Canine Friends and Devotion!

Let me preface this post with the note that I am an unabashed dog person.  We had a cat for 18 years and I loved him, but never felt as close to him as I have felt with our canine children.  Therefore, it is from this perspective that I write this post.  I certainly mean no disrespect to those of you who love felines!

As an only child, I had a friend that was a constant in my life for a long time – my dog named Tippy.  She was all black, shaggy and soft, except for the white tip on her chin [hence, her name!].  

tippy-at-the-piano
Tippy showing her proper posture and her white chin!

She was my constant companion, confidant and comfort.  She sat with me at the piano and endured horrible playing with gracious patience.

linda-with-tippy-at-piano
Tippy with me at the piano … long ago but not so long ago that it was a harpsichord!

Doris Day is quoted as having said:

“I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.”

I agree with her.  Tippy would lay next to me on the sofa when I was ill and just provide comfort without saying a word! 

linda-and-tippy
My canine friend giving comfort when illness would come.

I guess you could say that I have had a canine companion almost my entire life.  Tippy has been gone for decades, but I still smile when I think of her.  Other canine blessings have been Missy and her daughter Winnie.  Here they are with my infant son many years ago.  

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Missie (left) and her daughter Winnie (right) with infant son in between.

Skippy who was the head puppy in charge, at least he thought so.

skippy-close-up
Skippy, the Lhasa Apso/Poodle mix who was love on four paws.

Glitz, Goldie and Sweetie were marvelous retired greyhounds who graced our presence with their stately tranquility and incredible speed.  Goldie loved to travel in the RV:

dog-sweet-goldie
Goldie thought riding on the sofa in the RV was appropriate since she was in her retirement as a racing athlete, after all!

Now we have our MinPins, Cuddles and Snickers, along with our granddog, Haley.

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Three friends, enjoying the sunny day at the campground lake.

Of course Tippy was not my only friend, I did have some playmates who were even called “best friends”.   

Children swinging
Children swinging at the campground playground.

Now it is BFF – Best Friends Forever!  That “Forever” may seem likely at the time we speak it, and some of those persons do remain friends for many years.  Others, however, disappear from our lives but they leave imprints on our heart and spirit just the same.

With Facebook and other social media, we can have friends all over the world and never even meet them or speak to them in person.  To my way of thinking, this takes the meaning of “friend” and stretches it so that it bears little resemblance to its meaning in decades past.  But such is the reality for millions of youth today.

Scripture talks a great deal about friends. 

Probably the best example of a real BFF is the friendship between David and Jonathan in the Old Testament.  In 1 Samuel 17, David defeats Goliath and is brought before Saul as the victor in battle.  The very next chapter introduces us to Saul’s son, Jonathan, and we read in 1 Samuel 18:1 that “the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”  Their friendship continued for years, even through the time that Saul was hunting David to kill him, with the two men making a covenant between them that they would care for each other’s families if harm should come to them.  1 Samuel 20:42.

David remembered his covenant with Jonathan even after both Jonathan and Saul, his father, were dead.  King David asked if any of Jonathan’s family were still alive and we read in 2 Samuel 9 of the story of David’s kindness to Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan, who from that day forward sat and ate at the King’s table. 

We may not recognize the significance of this but in those days, all the family members of the preceding king were killed so that there would be nobody who could contest the validity of the kingship.  Mephibosheth escaped this fate when his nurse took him and ran, hiding him far from the king. 

In other words, it would be rare, indeed, for a son of a deceased king to sit at the current king’s table and to be brought under the care and protection of that king.  But this is what happened to Mephibosheth because of the friendship King David had with his father, Jonathan.  That’s a BFF!

