Chores and Work – Are they a bain or a blessing?

No one likes chores.  No one likes duties that are not thought of as fun and chores, almost by definition, are not fun. 

Farm in Tennessee
A Tennessee farm

Talk to any child raised on a farm and they will tell you of chores and hard work, even before going to school for the day!  (We remember the Little House on the Prairie television series showing farm life in bygone days.)

Learning how to work is simply something that must be done.  Confucius said: “The father who does not teach his son his duties is equally guilty as the son who neglects them.”

The Jewish Tamud, Kiddushin 29a, outlines the responsibilities of a Jewish father to his son.  The father was obligated to circumcise his son, to redeem him if he is the firstborn, to teach him Torah, to find him a wife, and to teach him a trade.

The parent was to teach the child a trade, thereby enabling the child to become a productive member of society who was able to support himself as an adult and, prayerfully, have a wife and children to propagate the family line.  All of this was in question though if the child could not be employed in a trade so that he could earn a wage to accomplish these goals.

Clearly, working was seen as an important part of one’s life.  Indeed, Paul wrote some very stern words:

“For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.”

2 Thessalonians 3:10

Scripture says that God worked when He created the universe.

“And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

Genesis 2:2-3

Then, shortly after these two verses, we read that Adam was to work in the garden.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”

Genesis 2:15

Tended flower garden in back yard
A tended flower garden

 

What was Adam’s job?  How did he “work it”?

“Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.”

Genesis 2:19

Adam had the incredible job of naming all the animals and birds. 

Of course, we know that sin entered the world while Adam and Eve were in the garden and our first parents were expelled therefrom.  At that point, work was no longer merely tending the plants and animals.  Rather, it became exceedingly difficult. 

“And to Adam he [God] said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.””

Genesis 3:17-19

So, perhaps our angst about work is the continuation of the rebellion that began in the Garden.  Perhaps our resentment for having to work is simply a modern description of an ancient condition – perhaps it is nothing other than sin, disobedience to God, rejecting God’s plan and inserting ourselves into God’s place so that we believe we are the master of our own universe.

How do we see these things correctly?  Solomon noted:

“Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil–this is the gift of God.”

Ecclesiastes 5:19

Matthew Henry said of this verse:

Life is God’s gift, and he has appointed us the number of the days of our life (Job 14:5); let us therefore spend those days in serving the Lord our God with joyfulness and gladness of heart.  We must not do the business of our calling as a drudgery, and make ourselves slaves to it, but we must rejoice in our labour, not grasp at more business than we can go through without perplexity and disquiet but take a pleasure in the calling wherein God has put us, and go on in the business of it with cheerfulness. 

So why do we have such difficulty with chores and work?  Why is “work” almost a forbidden dirty word in our culture today?

Perhaps we need to confess our sin, our rebellion, our rejection of God’s order and realign our vision to be consistent with God’s viewpoint.  Work is something that we must have to thrive, both from a financial standpoint but also from a psychological and emotional standpoint.  We need to accomplish things during our day, and those things are especially blessed if they are in line with God’s directives for us.

Father, forgive me when I have seen work as drudgery or as something to run away from.  Enable me to see my life’s work through your eyes, as a means of glorifying You and of spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Your Son to those around me.

 

Attitude – What is yours?

The story is told that an old man was wearing a shirt that sported the following sentence: “I am not 80 years old…I am sweet 16 with 64 years of experience”.  That is an example of ATTITUDE.  There are all sorts of variations on that theme, but recently I saw a marque sign at a motel that was unique, and it made me laugh.  While I don’t think it really had anything to do with the motel, I loved the sign, drove around the block to see it once more, and then took a picture of it so I would remember what it said:

Sign - winter fat gone
“My winter fat is gone, now I have spring rolls!”

You may have heard that before, but I had not.  I think it illustrates an attitude that does not bemoan circumstances, rather it acknowledges facts and moves on.   

The reality is that we all have things about ourselves that are less than flattering, perhaps some more than others, but each of us is held captive by some negative comment made by others that has shaped our own image into a false image which we cannot seem to overcome. 

