Thankful for Friends — The Friendly and the Not-So-Friendly

I’m thankful for friends I’ve brushed shoulders with briefly and those I’ve walked beside a long time — the friendly and the not-so-friendly. Their diversity amazes me! Who but God could connect my life with theirs.

Have you heard it said, “It isn’t what you know but who you know that counts?” Both the what and the who are important, but I’m holding closer to the who, than to the what.

If I sat down and made a list of those who have positively impacted my life, the page would be long and the pen without ink. I’m sure you would discover the same. To be known sometimes feels risky and perhaps even dangerous.

Several years ago, our son skidded off the icy road onto a frozen river. Someone seeing his predicament stopped to observe and help if necessary. “You’re a Ward, aren’t you?” he asked with a grin. As our son put the vehicle into four-wheel-drive and pressed the accelerator to mount the river bank, he wished to be unknown rather than known.

I’ve had more than my share of embarrassing moments as well.

The Friendly Friend

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend spring from their heartfelt advice.”
Proverbs 9:9

I hope your basket is full of friends you can turn to for “heartfelt advice” — those who stand with you no matter what you’re going through. Even if sometimes their words are directive or corrective.

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Proverbs 9:6

Close Friends

Many times loyal friends loved me enough to instruct, even if it was with painful words. Their truth simultaneously stung and healed. Their correction brought me back on course, showed a better way, and challenged me to dig-deep and not give up on myself, God’s calling, or others.

Unfriendly Friends

We’ve all experienced those who have wounded us.

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend.”
Psalms 55:12-13

No wound goes as deep as the wounds of betrayal, whether intentional or unintentional, from those we’ve trusted. The psalmist David knew the pain, so did Joseph. Sold into slavery and imprisonment for fifteen years, he had ample time to think about how his own brothers sold him out.

Friends Help

Yet, he said,

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Genesis 50:20

When those who should have been his protectors turned unfriendly, Joseph recognized the sovereignty of God. He leaned heavily into God’s plan and trusted His sufficiency. Through forgiveness, he counted even unfriendly friends as part of God’s infinitely wonderful purpose.

Job showed another example of genuine friendship, in spite of harsh treatment in his most vulnerable hour

“After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.”
Job 42:10

Only after praying for those who wounded him did God release a double blessing.

Good Friends

Becoming a good friend doesn’t happen accidently. Friendship costs! The “art” of friendship developed slowly for me. As a child, I preferred the company of animals over people and solitude above crowds. Trust came gradually.

Friendship

I honestly wanted friends, but severely stumbled in my efforts to become a good friend. Friendship requires loving at all times (Prov 17:17), living sacrificially (John 15:13), dedication (Ruth 1:16,17), helping, forgiving (Col 3:13), patience and kindness (1 Cor 13:4).

The Best Friend

Several years ago, my very young granddaughter walked beside her mother down the street of a small city. A homeless man silently approached and passed them. With sadness in her voice, she softly said, “He doesn’t have a family.” Her little heart recognized the absence of loving support in the face of a stranger.

Even children sense that God has designed our lives to thrive in healthy interaction with others. For too many, such luxury remains absent.

Jesus made this remarkable statement,

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
John 15:12-15

Jesus, God incarnate, chose to call us His “friend!” Not because we are worthy of such favor, but because of His love and grace. His incredible gift of friendship gives us the ability to befriend others with similar love and grace.

Best Friend

How amazing is that?

Whether you’re surrounded by many or few friends, don’t dismay. Jesus calls you friend! No other friendship compares to His; He will never leave you or do you harm; He sticks close, never abandoning or disappointing. You can fully trust Him.

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Proverbs 18:24

That “closer than a brother” Friend is none other than Jesus Christ.

Friends Protect

Jesus, a Friend to All

If you’ve never experienced the closeness of His friendship, my heart aches with understanding for you. Today, in the quietness of where you are, ask Him to come, not just to be your Friend, but your help, source and strength for all you need. Take this moment to turn toward Him, surrendering your life to Him completely. There’s no magic formula — just sincerity of heart.

To get to know Him more, download a Bible app for your phone or begin to read a standard hard copy, starting in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. By reading these portions of Bible, describing the life of Jesus on earth, you will discover more fully what an amazing Friend He is to all.

Blessings, my friends, I’m thankful you share your life with me.

The Golden Rule: Treat Others the Way You Want to be Treated

The golden rule, although existing in many cultures globally, is a biblical principle that has been passed down through generations. Certainly, my parents faithfully attempted to instill this foundational way of thinking and behaving into my conduct.

The golden rule points us to see others with value. Speaking the golden rule is easy; remembering it during critical moments, a little more difficult; harder still is consistently living by it.

