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Faith / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on November 19, 2017, 10:58:45 pm »
Monday, June 19, 2017   

The Long Look Back
Wilma Derksen

Today’s Verse
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18–19 (NIV)

It is hard very hard to let go and move on. Transitions are hard work.  In the story of Lot and his wife leaving the city where they had built their home (Gen. 19:15–26), they were told by the angels not to look back. Yet Lot’s wife still stopped and looked back. Who can blame her?

She’d just left all of her possessions behind (perhaps special ornaments, flowers, pottery), and she turned back with one lingering look.  Scripture tells us she was turned into a pillar of salt. This is a startling and almost unbelievable story, but it serves as a reminder for all of us facing transitions and longing for the past. It speaks to those of us who may find ourselves in lonely emotional spaces, forced to cut ties to something we enjoyed or loved.  Whether these transitions are by choice or have been forced upon us, ties to the past are hard to sever. First of all, there is the grief, however big or small, which needs to be dealt with. If the transition is unexpected, we might also experience more violent reactions such as shock, anger, or depression. It is natural to want to look back for comfort that one long last look. Treasuring beloved parts of one’s past is a good and healthy thing. But the danger of looking back too long or too fervently is that we can end up stuck. Like a proverbial pillar of salt, ever looking backward and with no forward movement.  I once, half jokingly, asked my psychologist son when I would need to come and see him for treatment. He smiled and said, “When you are stuck. When you are stuck, you need to seek help.”

I don’t think there is a more accurate truth. As long as we are moving forward through life, whatever our speed, we are making eventual progress toward a new and better place a place where God will meet us and refresh us.
Faith / How to Pray When You Don’t Want to Pray
« Last post by Philippa on November 19, 2017, 10:49:28 pm »

How to Pray When You Don’t Want to Pray
By J. D. Greear - October 5, 2017

Our Summit staff team is currently reading through Paul Miller’s excellent book A Praying Life. What I love about A Praying Life is how much it stokes a passion for prayer. I always love learning about other people’s “best practices,” but when it comes to prayer, I most often find myself in need of re-inspiration. And Miller does that well.  He also tackles the two biggest problems people have with prayer head on. First, we aren’t convinced it actually works. Sometimes we pray for something, and the opposite happens. Sometimes we forget to pray for something, and it does happen. Sometimes we pray for something, and it happens but we wonder if it would have happened anyway. It’s refreshing to hear someone admit what many of us have thought.  The other big problem we have is that we don’t really know how to construct a meaningful prayer time. You can probably relate:  The most common frustration is the activity of praying itself. We last for about 15 seconds, and then out of nowhere the day’s to-do list pops up and our minds are off on a tangent.  Instead of praying, we are doing a confused mix of wandering and worrying.   If someone wrote a story of my prayer life, it would probably be titled A Confused Mix of Wandering and Worrying.  Fortunately, Miller also provides several helpful ways out of our prayer haze. Here are four of the biggest takeaways from A Praying Life:

1. A lack of prayer isn’t a prayer problem; it’s an idolatry problem.

Prayerlessness is the inevitable result of pride or a lack of faith usually both. You fail to pray, instinctively, either because you are too proud to realize you need God or too unbelieving to grasp his willingness to help. As Miller puts it, "If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money and talent are all you need in life. You’ll always be a little too tired, a little too busy. But if, like Jesus, you realize you can’t do life on your own, then no matter how busy, no matter how tired you are, you will find the time to pray."

Most approaches to correct prayerlessness skip over this heart issue. They’re law based and end up sounding something like, “You only pray six minutes a week. And you call yourself a Christian. Stop being so terrible, and do better.”

