Monday, December 28, 2015

Ponder out the Old; Pray in the New!

Family members have returned home...
Advent candles have all been lit and extinguished...
Christmas programs are completed...
Christmas decorations packed away for another year...
Leftovers from family meals are all consumed and the fridge is bare... (In fact, I've begun dieting, since all I got for Christmas was fat!)
Presents have found a new home somewhere around the house...
Signs of Christmas-present have become Christmas-past...
But, my heart has been warmed.
Any time I get to spend with these "treasures" is a delight to my soul...

This morning, I start turning my mind toward a new year.  Many have traditions they love for "bringing in the baby..." Some will party until the ball drops in Times Square (or on into the wee hours of the morning), some will plan, some will ponder. In the past, I've just gone to bed. However, before I do, I always have a little tradition of working through a few questions. I've posted them before, but since it was a few years ago, here they are again for "pondering":

Looking back on 2015...

What were some of my personally defining moments of last year? 

What did I learn from someone else that impacted me in a positive way?

Are there some things I neglected - projects, goals, standards that I did not complete? 

How are my relationships?

What do I need to do about these things to bring closure to 2015?

Turning to 2016…

What do I hope to accomplish in this next year? Dreams/Visions/Projects?

How do I personally want to grow?

Are there goals to improve my spiritual health? my emotional health? my physical health? my relationships? my finances?

What actions can I take? What books can I read? Are there mentors I could turn to for advice? Events I can attend? Classes I could take? Podcasts to listen to? 

What one word will summarize my focus for 2016?

What will I do Monday through Friday to intentionally do these things?

This year, after I have pondered out the old, I'm praying in 2016. Along with the above questions (which I will still ponder), I'm intentionally going away to do some strategic battle...just me, along with a friend (a silent retreat of sorts). I sense a lot of change in this coming year, and my heart tells me it is BIG. I want to make sure I'm suited up with the proper armor and that my sword is sharp. To be honest, I've sensed lately that I've lost cutting edge... I've gotten too comfortable. I've been productive, serving the Lord, doing the "work" for the Kingdom, but somewhere along the way the flame has been dimmed. Prayer revives that passion. I'm not worried about it, even Timothy (Paul's prodigy) needed his flame fanned from time to time. Paul reminded him to be intentional to see to taking care of that little flame regularly (For this reason, I remind you to keep fanning into flame the gift of God...which is in you...2 Timothy 1:6). Neither Tim or I can do anything more about reviving passion than pray (because passion, like faith, is a gift of God). So, pray I will...and lean into this promise through the lips of Hosea, the prophet:

He will come to us like rain, like the spring rain, watering the earth!
Hosea 6:3.

(I'd even take a snow fall on my soul, like the kind we're currently seeing...)

So, whether you are partying, planning, pondering, praying...or doing some of all four...may your Lord come to you in 2016 and water the soil of your soul reaping a fruit of joy that spreads all around. May your passion be fanned into flame and your work for the Kingdom be profitable for all with whom you come in contact! Have a blessed year...

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Great Gift This Christmas

When I got up to write this morning's blog, the timing seemed just right for bringing this whole theme of friendship to a close. I have to say, as I've looked at the number of hits on the blog site over these past few weeks, I've been a bit surprised (and, mostly, humbled) at the high numbers of readers. Overall, since we started digging a little deeper on what friendship looks like through the lens of Scripture, this blog's had a great response, which tells me the topic has resonated. If so, I'm glad. If it's clarified, helped, or brought about some renewed thinking, then I'm grateful. With this in mind, I picked up my Bible to where I'm reading in Colossians, wondering just how I was supposed to bring this to an end.

Paul reminds me how important relationships are. He opened the book of Colossians with a prayer of thanks for the faithful believers at this little church, and he closes the book with a string of greetings to and from specific individuals. Paul makes no bones about it; he considers his wealth to be the friends he has made over the course of his life. We've all heard the phrase "rich in friends." As I sat and contemplated this truth, it dawned on me that if I have just one I call by the title friend (in the Biblical sense of the word), I have found a treasure.

It is the Christmas season, undoubtedly there are a few gifts you've purchased, and a few gifts you'll be given...but, perhaps this Christmas, the best gift you can offer is that of your friendship. I have this problem of looking in the mirror a little too much. It's not because I want to see what I look like, but I want to measure my life, size it up, by what I think I see about me. A part of that measure is scaled (wrongly) on how many friends I have, and wondering, "how do people feel about me?" Instead, I need to look outward, what can I do to authentically be an "if-the-Lord's-the-Lord-of-them friend?" Especially at this time of year, there are many who could use one of those...many who are lonely, many who are in need of comfort and cheer; who could use a warm hug, an encouraging, hope-filled smile, and a meaningful conversation. Who do you know in your world that could use a friend? "If you want to have a friend, be a friend..." (remember it's not easy, but it's so NEEDED!).  There's no better time to start putting into practice a few building blocks.