Self Assessment

Matthew, the former tax collector, writes of the need for such a principle. Few people, now or then, admire those who work for the tax department, enforcing governmental laws of personal and corporate taxation. In Matthew’s day, tax collectors were considered traitors and thieves — mostly for good reason. Before Matthew was introduced to Jesus, his barometer scale of compassion probably ranked quite low. Filling his own coffers was one of his highest priorities, and he didn’t care who he stepped on to do it.

“So in everything, do to others
what you would have them do to you,
for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 7:12

When he met Jesus, however, his former mindset did an about-turn. He began to view those around him not for temporary benefit but from an eternal perspective. He also knew such a change of thinking came only through divine intervention. 

In the preceding verses, Matthew addressed the need for taking the plank out of my own eyes (vs 5). It amazes me how blatantly obvious the smallest failures of others appear while living ignorant of my own overbearing and incredibly dysfunctional behavioral patterns.

God forbid that we ignore the pain we see others suffering through. Before jumping into action, he challenges us to assume the responsibility of seriously assessing ourselves. Then Matthew calls us to do whatever is necessary to effectively help others. 

“. . . first take the plank out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to remove
the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Matthew 7:5

Planks hurt! Specks hurt too! Oh how we need each other to help us see clearly.

God First

What wisdom Matthew has acquired in his short time with the Master! 

He points our attention to the loving Father. I know this is a long passage, but every word is worthy of our attention. 

Ask, and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Matthew 7:7-11

If we stop reading here, we easily assume that it is a one-way channel of blessing upon blessing coming toward us. We could stand at the door of prayer asking, seeking and knocking for more in our give-me-bags to satisfy our selfish desires and satiate our lustful appetites for the good things God offers. 

This, however, is the preamble for the real intent, as an appetizer to the full meal, of Matthew’s message. In short, he says, “Look, everyone! Look how loving and gracious our Father is! Does His mercy ever end? Will He ever shortchange you? Does He treat you carelessly?”

Golden Rule

If there are three words that I continually stumble upon as I’m reading the Bible, it is those little words “how much more.” No matter how generous, loving, good and gracious we believe God to be, He is so much more. Matthew says, “God is our pattern. The way He treats us has become the standard by which we treat all others.” 

“So in everything, do to others
what you would have them do to you,
for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 7:12

That’s it! The golden rule capsulizes everything God has written. This one principle satisfies everything else completely. “In everything,” in every way, to all people, treat them as God treats us.

Let’s get real! When I look at the level of this standard, I feel like I’m standing under a bar hanging 50 feet above my head with no means of reaching it. My failed attempts, through 67 years, only proves my powerlessness to achieve such a high mark. 

Who will help? How will I ever attain it? Through the grace of God alone — day by day asking Him to intervene in my life, moment by moment trusting Him, time and time again seeking forgiveness for my failure.

“As You Have Done”

Matthew knows full well the intervention of God that must occur for us to hold such high conduct. He isn’t presenting something new. Hundred’s of years prior, Obadiah gave a warning to Israel’s enemies, 

“. . . As you have done, it will be done to you;
your deeds will return upon your own head.”
Obadiah 1:15

Israel’s enemies were guilty of “gloating” over them in their “misfortune,” “rejoicing” when “destruction” hit, and “boasting” when they were in trouble. Doing the wrong thing comes easy; doing the right thing takes practice and effort.

Sometimes, we do pretty good at following the golden rule principle with our friends. The real litmus test is how we respond to our enemies. Do we nurse a twisted gratification when they stumble and fall or when they are down and out?

My parents would often add, “Don’t kick someone when they’re down!” In other words, the golden rule includes lending a helping hand to those we least want to help, being kind to those who have treated us harshly, and refusing to judge those who have cast the broad net of judgment our way. 

God reminds us through Obadiah that the same portion we so generously give to others, either good or evil, will return to us. 

Sowing and Reaping

What a marvelous God we serve. God  refuses to lower the bar to meet our inadequacies. He sets the bar high, then lifts us over it. He presents the standard, then gives us everything we need to accomplish it.

“…I will not leave you helpless
nor forsake nor let you down,
nor relax my hold on you.
Assuredly not!”
Hebrews 13:5 AMP

We don’t struggle alone to fulfill God’s mandate. The beauty and simplicity of the golden rule unfolds like a delicate flower, as we rest and trust in God to guide and help us. What we sow we will reap.