Beloved, the eternal reality is that Jesus Christ loved us when there was NOTHING to love.  We were sinners through and through.  Adam determined that way back when he ate the forbidden fruit, and we have been under that original sin curse ever since.  We have no beauty in us, even the good things that we do are marred by sin and self-interest, by pride and arrogance, and by disobedience of God’s law. 

Paul said it this way:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:6-8

Let those words sink into your heart and into your mind … God loved us while we were sinners.  But He could not leave us as sinners because of His holy justice.  So, He sent Christ to die for us.  Christ paid our debt on the cross.  We no longer have to struggle to try to please God because that has already occurred.  We just need to claim Christ as our Savior and Lord, and we then live a life that is in conformity with His Word.

That means that the false image that plagues you today is washed away by the blood of the Lamb of God.  What does God see when He looks at you?   We know what He sees because His Word tells us:

“Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

Isaiah 1:18

In referencing what the Lord Jesus did for us, Paul says this about God sending His Son:

“For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [Jesus Christ] we might become the righteousness of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:21

For those in Jesus Christ, God sees the Lord’s righteousness when He looks at us.  We are covered in the robes of our Lord and His righteousness.  No false image, no trying to be good enough, no sin and no fear of God because He has given His Son to be our Savior.  

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Romans 8:16-17

So, what should be our attitude?  Paul, farther along in the same chapter, supplies the thrilling answer:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

Romans 8:37

Many people want to be a conqueror, but we are more than merely conquerors … we are children of the Sovereign, Almighty, Creator, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent GOD, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Attitude – it should not be arrogant because we are children of the King, rather it should be that of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We should be servant to all because we are nothing more than sinners, saved by grace.  For that we should be eternally thankful.  So, what is your attitude?

Father, please forgive me when i have let the opinions of other men and women dictate what I think of myself.  Give me the strength and courage to look only to You for my meaning, worth and value.  Enable me to think in terms of eternality rather than earthly, and let me remember that my true value is seen in terms of Jesus and His righteousness.

THE LAST WORD

We go camping fairly often and, when we do, we frequently take the dogs with us.  Years ago we had retired racing greyhounds as our canine daughters, and they LOVED to ride in the RV.  They were quiet and never barked, even when we were in the campground.  Perfect traveling companions.

Goldie and Sweetie in Pace Arrow
Goldie and Sweetie on sofa in RV

Now, as the hounds have passed on, and thinking that greyhounds were too big for us to handle, we have two small MinPin canine daughters, Cuddles and Snickers.  I frequently refer to them in posts as they provide never ending illustrations, usually of behavior that we should avoid!

Cuddles and Snickers - did you call us
Are you writing about us again?

We have been trying to train them not to bark when we are in a campground.  That is no small task given the fact that there are people (many of whom have their own dogs on leashes) walking past the RV, there are campers coming and going, there are people talking outside around the campfire, there are just noises upon noises all beckoning the girls to bark.

For Snickers, this no-bark concept is especially difficult.  We don’t know how she was treated before coming to us, but she is very defensive and the hackles on her back raise at the slightest sound, which she then barks and growls at for an extended time.  We have used various techniques and we are on the way to getting her to behave better, but we have found it curious, and humorous, that she has to have the “last word”.

She will start to bark and we say “No bark”, she will shut it down a notch and after several rounds of this between us she will put her head down, grumbling in doggie language, with one final subdued “woof”.  If we say “No bark” after that “woof”, she will whine and then even more softly go “woof”.  It is as if she has to have the last word.

All this background is to say that, if we are honest, we really are no different from Snickers.  Consider for a moment Moses when he was saw the burning bush. The Lord told him that he was to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but Moses raised numerous objections detailing why he could not do it. Exodus 3.  The final “woof” was Moses’ cry “please send someone else”! Exodus 4:13. Scripture says:

“Then the Lord’s anger was kindled against Moses.”

Exodus 4:14   

No more excuses, Moses.  Do what I direct you to do and I will be with you.  Moses obeyed, God had the last word.

We humans think we can have the last word, but in reality, it is God who always has the last word.

We are lost in sin, we cannot stop ourselves.  We may be able to do some nice things for others, but there is almost always a self-centered aspect to our activity.  We are the center of our universe, and we think that this entitles us to have the last word about anything that touches us or our own universe. 