This Christmas, give the gift of friendship...

AnD tHeN, there's this is JuSt don't forget:

Monday, December 14, 2015


I don't know who said this first, but I was told at an early age, "If you want to have a friend, you must be a friend." Undoubtedly, you were given the same little adage, as well. For goodness sakes, I've even heard myself spouting it a time or two. We all like pithy statements, but there's nothing pithy about the work involved in being a friend, especially a biblical one.

Three building blocks of friendship have already been identified. Trying to be clever, and perhaps, a bit memorable, I've given them three "C" words. Good friends (if-the-Lord's-the-Lord-of-them friends) will be committed, cautious, and curative. So, in an attempt to keep up with this theme, I've picked a Greek word for the final, and fourth building block. The word is "charis (English transliteration)" and means "grace." The kind of friends who "stick closer than a brother," "love at all times," "know when to speak and to be silent," and offer us "friendly wounds," are also "grace-remembering-givers." They are CHARIS.

Paul David Tripp (one of my new favorite authors), in his devotional New Morning Mercies (which I highly recommend by the way!), said this: "Maybe one of the biggest sins in our relationships with one another is the sin of forgetting. I wish I could say this is not my problem, but it is. It is so easy to forget how profound your need of grace is, and it is equally easy to forget the amazing grace that has been freely showered upon you. And when you forget the grace that you've been given, it becomes very easy to respond to the people around you with non-grace." In other words, our greatest hindrance in building quality relationships is that we are grace amnesiacs. We are! I am!

From time to time I tend to think I'm deserving, that I've earned, or achieved, the spiritual blessings that have been lavished on me. When I get myself out from under the shadow of the cross, that's when my amnesia hits me the hardest. It's absolutely critical I stay there! Because remembering that grace came at such a huge price keeps me grounded and grateful. Remembering my great need and the ONE who "delivered me from the domain of darkness and transformed me into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom I have redemption, the forgiveness of sins," is essential to "putting them all away: anger, malice, slander..." and "putting on the new self...holy and beloved, compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient, bearing with one another, forgiving one another..." These are the things that comprise charis...grace-remembering-givers.  

I'll close with one more quote from Tripp's devotional. It's worth the pondering, even if you've read nothing else. It is the bottom line of this essential building block:

For the believer, harsh, critical, impatient, and irritated responses to others are always connected to forgetting or denying who we are and what we have been given in Jesus.

Think on that this week...and stay grounded in the shadow of the cross. It might just change all your relationships...

**Words in red are from: Colossians 1:13, 2:13-14, 3:5-14a.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Building Blocks of Biblical Friendship

Reminder - Public Service Announcement: Advent Devotional based on past blogs, entitled "I Dropped Baby Jesus" available by clicking on the link.


In an earlier post, I mentioned that friendships are discovered along the pathway of our lives. Yet once they are discovered (and our hearts are connected, in a Jonathan & David sort of way, because we share common beliefs, passions, and, even struggles), friendships take some work to build and keep. Two have been mentioned already...

Last week, we focused on this verse, "A friend loves at all times..." Building Block #1: Commitment. It takes commitment to be that kind of constant friend who still does love when we are at our worst. It's a huge deal to find a friend who is willing to go the distance with us.

The week before, when we zeroed in on Job's three friends, we discovered Building Block #2: Cautious. Good friends are careful and cautious before they speak. They know us so well that they have learned when to hold their tongues, and when to share God-words from their heart that will be for us.

For everything there is a season...a time to keep silence and a time to speak.
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7b

They also know when to be there, and when to leave...

Let your foot be seldom in your friend's house, lest he have his fill of you... 
Proverbs 25:17

This week, Building Block #3: Curative. I picked this "c" word because here are some of its synonyms: corrective, beneficial, helpful, insightful, restorative, shot-in-the-arm, therapeutic, and what-the-doctor-ordered. Who better to speak up, when we are in a better place, to help us see things correctly than a good friend, someone we trust? We desperately need truth tellers. While the Lord made us holy at our salvation, we don't always live what we are. We have blind spots. We are often a little too myopic and narrow-minded. (I need to make this personal), I desperately need people who love me enough to speak God-words to me. Proverbs calls them friendly wounds.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend, profuse are the kisses of your enemy...
Proverbs 27:6.

In fact, if you are too frightened to speak truth to me, according to the parallel of this passage, you are no friend.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourselves, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law (referring to the "law of love") of Christ. 
Galatians 6:1-2

When God-words are spoken, the following can happen:

All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 
2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Lessons on Friendship

Biblical friends assist one another to holy living


Good, Biblical, friends are concerned that we are equipped for Kingdom work as long as our feet are on this planet.