would be that way without Jesus too.  

I’ve learned a bit in my short life here on earth. I may not have fit in when I was a child (I still don’t and that’s okay), but I am and will be forever grateful for those individuals who said, “You’re weird and I like you. I’m here for you” and proved it by their actions. (By the way, you’re weird too, but that’s okay *insert mischievous grin…)

One truth: God loves relationships.

Relationship, companionship and friendship are the lifelong desire of every single person, from life to death. It is a God-given drive and emotion stemming from Eternity that is in every human heart (Ecclesiastes 3.11).

Friendship is a wonderful gift sent straight from the heart of God. There are several references to friendship in the Bible, from the dawn of creation to the end of time.

I recall God walking through Eden with Adam and Eve each day, building upon their relationship with him and with each other (Genesis 2-3).

I contemplate Enoch, a man who lived 365 years walking in close fellowship with God when one day, he simply vanished (Genesis 5.23-24).

I ponder the moment when God called Abraham friend (James 2.23).

I mull over Moses, who was given the opportunity to watch God walk by (backside only, of course – Exodus 33.11).

I think of the relationship between David and Jonathan: They shared a great love and deep respect for each other (1 Samuel 18-20, 2 Samuel 1).

There are many more. Jesus also calls his followers his friends (John 15.9-14):

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one that this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” – Jesus

Awesome

Inspired

Friendship

Friendship is risky. To be known, truly known, is to risk being hurt, but friendship can be beautiful, and worth the risk.

Friendship is beautiful. God gave it to us and he knew we would need each other to get through this life.

C.S. Lewis wrote about a common thread when it comes to friendships:

cslewis

Think about your friends for a moment. What do you have in common with each one? What is each relationship based on?

I’ve got friends at work where the only thing we have in common is our work and a love for cheesy humor on Pinterest.

I’ve got friends at a local coffee shop where the only thing we have in common is our love of coffee.

I had friends in high school where the only things we had in common were a love of movies and board games.

But, when it comes to my Christian friendships… There isn’t anything deeper.

Those friendships take on a special quality:

The bond of Christ.

We are all enhanced by those relationships and they often run much deeper than your typical run-of-the-mill friendships based on coffee and movies (or books, for that matter). 

Through the bond of Christ, you can have a deep, meaningful friendship with someone who has very little or nothing in common with you. That bond is all that matters. He or she is your brother or sister in Christ; they’re family. We risk. We trust. And with that trust, we’re able to have healthy conflict, to build off that and still be okay. What a blessing!

Friendship is one of the ways God takes care of us. We need all the things friendship entails: human contact, encouragement, companionship, love, honesty, loyalty, understanding, and so many more things. Building those friendships is a wonderful way to encourage and lift others up in the Lord.

  • Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4.9-10
  • May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude or mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of your Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15.5-6
  • Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6.2
  • Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, but the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice…As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27.9, 17

As Christ-followers, we’re commanded to carry one another’s burdens, share in each other’s joys and sorrows and be there, to encourage, to speak truth into, to love, etc. The list goes on.

friendship1

Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t want in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. – Albert Camus

I’ve always liked that quote, but, when I put it in the light of my friendship with God, it doesn’t make sense.

You see, Jesus is my friend. He is my past and he’s in my past, following me wherever I go, although I’m never truly leading. He is my future; he offers to lead my every step, if only I would let him, rather than venturing off on my own to explore something that captures my attention in the moment. And He is my present, always walking beside me. He’s all around and, what’s more? He’s my friend.

Jesus died to restore our friendship with God. Sin disabled our ability to remain righteous and stand in the presence of the Living God. Prior to Christ’s sacrifice, God’s love and justice would consume us in our weakness. Now, his blood covers mankind and those who choose to follow him have the wonderful ability to live in close fellowship with God.

Notice: It’s a gift of choice; not something to be earned.

Friendships take a lot of time and effort to be all that they can be but it’s worth it. Those Christ-centered relationships will be lasting relationships, not just here on earth, but stretching on into eternity with him at the forefront.

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to sin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18.24

I’ve been deeply blessed to have a close-knit group of Christian girlfriends. Now, we typically don’t all get together at the same time, but when we meet up (whether one-on-one for coffee or what-have-you, LifeGroup or a women’s event at church), that time is so rich and precious. We all vary in age and come from different backgrounds. Those differences (along with our similarities) make us stronger and better able to navigate and cope with the trials of life, individually (based on the advice and counsel of someone wiser) and as a unit.

And the same goes for my brothers in Christ. You’ve all done such a marvelous job in protecting the hearts of your sisters and encouraging them in their own walks with Jesus.

You know who you are and I am so thankful for each and every one of you. God has enriched my life with the blessing of friendship. So thank you for allowing him to use you in not just my life, but every life yours touches.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart…all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1.3-8

How about you? Are you the type of friend you should be, especially to your brothers or sisters in Christ? Are you doing all the things you should be doing: lifting burdens, being there, etc.?