This attitude ignores the cosmic reality that we are nothing, we are created beings who depend upon the Creator for our very life, for the air we breathe and for each beat of our heart.  Satan is ruling us because of our sinful nature, but God even has the last word in that regard.

When Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross, it was not because of any sin that He had committed, rather it was because He was taking on the sin of all God’s children.  Jesus was paying that price that God’s justice demanded so that those who believed in Jesus would be saved from eternal death.  Just before He died, we read these words:

“… ‘It is finished’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

John 19:30

Jesus did not just mean that it was time for Him to die.  He meant that the job He came to earth to do was completed.  There was nothing more that needed to be done to save His people, to satisfy the debt that they owed because of their sin.  The way of salvation was completed, it was then and it still is finished.  Sin had met its Conqueror, and God had the last word.

God will again have the last word as we see in the final book of the Bible, Revelation. 

So, Beloved, rest in the Lord.  When He is leading you to do something, do it without giving in to the temptation to try to get the last word, the final “woof” if you will.  God always has the last word.  Don’t test His patience, just raise your arms to your Father and thank Him for loving, guiding and encouraging you through whatever is ahead of you.

Father, please forgive me when I have insisted on having the last word.  Enable me to see that this is disobedience of the highest order.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would touch my heart when I am tempted to disobey and run in my own arrogance away from what You desire for me.  Enable me to love You more, through Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Redeemer.

PEACE EVEN WHEN STORMS ARE RAGING

Even though storms are an everyday experience,  some storms are stronger than others.  The power that the storm unleashes is awesome and can be unnerving. The howling wind and driving rain, along with lightning and thunder, create anxiety if not outright fear in our hearts.

Scripture tells us that God created the heavens and the earth, including the ocean or sea.

“And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so.   God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 1:9-10

In Psalms 24:1-2, David says:

“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas and built it on the ocean depths.[NLT]

Jesus illustrates His power throughout the Gospels of Scripture, but one of the stories that I often think of is recorded in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 4. Jesus and his disciples were crossing to the other side of the sea.

Sailboat in ocean (C)
Sailboat in the ocean

A violent storm overtook them; in fact, it was so severe that Mark says that the waves beat into the boat so that it was full! Although I am not a marine expert, even I can understand that the situation Mark described was dire!  Imagine being in that boat, with the wind howling, the waves churning and the boat filling up with water. The expert fishermen, now disciples, were afraid for their very lives. This was no ordinary storm – it was fierce, they were afraid.

Jesus, on the other hand, was sleeping – no fear here!   When the disciples woke Him in their wide‐eyed fear, Jesus stood up and ordered the sea to be still.

“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”

Mark 4:39. KJV

While I would have screamed at the sea, Jesus simply spoke and nature had its marching orders. Jesus essentially said “that’s enough.” He didn’t flail around waving His arms and stomping his feet. He was, at all times, in control. He simply spoke the words and directed the sea to “be still”.

It is encouraging to me to note that the sea’s response was not delayed until the storm naturally dissipated or moved away from the water. Further, the directive was not ignored. Jesus was in control: He spoke and the sea obeyed, immediately.

Landscape Rainbow, Seward Highway, Alaska

Notwithstanding the miracles Jesus had consistently been demonstrating, Scripture says that the disciples were incredulous, and that they asked each other who this man was.  How could He have such authority that even the wind and waves obeyed His voice?  See Mark 4:41.  Of course, the answer to their question is that Jesus is the Creator, the One who established the bounds of the waters in the first place.  He is the One in whom we have our being, He is the Word made flesh, and He is our Savior.

The storms and seas of this world, with their incredible expanse and surpassing power, obey Jesus’ voice. And He, through His Holy Spirit, is with His children in every circumstance — His voice that calmed the sea will calm my own heart and fears. Whatever flood overwhelms me, whether it be water, problems, illness, finances or circumstance, my Lord is in control.

Trust Him ‐‐ even when you feel that your boat is sinking! His voice is still powerful! He can still say “Peace, be still.”