While he was loyal to the covenant made with Jonathan, not all of King Davids friends were loyal to him, however.  In 1 Chronicles 27 we read of Ahithophel, the king’s counselor and Hushai the king’s friend.   Ahithophel was definitely not a BFF because he sided with David’s rebellious son in an attempt to take the throne from King David.  Scripture tells of the pain David had when he turned into an adversary:

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

Psalm 41:9

Sometimes friends betray us, and that is painful.  For this reason, we tell the children that their friends are important.  We tell them that the type of person they befriend can have an influence on them beyond just the immediate friendship.  We tell them to choose their friends carefully because of the strong influence friends can have on them.

In Exodus we read of God’s relationship with Moses:

Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.

Exodus 33:11a 

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have this type relationship with God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of the Universe?  

Well, I have some news for you …  the reality is that we can have this type relationship because of the sacrificial death of Jesus for our salvation.  When the Holy Spirit is within us, we can even address the Almighty Creator God as Father.  That is even closer than a mere friend!

Friends – we need them so that we can be socially healthy and so that we can live a full life.  But, we need Jesus Christ so that we can have a relationship with God because in and of ourselves we are sinful and unable to even approach God, let alone please Him. 

Praise God for our salvation; and praise Him too for the gift of Christian friends who encourage, support and love us in our good times and through our difficult times as well. 

Cuddles and Snickers
Cuddles and Snickers, our two MinPins

And praise God for the gift of our canine friends who love us unconditionally and who give of themselves in cheering us up, in grieving with us when we are hurt, in snuggling when we are ill, and in running with glee when we are happy.  Oh that we as Christians would be as kind to others as our canine children are to us!  

 

But we err if we think that is all that is required of us as followers of Christ.  Rather, unconditional love is the initial threshold that Christian love should pass.  Jesus’ love for us, and thus our love for our fellowman/woman, is to be sacrificial, not self-centered. When we love others as Jesus did, we will tell them the good news of the gospel and of the kingdom of God.   And it all is to be to the glory of God, our Father.

 

Father, your kingdom is one of marvelous wonders and goodness.  Thank you for the gift of canine friends, of feline friends, of the friendship of so many of your creatures in this world.  Thank you also for the gift of Christian friends who show us Jesus in their love and service.  May I be Jesus to others as I live through the power of your Holy Spirit.

FRIENDS –CHERISHED GIFTS FROM OUR LOVING GOD!

Humanity has long known of the importance of friendships. People are social creatures, whether it is a family, a club, a church congregation.  For some, even a gang provides the social connection that is necessary, although it is in a negative context.  In short, friendships are important to our mental, psychological, and physical well-being.  Animals understand the value of having friends, perhaps not in the same language as we do but in packs where each looks out for the other.

Dog - Two friends waiting for family

Two friends, our greyhound and chow/spitz mix, protecting the yard from squirrels and cats, while looking for the family to return.

 

Friendship has been on my mind this week because of our visit with a beloved lady who has been a dear friend for over 35 years.  Our children were close friends through preschool and elementary school.  Although she moved away and our visits were seldom after that, we have remained close through the heart bonds of love in our relationship with the Lord and with each other. 

 

Although she and I have visited together in various locations, I have not seen her son in many years.  We were reunited as we stood in their home with his wife and children around us.  The years melted away and it was glorious.  He explained to his children that when he was young, I was his second mother, Mama-J, and that I had also been his Cub Scout Den Mother!  (That made me remember the pumpkin seeds that were strewn all around the family room after the Cubs hollowed out and then carved their Halloween pumpkins.  But, since that was a fond memory, the seeds were worth it!)  It was wonderful to see him face-to-face.

 

Scripture speaks of friends in numerous places.

 

In Exodus 33:11 we find: 

“The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.”

 

Scripture even gives us examples of true friendships that were time-honored and God blessed.

 

In 1 Samuel we read of the friendship between Jonathan, Saul’s son and presumptive heir in line for the kingdom, and David, the one who God selected as the next King of Israel.  At 1 Samuel 20:42 we read:

Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.”