If not, how can you improve in that area? And what would that look like?

Ask God to touch your heart with the truth of true friendship and to show you what it means to be a friend in Christ.

4. the saving grace of the gospel

Tim Keller

I recently read through a book (review here) where I read this statement for the first time and my heart literally fell to its knees in humble surrender and I cried. Not full out sobbing though there were tears and an ache that ran so deep I couldn’t help but allow Jesus to embrace me in that moment.

Mercy

Not getting what I deserve.

Grace

Getting what I don’t deserve – Undeserved favor.

I am more sinful and flawed than I ever dared believe and yet, through the blood of my Savior, Jesus Christ, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope…at the same time.

Just let that statement wash over you.

You are more loved and accepted, in spite of yourself, than you ever dared hope by a man who died to know you.

“The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope – at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.” – Timothy Keller

I am grateful for so many things, but this…

This trumps all.

If it weren’t for the saving grace of the gospel, I wouldn’t have hope; we wouldn’t have hope.

There would be no reason to.

The gospel is a message from God about him…

about our sin…

about his Son, Jesus Christ…

about his sacrifice…

about his love for us, his beloved children…

and a summons to faith and commitment…to him, and him alone.

It’s sad to say that some churches give a good presentation of God’s gospel message, teaching his commandments and how we should live them out from the pulpit, but never give their listeners the opportunity to make a commitment to following him or what following him really means; what it really looks like.

I grew up in such a church.

Between my birth and the age of 18, I had only been given an opportunity to respond to that call on my heart once…through the amazing love and kindness of my mother and God’s use of a bedtime story at the tender age of four. I’ll forever be grateful for that moment in my life. The real adventure of my life began that day.

Let me backtrack on that a moment:

Yes, I grew up in the church.

Yes, I heard about Jesus and learned how to obey his commands each week, through the sermons, through Sunday school, through catechism, through GEMs and through my education at the local private elementary school.

But…it’s not enough to simply know all of these things and try to live them out (works-based faith (i.e. legalism).

It is not enough.

“The gospel is news of what God has done to reach us. It is not advice about what we must do to reach God.” Timothy Keller

Jesus didn’t give his life for me just so I could live my life believing (head knowledge) that he is the Son of God and that he died on the cross for my sins. Even the devil knows and believes this.

The gospel isn’t about how good I am or how well I live out those commands. Attempting that on my own isn’t enough. I can’t earn God’s favor. He already gave it…freely.

Grace

The entire Bible is God’s story, our history, and sums up the gospel in this:

  • God created us to be with him; to take joy in him (Genesis 1-2).
  • Our sin separates us from God (Genesis 3).
  • Sins cannot be removed by good deeds – we cannot earn our way to heaven (Genesis 4- Malachi 4).
  • Paying the price for our sin, Jesus – God confined to human flesh – died and rose again, bridging the gap in our relationship – enter mercy and grace (Matthew-Luke).
  • Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life (John).
  • Life with Jesus starts now and lasts forever (Acts-Revelation).

“The gospel is neither religion nor irreligion – it is something else altogether. Religion makes law and moral obedience a means of salvation, while irreligion makes the individual a law to him or herself. The gospel, however, is that jesus takes the law of God so seriously that He paid the penalty of disobedience, so we can be saved by sheer grace.” – Timothy Keller

Mercy

Not getting what I deserve.

Grace

Getting what I don’t deserve – undeserved favor.

Everything written in his Word directly applies to our lives today and the gospel needs to make its way to my heart for it to have an impact and for its transformational power to work in not just my life, but on those whom my life touches.

The gospel has the power to heal, redeem and restore… making all things new. The gospel allows me to live by the standard of grace rather than works:

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story [not just the good…the dark/bad too.] In admitting [my dark side] I learn who I am and what God’s grace means.” – Brennan Manning

I needed to make a commitment to following Jesus; to allowing him entrance into my life and my heart so he could begin his redeeming work in restoring me.

Not just once in my life, but every single day.  romans 1.16

I need to be intentional when it comes to my relationship with Jesus (more on that later). I need to make the choice to follow him with each passing moment and choose to give him first priority with each decision I make and all that I do. It’s intentionally choosing to surrender my life to Jesus and allowing him to work within me…throwing out the rubble of lies I’ve believed and renewing my mind with his truth.

It’s about defining myself as loved by God. This is my true self…all other titles, names, and faux identities will pass and fade, as will anything this material world offers – daughter, sister, lover, co-worker…my job title isn’t my identity. I am a daughter of the one true God. I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine (Song 6.4). That is my identity. That is who I am.

And living this way is radical.

It goes against the grain of our culture and our world.

It isn’t easy. Nothing in this walk with Jesus has been or is. I will say that life is easier with him than it ever could be apart from him.

I don’t want to be like this broken, beautiful world I live in. I want to and long to be like my precious Jesus.