This works for a little while or maybe a long while, if you have a disciplined temperament. But it’s bound to fail, because it’s trying to fix an idolatry problem with a law-based solution. The law can’t overcome our idolatrous hearts; only the gospel can.  The answer is not simply to “get more disciplined” or to start prayer journaling (both of which may be useful). Prayer is, in essence, a natural result of desperation and faith. When the gospel has cultivated humility and faith in us, we will obey Paul’s command to “pray continuously,” not because we’re told to, but because we are so in touch with our poverty of spirit that we can’t help asking for help.

2. Pray like a kid. Which is to say, stop self-analyzing and just talk with your Dad.

Jesus tells us to pray like children. The stories he commends about adults praying actually make them sound like children. Think about the parable of the friend who comes banging on your door at midnight and won’t leave you alone. Or the persistent widow, who keeps badgering the unjust judge until he grants her request (just to get her off his back). The heroes in these prayer stories are people who just come and talk and ask for whatever they need.  Just like our kids.  My kids don’t stop to analyze their motives before they ask me for something. They don’t ask, “Now why might I want this bicycle?”

No, they just tell me what they need. Granted, the things they “need” are often ridiculous, sometimes dangerous. But they don’t mind looking silly by asking for the wrong thing. And they certainly don’t get held up by me telling them “no.” To my kids, “no” is just an annoying speed bump on the way to wearing me down with their requests.  What I worry about when I hear something like this is that we’ll become selfish when we pray. But Miller points out that this kind of praying eventually gets us closer to God’s heart than our usual method of over thinking it:  Children never get frozen by their selfishness. They come just as they are, totally self-absorbed. Become like a little child ask, believe, and yes, even play. How do little children ask?

Without guile. They just say what is on their minds. They have no awareness of what is appropriate or inappropriate. When you stop trying to be an adult and get it right, prayer will just flow because God has done something remarkable. He’s given you a new voice. It is his own.

3. Prayer’s primary goal is being with God.

This may be the most important point in Miller’s entire book:  Oddly enough, many people struggle to learn how to pray because they are focusing on praying, not on God.  Prayer is all about relationship. It’s intimate and hints at eternity. We don’t think about communication and words but about whom we are talking with. Prayer is simply the medium through which we experience and connect to God.  Being with God is more important than reading him a laundry lists of requests. He already knows them anyway. And Jesus made it very clear that we gain nothing by puffing up our prayers to be longer.  God uses our prayers to change things, but the right prayers come just from being with him. One prayer rightly prayed is worth far more than millions of words that don’t come from fellowship with him.  More than anything else in Miller’s book, this has made me want to pray. My life can be hectic, and adding prayer as one more thing seems to make life more stressful, not less. But when we approach prayer as a way of spending time with our loving Father, it becomes something that brings calm and confidence in the midst of busyness.  I love how he describes this combination:  Learning to pray doesn’t offer us a less busy life [because if you love people you will be busy!]; it offers us a less busy heart. In the midst of outer busyness we can develop an inner quiet. Because we are less hectic on the inside, we have a greater capacity to love.  By spending time with our Father in prayer, we integrate our lives with his, with what he is doing in us. Our lives become more coherent. They feel calmer, more ordered, even in the midst of confusion and pressure.