 

The “Rest of that Story” is found in 2 Samuel 9. After the death of Saul and Jonathan, and after David became King, he looked around to see if anyone of Jonathan’s family had survived the battle and his ascension to the throne.  Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s infant son at the time of the war, did survive because he was secreted to safety by his nurse.  When the King called to have this sole survivor of Saul’s family brought to him, Mephibosheth rightly thought he was going to die. 

 

Instead, King David brought Mephibosheth into his family, and he ate at the King’s table the rest of his life.  Why?  Because of the oath between friends that had been made years earlier.

 

“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”

2 Samuel 9:7.

 

Sometimes, those we think of as friends do not act in a way that is good for us.  An example of this is found in the actions of Ahithophel, King David’s close confidant and friend, who sided with David’s son, Absalom, in his rebellion against David.  2 Samuel 15-17.  David’s pain at this betrayal is described in Psalm 55:

If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.

Psalm 55:12-14

 

We also see the example of Job’s three, sincere but misguided, friends:

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.  When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

Job 2:11-13.

 

Often we think of these friends with disgust when we hear of them telling Job to repent of his sin while Job maintained his innocence.  And, in the end, God upheld the honor and longsuffering of his servant, Job, expressing anger at the friends.

After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.

Job 42:7.

 

Without focusing on their misguided advice, consider what these men did.  They came a long distance to comfort Job.  They wept for his condition.  They sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights.  They did not speak one word to him because of his great suffering.   

 

Have we done this for our friends?  Have we sat at the hospital, even one day let alone seven, comforting them?  Have we wept for their condition?  Have we extended the gift of service, perhaps holding a hand or putting a cool cloth on a hot forehead?  Have we honored them with our presence, sitting quietly and praying for them, without the disruption that constant talk brings?  Have we repeatedly prayed for them bringing their condition before our Healing God in earnest prayer?

 

Jesus spoke of friends frequently in his discourses to the disciples and others around him. One of the most pointed statements is found in John 15:13-14:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command.

 

Friends … what blessings from God and how important they are to us as we grow, age, mature and remember.  And, to be considered a friend of God, when we do what Jesus has commanded us to do, is beyond comprehension.  It is a gift of grace, and grace alone.

Praise the Lord that He has procured our salvation through His righteousness.  It is in Him that we can call Him friend and that we can stand before the Holy God and can say “Abba, Father”.  Praise His Holy Name!

 

Father, we thank You for the gift of friends.  We pray that we would be faithful friends who support and encourage each other in our walk of discipleship.    We pray for those who feel that they have no friends, and we ask that you would enable us to befriend them in a meaningful way that reflects your love to them, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, PATIENCE, part one

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, Series Post No. 13

PATIENCE – SLOWING DOWN OF GOD’S WRATH

PART ONE

The fruit of the Spirit at issue this week is Patience, also known as longsuffering.

 

I have no doubt that each of us has, at one time in our life or another, said that we want patience but we don’t want to wait for it!   Mr. Paul Sweeney asked a question that I have raised a number of times in general conversation:

“How can a society that exists on instant mashed potatoes, packaged cake mixes, frozen dinners, and instant cameras teach patience to its young?”

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:  Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience.”

 

Hal Borland said:  “Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”

 

The patience that we are speaking of as a fruit of the Holy Spirit is different than that which has its basis in the person or in society in general.  The patience that is referenced in Galatians 5 is grounded in the Holy Spirit.

What does Scripture say?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience (longsuffering), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

Galatians 5:21-22.

 

The longsuffering that is a fruit of the Spirit stems, as do the other characteristics that we have examined, from love of Jesus Christ our Lord and comes from the Holy Spirit, as we are being transformed into the image of our Lord.

 

In Hebrew, the word longsuffering is a combination of the words Arek and Aph which mean, respectively, Long and Nose. (By the way, the word Aph or nostril first appears in Scripture in Genesis 2:7 where we are told “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”)

 

So the literal meaning of the Hebrew word for longsuffering is “long of nose” with reference to “long breathing”.  Because anger was indicated by rapid, violent breathing through the nostrils, this term meant “long of anger,” or “slow to wrath.”  In the ESV the word longsuffering is translated “slow to anger.”