This isn’t just for me. It’s for all:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3.16 NIV

God so loved the world

Jesus stands at the door and knocks (Revelation 3.20). He doesn’t barge in. He patiently and lovingly waits for you to invite him in.

We need to be active in seeking God…”and those who enter a relationship with God inevitably look back and recognize that God’s grace had sought them out, breaking them open to new realities.” (Tim Keller, The Reason for God)

I am aware of so much more now than I would be if I had not chosen to follow Jesus. I am no longer blind. I see…more and more with each passing day.

“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I’ve done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” – Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

I’m thankful for the saving grace of the gospel that, because of it, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope.

We all get to choose between life and death. Today, and every day that follows, I’m choosing life.

What will you choose?

“The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and set s everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian.” Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God

If you’re seeking guidance or wanting a relationship with Jesus, please reach out to and get plugged in to your church in your area or a friend/co-worker who you know is a Christian. Or, leave me a message here.

thankful

A Resolution to Do Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly with my God

Note to reader: The following is the result of further study, research and reflection after reading a portion of The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer, a book written upon the influence of the movie Courageous, which hit theaters nation-wide in September/October of 2011.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NASB

I’ve been searching throughout my near-27-year existence. I chose to follow Christ at the age of four while sitting on my mother’s lap reading a bed time story and since then I’ve been searching. What did it mean to be a Christian? I know I have a purpose and a place; what is it? Even as a young adult, I still have questions. What should I study that would make an impact in my world? What opportunities should I accept? Which direction should I pursue? Should I go back to school? And for what?

I want to be in His will, but I’m not sure what that looks like in my life. I want to be a part of something that will make an impact for His kingdom…not one I construct out of the temporary materials of this life. That doesn’t mean anything. That doesn’t leave a footprint.

Then I read the following questions:

 

What if the discolusure of His continued purposes for your life is at least partly dependent on your obedience to what He’s already set before you? What if He wants to see your level of faithfulness in responding to what you do know before He fills you in on what you don’t?

 

Micah 6:8 states that God has shown us.

This much I do know:

  1. Do justice.
  2. Love mercy.
  3. Walk humbly with my God.

Justice. A woman resolved to do justice doesn’t take advantage of people even if she has the means and opportunity to do so. She determines instead to act rightly – to pursue a just solution – to deliberately consider the best way people or circumstances could be served in a particular situation, even if at her own expense. Her primary interest is seeing justice done, seeking solutions that are fair, reasonable, objective and, most importantly, expressive of the love of Christ.

I want to be that type of woman.

Mercy. To “love mercy” means to have a hearty interest in doing things that bless and impact others’ lives. It means considering their needs above your own, not because they necessarily deserve it but simply because you “love” doing it for them.

That what God’s mercy looks like toward you and me. He has chosen to give what we don’t deserve. Like Christ, we should be willing to do gracious things for toherseven when their actions and past choices don’t necessarily warrant it.

Just because.

Humility. Combine justice and mercy. What do you get? Someone who walks humbly with their God. She continuously puts the needs of others first. Correctly assesses her own value. She doesn’t see herself too hihgy, of course, but not too lowly either. She just pursues the will of God daily, faithfully trusting that what He’s said and commanded of her is worth her doing her very best. And when He’s ready to share more, she’s ready to receive it and respond.

Wrap all three together and you get a full life.

So why am I still searching?

Is it because it messes with the American dream that our culture attempts to brainwash us in?

Am I concerned about being uncomfortable?

This is at the very heart of the gospel I claim to believe. It is what God requires of me. How can I say that I want to be a part of God’s will and ignore this very vital part?

Gary A. Haugen writes, “Christians…seem to have the amazing ability to say the most wonderful things without actually believing them…(i.e. blessed are the poor and humble; it’s better to give than to receive; just not, lest you be judged; love your neighbor as yourself, etc.)…and examining, one by one, how differently I would live my life if I actually believed such things. The sayings of Christ coexist passively in their minds, producing hardly any effect beyond what is cause by mere listening to words so amiable and bland.”

Challenging and true.

If we really believed the gospel that we’ve been called to live, don’t you that we would then live like it, even it meant dealing with the discomforts His commands may cause?

My heart burns.

Compassion is rising.

Who is God calling you to seek justice for? To show kindness toward?

The woman who lives under the overpass you see every day on your way to work.

The neighbor who’s soldier-husband recently came home wounded from war. She’s now a caregiver not only for her three young children but also for her disabled partner.

The teenager, pregnant for the second time, whos’ been ostracized by her family and really needs a shoulder to lean on.

All of these require time, energy and resources; gifts and extras that we may feel like we can’t give.

But know this…

If God births in you the compassion to help, He will also multiple in you the means to handle it.

Obeying Him is the key that unlocks that door.

Take each opportunity to know His will and do it without reservation.

Walk justly, mercifully and humbly with your God.