Father, I praise Your Name that You sent Jesus to be my Savior. Jesus, I praise Your Name that You obeyed and became the sacrifice for my sin. Holy Spirit, thank You for being with me every step of the way, and for holding me close, even in the fiercest storm.

 

 

A CHANGE IN DIRECTION

We were driving down a highway one day when, straight ahead of us, there was what appeared to be a silo and a walkway going over the highway to a tall structure on the other side of the road.  While that may not be earthshaking, when I looked up from my reading it appeared to me that we had to drive directly underneath that walkway and in between the silo and the other structure.  There was nothing but farmland on either side of the highway for miles and the road seemed to be flat, no rise in elevation or hills to consider just more farmland up ahead.  But, there stood these two structures and the tiny bridge. 

20180610_133655

I have to say I was startled, and wondered how we were supposed to navigate this passageway.  My fears were unfounded, however, when we got to the point of no return and the road curved so that the buildings were on the right side of the roadbed.

20180610_133722

A change in direction.  We think things are going along just fine.  We have our lives all laid out.  The plan is determined and things are being put in place to execute that well-thought-out plan.

When all of a sudden, there is a change in direction.  A curve in the road that we didn’t see or even consider.  The flatness of our life’s terrain is a source of comfort and security.  We know what is going on and we don’t have to worry about surprises. 

Jesus said that His followers would have problems and trials in this life, He certainly did and He told us that we should expect it also. 

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!”

Luke 6:22 

But, Jesus also said that God, His Heavenly Father, knows all about all of His creation.  When a little sparrow falls from the tree, God knows about that.  Jesus then said, if God cares for the sparrow, just imagine how much He cares for you!  Again, Jesus said God knows how many hairs we have on our head. 

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Matthew 10:29-31

If that is the case, do you really think God would be surprised about anything that would happen to you?

As certainly as the sun comes up in the morning, there will be surprises that come into our lives, some good ones and many others not so good, and we have to learn to handle them, sometimes in a split second.

How can we do that?  By leaning on the One who loves us with an eternal love and who does, indeed, have our life plan before Him.  While we may be surprised by events that occur and seem to derail our life, God is not surprised by any means.  He is omniscient – He is all-knowing.  Further, He is omnipotent – He is all-powerful. 

Combining those two eternal and immutable attributes of God, He knows all things that will happen to you and He is strong enough to be sure that His plan for you will be fulfilled.  That does not mean that there will not be difficulties for us as Christians.  Rather, it means that when there is a difficulty, we can be certain that we are in God’s hands and that He is in control of the situation. 

This is when faith comes into play.  We need to have faith in God so that we can truly rest in His eternal arms during whatever trial or difficulty we are experiencing at any given time.

A change in plans often is unwelcome, distressing and disturbing.  But it often brings surprises and growth in our spiritual life that outweigh all the distress originally felt.  In the process, we can learn a great deal about our God and our relationship with Him. 

Think you are running into an unmovable obstacle? Think again, God may have turned the roadway just in time so that you are, once again, on the straight and narrow way!

Father, I praise your name and give you all glory and honor because only You are God.  There are many imitations and false gods in today’s world, there are many things that man has made into a god such as money, fame, privilege, possessions, even family.  Forgive us when we replace You for anything else.   You are the one and only true God, and it is to You that our love and allegiance must be directed.

 

HUMILITY – A LOST ATTRIBUTE OF MODERN MAN

Picture hanging in our office
Picture depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd holding His lamb in His nail-pierced hand.

Listening to the news reports, listening to radio talk show participants, listening to parents and children interact, listening to parents and children at the sports stadium … just listening to what is going on around you reveals, in a nanosecond, that there is an absence of humility in our modern society.

Humility has, from the beginning, been difficult to find among mortal men. Adam and Eve turned their back on humility and sinned when they ate the forbidden fruit in their attempt to “be like God”. Genesis 3:5.

But Scripture reveals that we have no basis to be proud or arrogant.

O LORD, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.

Psalm 144:3-4.

According to Scripture, we are temporal, finite; sinners who have absolutely no standing with God. While we may look good to other sinners here on earth, we have no basis to stand puffed up before God.