4. Don’t look for a spiritual solution to a practical problem.

I want to make sure you read point #1. The root of most of our prayer problems is spiritual. We are idolaters, worshiping the wrong things. Unless God changes our heart, we’ll never be able to fruitfully change our habits.  But we aren’t just souls; we’re embodied creatures, which means that as much as we desire to pray, without a plan, it’s not likely to happen.  In this way, praying is a lot like spending time with my wife and kids or going to the gym. I legitimately want to do these things. And I enjoy them more than most other activities. But without a plan, the time in my day gets eaten up really quickly. So I carve out time to be home with my family not because I need the discipline to overcome some lack of desire. Quite the opposite, the desire fuels the discipline.  The same is true of our prayer habits. If you find yourself legitimately wanting to pray but can never find the time, it can’t hurt to try Miller’s simple suggestions for beginning a prayer time in the morning:  Get to bed. What you do in the evening shapes what you do in the morning. “Morning J.D.” is amazing. He’s focused. He gets things done. He can pray for nearly 30 seconds without distraction. “Evening J.D.” is nearly worthless. The best thing “Evening J.D.” can do is set “Morning J.D.” up well.  Get up.  Praying in bed is wonderful. But you’ll never develop a morning prayer time in bed.  Get awake. Maybe you need to make a pot of coffee or take a shower to wake yourself up. Go ahead and shake the cobwebs off.  Get a quiet place. There’s a reason Jesus told people to go into a room and shut the door to pray. It may not be a room for you. Maybe you do better going for a walk. The key here is to find a place without interruptions.Get comfortable. That is, don’t feel like you have to pray on your knees. Miller points out that, for a while, he thought he needed to pray on his knees. But he would soon start aching and couldn’t focus.  Get going. Five minutes today is better than 30 minutes tomorrow mostly because that “30 minutes tomorrow” may not materialize. Start with a small goal that you can actually attain.  Keep going. Consistency is more important than length. Praying five minutes a day, every day, will have more of an impact than praying for an hour today and then not coming back to it for another three months.
Faith / 4 Ways We Go Wrong In Thinking About The Holy Spirit
« Last post by Philippa on October 28, 2017, 04:18:57 pm »,%202017&maropost_id=742347701&mpweb=256-3576932-742347701

4 Ways We Go Wrong In Thinking About The Holy Spirit
By Michael Horton on May 9, 2017
The White Horse Inn

Many of us still remember the “Holy Ghost” from the old King James Version. For most modern people, a ghost is associated more with All Hallows’ Eve (a.k.a. Halloween) than with Pentecost Sunday. Especially in our age, the Holy Spirit is regarded (when taken seriously at all) as the “spooky” member of the Trinity. If you’re into that sort of thing the paranormal and sensational then the Holy Spirit is for you.  Who exactly is the mysterious third person of the Trinity?

Why does he seem to possess less reality than the Father and the Son?

Perhaps we think of the Holy Spirit as a divine force or energy that we can “plug into” for spiritual power. Or as the kinder and gentler more intimate side of God. But a person in fact, a distinct person of the Godhead?

I want to challenge this association of the Spirit merely with the extraordinary.  This is unfortunate all around, because it distinguishes his work too sharply from that of the Father and the Son and also because it distracts us from the vast range of his activity in our world and in our lives. On both sides of the Pentecostal divide, we too easily treat the Holy Spirit as a placeholder for the “extra” things in Christianity. Sure, we have the Father and the Son, but we also need the Holy Spirit. You may be redeemed, but have you been baptized in the Spirit?

The Word is vital, but we must not forget the Spirit. Doctrine is important, but there is also experience.  Consequently, the Spirit becomes typecast into predictable roles mostly cameo appearances, especially from the book of Acts that provoke debates over whether we should expect the same signs and wonders today. We think of him when we are talking about regeneration and sanctification and when we are arguing about his more controversial gifts. Otherwise, he is out of sight and out of mind.  The Holy Spirit is the easiest person of the Godhead to depersonalize  and not only because of cultural forces. One might even say that, for the Spirit, being somewhat forgotten is an occupational hazard. Some of our confusion about the Holy Spirit arises from a distortion of genuinely biblical truths.  Here are four ways in which we can go wrong.  First, we must remember that God is an incomprehensible mystery.  He has revealed enough about himself for us to apprehend him in faith, but we do not know his inner essence. Even the term “person” in Trinitarian discussions is used analogically and anthropomorphically. The subsistences of the Godhead are not persons in the way that three human beings are persons, with separate centers of consciousness, wills, and so forth. Scripture provides us with sufficient revelation of the Spirit’s identity and mission, but it is often difficult for us to remain within these bounds.  Second, even when we embrace the incomprehensible revelation of God as Trinity, it is not easy to connect the Holy Spirit to our experience.  We know what a Father Son relation is in human terms, but where does the Spirit fit?