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” 

Psalm 86:15

 

Longsuffering, in the Greek context, is the word makrothumia, and it is a bit more expanded in definition.  It relates to “long of mind or soul” which is regarded as the seat of the emotions.  This is in contrast to “shortness of mind or soul”, in other words irascibility, impatience, or intolerance.

 

Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian Church defines makrothumia found in Galatians 5 as the “ability to take trouble (from others or life) without blowing.  To suffer joyfully.”  Strong’s Lexicon explains that this term is the self-restraint which does not hastily retaliate a wrong.  Its opposite is revenge or wrath.

 

Longsuffering is attributed to God in connection with his “bearing long” with sinners and His intentional delay in executing judgment on them, thereby allowing time for them to come to Him in repentance.

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Romans 2:4

 

Now the God of patience [macrothumia] and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus, that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (KJV)

Romans 15: 5-6

 

We are also to be longsuffering toward others.

Be patient [macrothumia], therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

James 5:7

 

The Apostle Paul associates longsuffering with endurance which suggests patient endurance of trials and sufferings, and its further association with joy indicates a joyful acceptance of the will of God, whatever it may be.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.

Colossians 1:11

 

In this regard, Matthew Henry defines long-suffering as patience to defer anger, and a contentedness to bear injuries.

 

Christians are frequently admonished and exhorted to cherish and show longsuffering toward one another.   For example:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience [longsuffering], bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Colossians 3:12.

 

This is not the type of patience that waits in the line at the bank, without screaming for service, but with the foot tapping in frustration.  Rather, this kind of patience is not available by our own efforts, it comes from reliance on the Holy Spirit and, just as the other fruit of the Spirit, this fruit is not available to the unregenerate man.  It is a mark of the Christian as she is being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit.

 

It is in reliance on God and acceptance of His will, with trust in His sovereignty, goodness, wisdom and faithfulness, that we are enabled to endure and to hope steadfastly through the power that the Holy Spirit provides as we lean on Him and learn of Him.  We look to Jesus as our chief example to imitate – He was the penultimate example of longsuffering patience throughout his life, death and even after His resurrection.

How does this apply to my daily life?

Does this patience/ longsuffering have relevance to our modern life? YES.   Just look at what David describes in Psalm 55 when he realizes Ahithophel had betrayed him, and consider how this relates to the feelings you experienced upon betrayal and disappointment.

For it is not an enemy who taunts me – then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me – then I could hide from him.  But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.  We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng. 

Psalm 55:12-14

 

Matthew Henry, in his commentary on Psalm 55, said of the hurt that we can experience even from our “Christian friends”,

There always has been, and always will be, a mixture of good and bad, sound and unsound, in the visible church, between whom, perhaps for a long time, we can discern no difference; but the searcher of hearts does. David, who went to the house of God in his sincerity, had Ahithophel in company with him, who went in his hypocrisy. The Pharisee and the publican went together to the temple to pray; but, sooner or later, those that are perfect and those that are not will be made manifest.

 

However, while recognizing the universality of disappointment or emotional sabotage, Scripture teaches that longsuffering or patience does not permit either retaliation or revenge!

 

The Christian has the duty to bear the injuries suffered from others even if it requires longsuffering. This means that we do not bring any immediate suffering on the one who injured us.  We are not to show any bitterness toward him, either in speech or in action.

 

Is this hard?  Yes.  Is it commanded? Yes.  Does it require the Holy Spirit to work in us?  Yes.

 

Quoting from Deuteronomy 32:35, the Apostle Paul said:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Romans 12:19

 

Next week we will consider how this patience is evidenced in our lives.  In the meantime, consider how you can relate to those who have hurt you in the past and ask the Holy Spirit to grant you the patience and longsuffering that you need so that you can respond in love and not bitterness.

 

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.