God is at work in His creation and in my life on a moment by moment basis. He is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (all over, everywhere), and He has extended His grace to us through Jesus Christ, His Son, and our Savior.

What is the response to this powerful, present Creator God? It certainly should not be strutting our stuff before Him, as if we could accomplish anything without Him!

Rather, it should be the response that Abram had when God told him that He was making a covenant with him. Genesis 17:3 says:

 Then Abram fell on his face.

It has been said that Western society is blessed to be steeped in the teaching of Scripture and the person and work of Christ. However, this blessing of familiarity can readily motivate contempt in us for the things of God. Even if we do not consciously disregard the Lord, when we fail to marvel at the Father’s grace, simply because we hear of it every week, we must be careful not to fall into a subtle and powerful form of contempt. 

Canon 6 of the Council of Orange says:

“…if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

We must beware of Satan’s subtle urging that we take credit for our salvation, that we believe that we are not dependent upon God for our very existence, that we forget exactly what we are – sinners, deserving of punishment from a Just God. Satan does not want us to remember that, even though sinners, we have been rescued from that punishment by the grace and mercy of God which is extended to us through belief in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Someone who is drowning and is virtually unconscious of his plight should not become arrogant when a stranger jumps into the water and rescues him from death.  Rather, there should be a recognition that he was unable to do anything to save himself and that the rescuer is due great honor for the valor extended on his behalf.  

This is a picture of us, Beloved.  We were drowning in sin and stuck in the mire of evil deeds, thoughts and desires.  Jesus through God’s providence rescued us – we had nothing to do with it because it is all God’s grace.  There is no basis for us to become proud, holier than thou, arrogant or puffed up in ourselves. 

Take time to meditate on the greatness of our God and His love for us.

This is the antidote for us to defeat Satan’s maneuver against us.  In humble submission to Christ, thank Him for His love and grace. 

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

John 10:11

The Good Shepherd wants you to come to Him as a lamb, one of the most humble of creatures.  Rest in Him as He holds you in His arms. 

Father, I pray that You would forgive me when I have slid into a pattern of placing myself before You.  The reality that the God of the Universe knows me, loves me, and sent His Son to die for me calls for nothing other than humble obedience, reverence, love and awe. 

 

GOT POWER?

(This is a revised version of the post originally posted April 21, 2015)

We were camping when an unexpected cold snap caused some damage to the RV.  Frozen hoses and pipes were identified and then we went to work searching the Internet to find a place that had the necessary parts.   A quick call confirmed that they were open and had the needed parts. So now it was up to us to get there.

Since we were in unfamiliar territory, I pulled out the trusty RV GPS that is created specifically for the intrepid RV camper and put in the address.

Directions GPS

We found the store, purchased the necessary supplies, and began our trek back to the campground when we came to several intersecting roads. In fact, this intersection arrived just as my husband was asking what road we needed to be watching for AND just as the GPS flashed “LOW POWER” and “POWERING OFF”.   Then, it just went blank.  Not even a “sorry” or “I tried” or “You have 1 more minute”.  Just … well, nothing.  It apparently didn’t care if we got lost!

I couldn’t believe it.  In my second of need, it was “powering off.”  My frustration stemmed from the fact that, unlike my husband, I get lost in a paper bag.  I am the one who, in Walmart, will turn left into the main aisle thinking I am going to the checkout lane and wind up in sporting goods at the back of the store.  If there are two directions to select from, I will ALWAYS pick the wrong one.

Anyway, I was the one who had insisted that we purchase this GPS, even though my husband has a virtually infallible sense of direction, simply because I do not.  I wanted to have my own backup plan … assuring myself that we could find our way home if something happened to his directional instincts.  So, we purchased this fancy-dancy GPS thing and now, when he actually asked me a directional question, in my truest hour of need, it is “powering off”.

Inside the car, I went into full scale fume mode, when my husband said simply “We’ll just plug it into the charger when we get back to the RV.”

How simple, yet how profound.  Recharge!  That’s the answer for the electronic messages that had disrupted my day. 

But what about spiritually?  How do we get our spiritual power?  And, when we have exhausted our power, how do we recharge?