Mary has sometimes been given something close to the status of the third person in popular Roman Catholic piety. Some recent theologians have even referred to the Spirit as Mother to make the triad more resonant with our familial experience. However, this move lacks exegetical foundation. Even if the Spirit is likened to a mother or a hen in a few verses, this is in the Spirit’s relation to creation, not within the immanent Godhead. We simply do not have many passages about the Spirit’s role in the immanent Trinity. Even in John’s Gospel where we find the bulk of our Lord’s teaching about the Spirit, the emphasis falls on the relation of Jesus as eternal Son to his Father. Nevertheless, we have a great deal of revelation concerning the Spirit’s mission in the economy of creation and redemption.  Third, the Holy Spirit is so actively involved in our lives, subjectively, that we can take his presence for granted or identify him with our own inner self.  Domesticating the Spirit to an individualistic mysticism, the Holy Spirit becomes one’s inmost voice. But again, this is a distortion of a truth. The Holy Spirit is the person who works within us, even to the point of indwelling us and interceding in our hearts. But the Holy Spirit is not our spirit, and his voice is not to be confused with our own. The Spirit is a divine person within us, not a divine part of us.  Fourth, from a proper focus on Christ we may improperly infer that the Holy Spirit has a minor part in the biblical drama.  As in the other dangers, this error is a distortion of the truth rather than an outright contradiction of it. After all, Jesus taught us to read Scripture with himself at the center (Luke 24:25–27; John 5:39). Jesus himself taught us that the Spirit “will bear witness about me” (John 15:26 ESV; cf. 16:14–15). J. I. Packer compares the Holy Spirit to a spotlight that illumines a glorious cathedral at night. One does not stare into the light but beholds the Savior by that light. You can, therefore, be sure where the Spirit is active: wherever Jesus Christ is held up as the Savior of sinners. Even when we turn the spotlight on the Spirit, we find him engaged always in something related to Christ.  For all of these reasons and more, we need to take a step back every now and again to focus on the Spirit himself is person and work in order to recognize him as someone other than Jesus or ourselves, much less something, such as a divine power or resource. We need to explore the vast territory of the Spirit’s operations. And then, hopefully, we obtain by this contemplation a fresh dependence on the Holy Spirit in every area of our lives.
Faith / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on October 28, 2017, 04:03:45 pm »

June 2, 2017
The Freedom of Forgiveness, Part 2
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13, NIV).

Friend to Friend

Part of forgiveness is releasing the person from the debt we think they owe us. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply let something go and cut our losses instead of allowing the weight of an unpaid debt deplete our mental and emotional energy. In other words, we can forgive the debt and free ourselves a lesson I am continually learning to apply in my life.  Dan and I decided it was time to sell one of our old junky cars. A man who worked for the church where Dan pastored agreed to buy it. He and Dan worked out the terms none of which the man kept. When Dan said he had decided to forgive the debt and just let the man have the car. I was not happy.  (If you missed my last devotion, take a few minutes to go back and read it.)  A few weeks later, the man quit his job at the church and went to work for a nearby grocery store my grocery store. I soon learned that God has a sense of humor because almost every time I went to the store, the man was there. And every time I saw him, anger consumed my heart. I finally realized that this whole car situation was robbing my life of joy until the day I joined my husband in his decision to give the man the car. It was the only thing I could do if I wanted peace.  I created a mental scene of driving to the grocery store, handing the car keys to the man and saying, “Merry Christmas! Enjoy your new car.”

It wasn’t Christmas, and the car was far from new, but the plan worked. I forgave the debt in my heart and let it go.  The most amazing thing happened! I was the one set free. From that day on, every time I saw the man, I waved and smiled. He began avoiding me, unable to look me in the eyes.  God does have a sense of humor. A few weeks later, I saw the man driving a different car and learned from one of his co-workers that “his old car just up and died.”