Paul writes to the Galatians, 

“Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked.
A man reaps what he sows. . .
Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest
if we do not give up.”
Galatians 6:7-9

So friends, let’s keep going. Keep reaching. Keep aiming. We will attain the reward of living for and giving to others according to the golden rule. Let’s not give up! Reward may seem a long way off, but it might be sooner than we think.

From Curse to Blessing – God’s Redeeming Character

Curse to Blessing

Since we all live real lives with dusty feet and bombarded minds, it is hard to fully fathom the truth sometimes. As Christians we are bound to blessing. In every situation, we are victorious in Christ.

As I read my bible, I am often overwhelmed with God’s great grace in turning curses, failure, and disgrace in blessing. It is evidence of His redeeming character.

Examples

Look at Balaam (Numbers 23 & 24). The king of Moab hired Balaam to “come and put a curse on” the people of Israel. However, much to Balak’s distress, again and again Balaam could speak only blessing.

“But the LORD your God refused to listen to Balaam.
He turned the intended curse into a blessing
because the LORD your God loves you.”
Deuteronomy 23:5

What about Joseph? Sold as a slave by his brothers, falsely accused and imprisoned by his employer, forgotten by those he helped to release, ”

“They bruised his feet with shackles,
his neck was put in irons,
till what he foretold came to pass, 
till the word of the LORD proved him true.”
Psalm 105:18-19

This wasn’t a fifteen year cake-walk for Joseph. Yet, he learned to depend on the faithfulness of God to turn the worst of circumstances into the greatest of blessings.

You intended to harm me,
but God intended it for good to accomplish
what is now being done,
the saving of many lives.”
Genesis 50:20

Haman was determined to have not only Mordecai but all Jews executed. The book of Esther is a beautiful illustration of God turning the evil intentions of others into freedom for an entire nation. I could mention DanielDavid, Paul and the early apostles; the greatest example is Jesus Himself.

“…You disowned the Holy and Righteous One…
You killed the author of life, But God raised him from the dead…
Repent…turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out,
that times of refreshing may come
from the Lord.”

Acts 3:13-19

Undoubtedly, Jesus Christ  is the greatest reversal of curse to blessing, bearing the full weight of all curse to bring humanity full blessing.

Crown of Thorns

Expect Trouble

In Canada being a Christian may not always be popular, but it is still safe. Not so in many other nations, and maybe not for long here either. If true persecution for our faith arises, how should we respond? Actually my bigger question is, “Lord, how will I respond?”

“If you falter in a time of trouble,
how small is your faith.”
Proverbs 24:25

Perhaps, it would be wise to settle ourselves before the day comes. God delights in using trouble and struggle as a channel bringing spiritual good to many.

Afflictions have a way of humbling and teaching us:

“Then Job replied to the LORD:
I know that you can do all things’
no purpose of yours can be thwarted…
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know…
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Job 42:1-6

Difficulties help us to see and understand in ways that were impossible for us before. It is proof of God’s nature to bring blessing.

“The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.” vs 12

Yet the turn around does not always come in our lifetime!

Paul says,

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage
so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body,
whether by life or by death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
(Phil 1:20-21)

Christ must be first! Always!

Again eternal perspective offers solid ground ,

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving
for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

( 2 Cor. 4:17)

Back up a few verses and you see Paul is talking about being “hard-pressed… crushed… perplexed… persecuted… struck down“. Hardly light or momentary unless viewed from eternity!

The Source

Perhaps the first thing to do is a little self-examination. Perhaps God is using the opponent or critic to help us deal with a blind spot or sin in our own lives. Even when the opposition comes harshly or with poor attitudes it may be worth taking a moment and asking God what His thoughts are in the situation.

Ask God

Jesus wants us to see that our enemies can actually be our greatest allies. Listen to His command:

“But to you who are listening I say:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Luke 6: 27-28

Let’s Get Practical

When we begin to believe God intends to turn curses into blessings, it will change the way we see adversity.

Sit down today with pencil and paper; begin to write down every adverse thing that is coming against you and your family right now. It probably won’t take long to create a good-sized list.

Curse to Blessing

Now on a second piece of paper write out the opposite; write out what God’s blessing would look like. I remind you that in Christ, you are forever bound into blessing.

“…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us…”
Romans 8: 39

The final step is completely destroying the first list!

David used the very sword of Goliath that was coming against him to defeat his opposing giant.  As a result, the whole nation followed in victorious courage. Quite often. the thing that is coming against us the strongest is the very place God desires to use to bring victory and blessing.

When the day is difficult,
the future scary
and the past painful,
remember God’s redeeming character.
When overwhelmed by circumstances
call on Him 
who delights to turn curses
into blessings.

__________

If you want to be sure to never miss a blog, sign up here and be part of our growing list of subscribers.

__________