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.

COMMANDED TO LOVE

 

Love is a hot topic in our world every day.  We speak of “falling in love” or “having lost my love” as if love is something that just happens, whether we want it to or not.  While the concept of marriage is under incredible attack in today’s world, love is still a hot topic.

 

We read in the tabloids of love between two people and then, one paragraph later, we read of the separation of two others.  We celebrate the many years of marriage of one couple while we are hurting for another couple going through separation and dissolution of their marriage

 

Then, too, as parents, we love our children.  And, as adults, we love our children and their children, and we love our parents, and miss them when they are gone.

Alice, Harold and Linda (C)
My Mother and Father reading my Golden Book, circa 1950

 

And, if we look carefully, there even are times when our children love each other!

USED Brother and Sister
Siblings showing affection, at least one is!
USED Brother and infant sister (C)
Brother giving baby sister some “love”.

 

While the children may not be as demonstrative as they get older, loving sibling relationships are precious.

 

We say that we love flowers.

USED Flower garden
Beautiful flower garden.

 

We love food.

Chocolate covered strawberries
Anyone for some chocolate covered strawberries!

 

We love to travel and take vacations, like a cruise going to faraway places in style.

USED Grandeur of the Seas Cruise Ship
The Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, seen from a distance.

 

And, it goes without saying, we love our pets.

USED Skipy hiding under the bed
Skippy, our Lhasa Poo, peeking out from under the bed, gave us 18 blessed years..

 

USED Goldie on sofa in rv
One of our retired racing greyhounds, Gold E Locks, otherwise known as Goldie, graced us with her presence for 11 years.  She loved riding on the sofa in the RV.

 

And now we have our two canine MinPin daughters, Snickers and Cuddles.

USED Snickers wishing camera flash would stop
Snickers in dreamland on her favorite blanket.

 

USED Cuddles and her boy (C)
Our grandson and Cuddles, sound asleep, with just a little doggie grin, next to him, because he is  “her boy!”

 

Our love for people, animals, objects and activities is a love that is conditioned on various factors.  We love those related to us in a different way than we do our generalized acquaintances.  We love some flowers and not others, and some like to eat lobster and others wouldn’t touch it!  In other words, there is self-motivated volition involved in our love of things and others.

 

In stark contrast, this is not how we are to love our God.  We are COMMANDED to love the Lord our God, and not just a little bit or for a limited time!

 

In Deuteronomy 6:5 we read:

 

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

 

That essentially covers everything!  It is repeated elsewhere in the Old Testament, for example:  Deuteronomy 11:1 and 13:3, and Joshua 22:5.

 

We cannot shrug our shoulders and mumble, “Yeah, but that was okay thousands of years ago, not for us 2016!”  Rather, Jesus reiterated that this was still a commandment for us in Matthew 22:37 when He repeated these exact words.  But Jesus didn’t stop there — not only are we to follow the command in Deuteronomy, Jesus expanded it in Mark 12:29-31 by commanding us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

 

Jesus takes love out of the mental/spiritual world and puts it into the physical/material world.   This turns love into action, not just thought or emotion.  We see our neighbor and we are to love him/her.

 

Loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves means to serve others as Jesus Christ exampled for us, as He lived, and as He died in complete obedience to His Father.  We surely cannot live a sinless life and comply with God’s will in all things as He did, but we can keep His commands on a day to day basis as we are enabled by the Spirit.  We can love God; we can read His Word; we can meet with fellow believers and worship Him regularly; we can love others, if for no other reason than because He tells us to do so.

 

Note that our obligation to love our neighbor does not depend on whether the neighbor is either lovely or loveable – it is a command to Jesus’ followers that has no qualification as to the one being loved.  It is between us and the Lord.  “If you love me, keep my commands.”  John 14:15.

 

There is no wriggle room. It is an “if … then” statement.  If you love me, then you will keep my commands.  Or, stated another way, if you do not keep my commands, then you do not love me.

 

This is not optional – it is not a suggestion.  It is a direct command that indicates whether

  • I do or do not love my Lord and Savior,
  • I will or will not allow His Spirit to guide my steps through the day,
  • I will or will not follow His direction.

 

If I say that I am His, do my actions support my statement or do they undermine it?

 

What about you?  Prayerfully consider these questions and seek the Lord’s face as you look at your life, your speech, your actions, your thoughts, your motives, etc.

 

“If you love me, keep my commands.”   Am I one of His disciples or not?   Are you?

 

Everything depends on the answer to that question!

 

Father, I pray that the meditation of my heart is acceptable to you this day.  I pray that your Word would be used by the Spirit to illuminate the hearts of those who do not know You.  I pray that you would forgive me when I have failed to love You with my whole heart, soul and might.  Thank you for calling me to Yourself through the atoning work of your Son, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.