Enough said.  Forgiving the debt is a deliberate choice that is made by an act of your will. You may not feel forgiving. It doesn’t matter. Just do it and many times the feelings will follow that choice other times they won’t. Feelings are irrelevant, but obedience is crucial. Do not base the validity of what you are doing on how you feel. Make the choice to forgive and then obey.   Someone once said: “We put our resentments in cold storage and then pull the switch to let them thaw out again. Our grudges are taken out to the lake of prayer to drown them and we end up giving them a swimming lesson. How often have we torn up the canceled note but hang on to the wastebasket that holds the pieces? This is not to say that human forgiveness does not occur; only that it is rare and that much that passes for forgiveness is often not so at all.”

God is the One who heals painful memories. Forgiveness puts us in the correct posture for Him to do so in our lives. As I wrestled with the choice to forgive, I learned several life-changing truths:

If we make the choice to forgive, God will supply the forgiveness.  There should be no limit to our forgiveness because there is no limit to His.  Forgiveness is not a feeling or an emotion. Forgiveness is a deliberate choice.  Forgiveness is our greatest need and God’s greatest gift.  While we cannot change the past, we can change our response to the past and dictate the power it has over us. If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent a scientist, but because our greatest need was and is forgiveness, God sent a Savior, Jesus Christ, who is calling us all to a higher place, a place of forgiveness. The choice is ours to make. Today, we can choose freedom by choosing to forgive.
Faith / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on October 28, 2017, 03:53:19 pm »
June 1, 2017
The Freedom of Forgiveness, Part 1
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13, NIV).

Friend to Friend

Do you remember the last words of Jesus as He hung on the cross?

“It is finished!”

The most literal translation would be “paid in full.”  I will never forget paying off my very first car loan. After sending in my forty eighth and final payment, I celebrated the fact that I finally owned my bright blue and ever so compact Chevrolet Vega from bumper to bumper. There were those who said you couldn’t drive a Vega you had to wear it. Others described the bright blue color as strangely “unique.” But to me, it was the most beautiful car in the world because it was mine.  Of course I quickly found other places to spend the once allocated car payment and went on with life until the day I opened my mailbox to find the loan papers for my car. Stamped in big red letters across the document were the words, “Paid in full.” I danced a jig right there in my driveway, because I was finally free of that debt.  Part of forgiveness is releasing the person from the debt we think they owe us. Refusing to let go of the hurt and pain someone has caused in our lives will always rob us of our joy. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply let something go and cut our losses instead of allowing the weight of an unpaid debt to deplete our mental and emotional energy. In other words, we can forgive the debt and free ourselves a lesson I am continually learning to apply in my life.  Dan and I decided it was time to sell one of our old junky cars. We had several from which to choose, but this particular car was ancient, ugly and needed a lot of work. In the right mechanical hands and with a whole lot of prayer, it might last a few more years.  A man who worked for the church where Dan pastored said he could fix the car and agreed to buy it. He and Dan worked out the terms. The man was to pay a certain amount each month until the car was paid for. No papers were signed because, after all, it was a business agreement between two ministers.  Some lessons are learned the hard way. Dan gave the man the car title and car keys. The man gave us nothing. Not one penny.  Dan talked with the man several times about making the payments he had agreed to make. He always responded with the promise that he would make a payment soon. “Soon” never came.  I was furious not so much because of the money, although it would certainly have come in very handy but because this man was taking advantage of my husband’s giving heart and ticking me off in the process.  I ranted and fumed for several days until Dan finally said, “Honey, I have decided to forgive the debt on that old car.”