In Acts 1:8, Scripture records Jesus as promising that his disciples would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” so that they could be effective witnesses for Him. We understand this coming of the Holy Spirit as the day of Pentecost, and because of that day, we believe that the Holy Spirit is within us, as Jesus promised.  John 14:16-17.

But the Holy Spirit’s presence with us is not the whole answer to the “recharge” question.  We must avail ourselves of that power.  I had chargers available at the camp site but the GPS had not been plugged in – now, it was unable to give me the information that I needed when I needed it.  It had no power even though that power had been available.

Likewise, simply having the Scripture in your hand, purse, cell phone or pocket, is not availing yourself of the power which otherwise would be provided. This realization prompted me to consider how often I had ignored going to the Scripture to charge my spiritual batteries.

I had time for many other things, but, I did not have time to quell the growling hunger for my Lord by feeding on the nourishment of His Word in Holy Scripture.  Daily activities took priority over quiet time with Him that would have prepared me for those encounters that He had prearranged for me to handle according to His will, not mine. Ephesians 2:10.

Did my spiritual red light flash “Powering Off” when the assignment came because my batteries had not been charged through reading His Word with contemplation and prayer and then praising Him for His excellent goodness and mercy?

Or, did I not even see the assignment that He had for me that day because my spiritual eyes and ears did not have sufficient power to even recognize the call to present Christ to those around me?

Scripture states that the Spirit and Scripture were given to us so that we would be complete and equipped for every good work that God has for us to do.   2 Peter 1:3 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

The kicker is that we must plug ourselves in to the Source of our Power.  Seek the Lord and He will be found.  He is waiting for you.   Deuteronomy 4:29.   Beloved, don’t delay – go to the source of all power and life, Jesus Christ and His Word.

Father, forgive me when I give more time and attention to worldly things and ignore the more important spiritual preparation that I should undertake.  May I look to Your Word continually and seek the Holy Spirit to provide the power to live my life in constant witness of Your love, grace and mercy.

HEY THERE, FRIEND!

When you were in elementary school, or perhaps middle school (also known as junior high), did you make friends with some boy or girl who was a special friend?  Someone you went bike riding with on Saturday, or someone who would come and share a meal at your house?  Perhaps even a friend who would go on vacations with your family? 

On the Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls
Two friends on the Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls

I suspect that everyone has had at least one such friend.  Now, fast forward decades later … how ever many decades apply to your life … and ask whether you have spoken to that friend recently or whether you have visited with that friend in the past year or two.  Unfortunately, for me, there are a number of friends who have not had any communication from me for many years. 

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”

Proverbs 27:6

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Proverbs 17:17

True friends provide wise counsel and their words are for your benefit, even if they seem to hurt when first said.  Not so with those who would harm you.

In Psalms, David tells of his close friend and companion who betrayed him when the man sided with Absalom in an attempt to unseat David from the throne:  

“Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.”

Psalm 41:9

Even Jesus had a “friend” who betrayed Him to those who hated Him.

“Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.”

Matthew 26:50

Praise the Lord for the friends you have, especially for the friends who rejoice when you rejoice and who weep when you weep, for the friends who love you even when they know you well, for the friends who stay by your side through thick and thin (that’s an old-time expression, it means all the time!).

I recently had occasion to visit with friends from my ancient past.  It was a delightful time and many humorous stories were told, and retold, as we thought back to our youth.

In our day and time, communication is so easy and all encompassing. Technology has made it possible for us to communicate with, and even see in real time, people all around the world while we are sitting in our home or office.  We can be on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media and can tell people all that is happening to us on a moment by moment basis, something that mankind could not even begin to imagine for millennia past.  We have removed the impediment of distance so that communication is possible wherever and whoever you want to speak with.

And yet, in our culture, people would rather communicate via email than have a verbal conversation. In short, we fail spectacularly in our communications face-to-face.  We readily tell others what we want them to know, but we don’t necessarily want to hear what they might say in response, so we tell them our side and then turn off the electronic device so that we can move on to other things.  All the while, we are satisfied that “I have reached out to them” but, I have not interacted with them!

We read in Exodus 33:11 that Moses was a friend of God’s.

“Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.”