Well, I decided not to, and my anger grew.  The Lord and I wrestled with what I had come to call “the stolen car” for days. I seriously doubt that the man that now had our car gave it much thought, but my heart filled with bitterness toward him.  My joy was gone and I wanted it back! I did not want to forgive this man. I certainly did not feel like forgiving him, but I realized that forgiveness always hinges on a choice. It is a choice to obey God and allow Him to balance the scales of justice in His own way and in His own timing. When we choose to forgive, we will be set free.
Fun Stuff / The Lock
« Last post by Philippa on October 28, 2017, 03:37:34 pm »
The temporary Sunday School teacher was struggling to open a combination lock on the supply cabinet.  She had been told the combination, but couldn't quite remember it. Finally she went to the pastor's study and asked for help.  The pastor came into the room and began to turn the dial. After the first two numbers he paused and stared blankly for a moment. Finally he looked serenely heavenward and his lips moved silently.  Then he looked back at the lock, and quickly turned to the final number, and opened the lock.  The teacher was amazed. "I'm in awe at your faith, pastor," she said.

"It's really nothing," he answered.  "The number is on a piece of tape on the ceiling."
Fun Stuff / Lamaze Class
« Last post by Philippa on October 06, 2017, 09:35:47 pm »
The room was full of pregnant women and their partners, and the Lamaze class was in full swing. The instructor was teaching the women how to breathe properly, along with informing the men how to give the necessary assurances at this stage of the plan. The teacher then announced, "Ladies, exercise is good for you. Walking is especially beneficial. And, gentlemen, it wouldn't hurt you to take the time to go walking with your partner!"

The room really got quiet.  Finally, a man in the middle of the group raised his hand.  "Yes?" replied the teacher.

"Is it all right if she carries my golf bag while we walk?"
Fun Stuff / Mystic and Logic
« Last post by Philippa on October 06, 2017, 09:11:33 pm »
An engineer, a physicist, a mathematician, and a mystic were asked to name the greatest invention of all time.  The engineer chose fire, which gave humanity power over matter.  The physicist chose the wheel, which gave humanity the power over space.  The mathematician chose the alphabet, which gave humanity power over symbols.  The mystic chose the thermos bottle. "Why a thermos bottle?" the others asked.

"Because the thermos keeps hot liquids hot in winter and cold liquids cold in summer."

"Yes so what?"

"Think about it." said the mystic reverently. "That little bottle how does it know?"
Faith / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on October 06, 2017, 09:03:59 pm »

May 3, 2017
God Has Given You Precious Promises
Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness,” (2 Pet. 1:3 NIV).

Friend to Friend

Aren’t you excited to know that God has deposited rich blessings and a lavish inheritance into your account?

Tell me, what reason do we have to feel inadequate?

In light of what we have in Christ, I can’t think of a thing. But how do we access these magnificent promises?

Peter says: “Through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Pet. 1:3).

The Greeks had several words for the word knowledge. The one used here is epignosis. This is a strengthened form of the word and implies a larger, more thorough, and intimate knowledge. It is not simply knowing something intellectually, but understanding and believing what you know in a personal way.  When Steve and I traveled to Ephesus, a local tour guide took us through the landmarks, ruins, and history of the early church. She knew the facts about Christianity and more about the dates, locations, and nuances of Paul’s visits than we did. When we stopped for lunch, I asked her if it would be okay with her if we asked God to bless our food. She bowed her head with us as we prayed. When she opened her eyes, she said, “Thank you. I’ve never experienced that before.”

This Turkish woman knew about Christianity, but she had no epignosis of Jesus. She knew all about the historical aspects of the religion, but she did not know the One who came to set her free.  Even demons know who Jesus is and they shudder (James 2:19). The devil knows exactly who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He will do in the final days. But the devil does not know Him experientially as Savior and Lord. Paul says that through knowing Jesus intimately, personally, and experientially, we have everything we need precious and magnificent promises.  Like a tiny baby born to be King, most of us have no idea what those great and mighty promises entail, what our rich inheritance contains, or what our spiritual birthright bestows. As we open the pages of God’s Word, He begins to reveal the truth of who you are and what you have as a child of God. And remember, this is not a promise of what you will have one day, but what you have the moment you believe.