People come into our lives at various times, and we become friends and share our family’s stories with each other.  This is as it should be, we are social beings and we need interaction with others.  And, the reality in our 21st century is that people will move away, with increasing regularity.  The family compound is no longer in one place.  Most families are split apart geographically as children leave the nest to find their employment elsewhere, as they marry and move to the location where their spouse has work, as the grandparents move to the retirement home in Florida or somewhere warm so their arthritis doesn’t hurt so much; the reasons for moving are as varied as are the families involved, but the fact of the matter is that each move requires making new friends, and it also has the unintended result that the friendships formerly made are torn asunder.

As it does for any personal interaction, it takes work to keep a friendship strong.  It takes work to keep a marriage strong.  It takes work to keep your Christian life and witness strong.

Cherish your friends.  Keep in touch.  Speak to them on the phone or in person, don’t just rely on the email that you have programmed in the Hallmark app so it goes out to the list automatically. 

Blessed is the one who calls someone else friend.  Blessed, indeed, is the one who calls Jesus not only Friend but Savior and Brother.

Thank You, Lord, for giving us the marvelous gift of friendship with others, the gift of joy and laughter, the gift of memories and sweet thoughts about those who have come into our lives.  Thank You, Father, for giving us the best friend we could ever imagine, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Brother, our Everlasting Friend.

WHO DO YOU IMITATE?

Although he lived long before anyone reading this post was born, Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832) rendered a quotation that many of us know today.  He was an English cleric who was also a writer and collector.  His book, including collections of comments and short essays were wildly popular in their day.  One of his most famous quotes which is still in use today is: “Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery”.

Imitation.  Children imitate their parents/caregivers all the time.  We were taking care of a young girl while her mother took some night classes at a nearby school.  She was looking at a Golden Book that we had in the house when she began “reading” to us, as her nursery school teacher would do.  She held the book in her hands and looked at the pages, then turned the book facing us and said “Blah, blah, blah, I don’t want to hear about it!”  After saying this, she turned the page and looked at the next two pages, again flipping the book to face us and repeat the same sing-song-phrase. 

Clearly, this young girl was not actually “reading” the printed word, but she was repeating what she regularly heard at home, complete with the intonation that comes from frustration or anger.  Imitation. 

Even if we are adults, don’t think that our days of imitation are over.  We still imitate others. 

When we were in England a number of years ago, we went to Abbey Road in London.  Since some in our family were alive when the Beatles walked across that road, we had to do so as well.  This is our impression of the Beatles’ classic album cover.

Abbey road

It was a great deal of fun to imitate that walk, although it did not bring us any fame, just some honks by irritated drivers!

On a much more serious note, imitation can take on eternal consequences.  For example, we are to imitate the good that other Christians do in their lives.

“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”

3 John 1:11

Most of all, we are to imitate the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior.  After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He told them to imitate His actions.

“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

John 13:15

He also said:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

John 13:34

Eternal consequences, you may ask?  What if I don’t want to imitate Jesus?

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John 14:15

“If you … [then] you…”  The opposite of this, of course, is that if we do not keep His commandments, then we do not actually love Him even if our lips try to say otherwise.

The writer of Hebrews said that we are to imitate the faith of our leaders who faithfully brought the Word of God to us.

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

Hebrews 13:7

Paul put it this way:

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

1 Corinthians 4:15-16

Two questions, thus, come to mind.

  1. Are you obeying Christ’s commandments? Do you love others and serve them in His name?  If not, why not?  Do you really know Jesus Christ as your Savior or are you playing Christian, rather like playing a part in a play? 
  2. Is your life, your witness, your love for the Lord such that you could say the same thing that Paul said? “I urge you to imitate me.”  Is your way of life revealing the strength of faith you have in Jesus Christ?  If not, why not?  If so, can others find Jesus Christ by imitating you?

Imitation.  So easy that a child can do it.  So hard that many will run from its demands.  So much a blessing that it provides grace and abundant living in the here and now, as well as forever more.

Father, I pray that I would be a witness for Your Son, Jesus Christ and that Your Spirit would strengthen me as I seek to imitate Him and His love for others.  Enable me to live so that others can imitate me and grow stronger in their faith and in their devotion to my Lord.