These promises are called precious and valuable. I love how the NASB translation refers to them as “magnificent promises” (2 Peter 1:4). The word magnificent means “splendid, lavish, beautiful; as to arouse admiration and wonder.” And, oh, how God’s magnificent, splendid, lavish, and beautiful promises arouse admiration and wonder of who He is and what He does. Oh my goodness, why in the world would I feel inadequate! Thick-headedness and unbelief are my only excuses.  And how does He give us everything we need for life and godliness, how does He dole out the precious promises?

He gives freely. Pours out lavishly. It costs you nothing. It cost Jesus everything.
Faith / Re: Devotion
« Last post by Philippa on October 06, 2017, 07:58:02 pm »

May 2, 2017
The Gift of Friendship
Mary Southerland

Today’s Truth

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12, NIV).

Friend to Friend

Friendship is the springboard to every other love and the foundation for every healthy relationship. It is a proven fact that lonely people live shorter lives than those who have healthy friendships. Even Jesus needed friends when He walked this earth as a man. In fact, He placed great value on relationships. The Bible tells us Jesus spent much of His time deepening the relationships with a few not the crowd.  God created us to need each other. That truth is never more evident than when we are in pain or struggling with some crisis in life. One of the main factors leading to a two year battle with clinical depression in my life was the absence of replenishing friendships.  As I think back to that time, I am sure many women would have counted themselves as my friend when they were really just acquaintances because that was all I would allow them to be. My pride kept me from admitting I wasn’t Superwoman and that I did need the help of others. My insecurity held me back from reaching out to new friends and cultivating old ones. To admit my need of a friend seemed like a weakness instead of the precious gift God created it to be.  I refused to take the risk of being hurt, rejected or misunderstood. I did not have time to invest in building intimate friendships and was too busy doing the work of God to be a friend. As a result, when the darkness hit, I felt isolated and alone.  Friendship took on an entirely different meaning in my life from that point on. In fact, friends are a great source of strength and encouragement in my life today. Friends fast and pray for me, holding me accountable and confronting me when they see my priorities lining up in the wrong way. Friends make me stop and take time for fun. Friends have taught me to be transparent.  Have I been hurt along the way?

Yes.  Have I been misunderstood?

Yes.  Have the friendships been worth the price?

Absolutely!  The words of Jesus found in John 13:34-35, portray the perfect backdrop for God’s love. "And so I am giving a new commandment to you now love each other just as much as I love you. Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples."

Does the world know we are His disciples by the way we love and relate to each other?   

Chad was a shy, quiet little boy. One day he came home and told his mother he'd like to make a valentine for everyone in his class. Her heart sank. "I wish he wouldn't do that!" she thought.

She had watched the children when they walked home from school. Her Chad was always behind them. They laughed and hung on to each other and talked to each other, but Chad was never included. Still, she decided to go along with her son’s plan. She purchased the paper, glue and crayons and for three whole weeks, night after night, Chad painstakingly made thirty five valentines.  Valentine's Day dawned, and Chad was frantic with excitement! He carefully placed the valentines in a bag, and bolted out the door. His mom decided to bake his favorite cookies because she knew he would be disappointed when he came home from school. It hurt her to think he wouldn't get many valentines maybe none at all. That afternoon she had the cookies and milk on the table.  Finally, when she heard their voices, she looked out the window to see the children laughing and having the best time. As usual, there was Chad in the rear but walking a little faster than usual. She fully expected him to burst into tears as soon as he got inside. His arms were empty. When the door opened, she choked back tears as she said, "Honey, I have some warm cookies and milk for you” but he hardly heard her words.

He just marched right on by, his face glowing, and all he could say was, "Not one! Not a single one."

The mother’s heart sank. Then he added, "I didn't forget one, not a single one!"

When God is in control of our friendships, and when we trust Him with those friendships, we will be better friends and we will have more true friends.
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