Tag Archives: friends

Night Light for Couples – Games People Play

 

“If anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Have you ever been to a party and watched someone play “Assassinate the Spouse?” The objective is simple: A contestant attempts to punish his mate by ridiculing her in front of their friends. If he wants to be especially vicious, he lets the guests know he thinks she is dumb and ugly. It’s a brutal game with no winners. The contest ends when his wife is totally divested of self‐respect and dignity; he gets bonus points if he can reduce her to tears.

Sound cruel? It is, even when it’s carried out under the guise of joking or teasing. It’s never enjoyable to watch someone take out anger against his (or her) mate in this way. In contrast, what a pleasure it is to spend time with couples who continually build each other up in front of others. When a husband tells his guests about his wife’s incredible cooking, patience with the kids, or promotion at work—or the wife boasts about her husband’s talent on the job or his ability to speak in public or fix broken pipes—you’ll see the other spouse smile a bit more brightly and stand a little taller. We’re always most sensitive to the comments of our mate in the presence of our peers.

The next time you’re out with friends, remember to look for opportunities to honor your mate. Leave the game playing to others.

Just between us…

  • Have I embarrassed or hurt you in public? If so, can we talk about it?
  • How do you feel when I praise you in front of our friends?
  • In what ways could we build each other up in public?

Father, we want to show each other love, honor, and consideration always— but especially in front of others. Forgive us for our failures. Give us grace to learn and change, we pray. Amen.

From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson

Encouragement for Today – The Miracle of Friendship by Melanie Shankle.

 

“As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” 1 Samuel 18:1 (ESV)

One of my dearest friends is dying of cancer right now.

I realize that’s not really an uplifting start to your day. But it’s the reality. I am heartbroken at the prospect of losing my Jen. She’s been a constant presence in my life since we first met at 18 years old and she swept into a room wearing a denim wrap skirt and Cole Haan loafers that caused me to immediately reexamine all my personal wardrobe goals. She was exuberant and confident, and immediately I wanted to be her friend … if I could get over feeling so intimidated.

Fortunately, I did, and she quickly became one of my dearest friends as we learned all the ways we were alike and all the ways we were different. God used Jen to draw my heart back to Him as she demonstrated how to make faith a priority. I look back at that time and realize God very purposely knit our hearts together during those years. He knew all the ways He would use us to encourage and strengthen one another.

As we see in our key verse, 1 Samuel 18:1, God sometimes knits our hearts with others like He did with David and Jonathan. He puts people in our paths because He knows we’ll need them.

Jonathan was just what David needed at that stage of his life. David was a young shepherd thrust into the spotlight. And based on some of his future writings in the book of Psalms, maybe a little overemotional at times.

David was often overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and depression, and being hunted by a crazy king. (I can relate to all of these things with the exception of the crazy king.) But Jonathan loved David, believed in him, and sought God’s best for him. Jonathan’s friendship was what David needed to grow into the king and leader he was to become.

As women, many of us spend our early lives thinking about marriage and hoping to find Mr. Right. Then we realize our husbands don’t necessarily want to hear all about the best waterproof mascara or cry with us over the kid who’s failing math or eat cookie dough straight from the bowl. That’s why God gives us our girlfriends.

Beyond common interests, affection and a sense of humor — the aim of friendship is to sow into each other words of eternal life and blessing. We remind each other of God’s wisdom and provision, refresh each other’s spirit and strengthen each other’s faith.

Good friendships require walking with one another down some hard roads, losses, a bad diagnosis, financial problems and much more. We need friends to help us remember what God has done for us and that He will be faithful.

In 2 Samuel 1:26b, David says of Jonathan, ” … Your friendship was a miracle-wonder, love far exceeding anything I’ve known — or ever hope to know,”(MSG). That’s ultimately what God gives us in friendship: a real life, everyday miracle in the form of another person.

But having your soul knitted to another isn’t for the faint of heart.

It means you bear your own hurts along with those of your friend. You cry when they cry and laugh when they laugh and feel like your heart will break wide open when you face not having them by your side.

But it’s worth it because they cause you to love harder, laugh louder, live richer and become more than you could ever be without them. It’s putting your heart and your name in the hands of another person and saying, “I trust you with all of this,” as they do the same.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the friends You have given us to walk with us through life here on earth. Please show us ways to love each other better and take away any fear we have of being authentic about our struggles. Help us have open hearts that love the way You love. Thank You for knitting our hearts together with the people You know will make us stronger. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (ESV)

1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (ESV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Reflect on some ways your friendships have made you stronger and how God has used them in your life.

What are some tangible ways you can show your friends how much they mean to you?

RELATED RESOURCES:
Stop by Melanie’s blog today to connect with her and learn more about her writing and ministry.

 

Charles Stanley – When Others Fail Us

2 Timothy 4:9-16

The apostle Paul knew the value of good friends: Silas partnered with him in establishing new churches; Barnabas encouraged him in his ministry; and Timothy became like a son to him. Paul also knew the heartache of co-laborers turning away from him when times got tough (2 Tim. 1:15). We may experience something similar in our life.

People will have a variety of reactions to our struggles. Some feel inadequate and hold back because they are uncertain about what to say or do. Others are so protective of their time that selfishness causes them to turn away. And sometimes our friends and co-workers do not want to be identified with us in our trials. In my early days as a pastor, this happened to me when the church was going through a period of turmoil. Only two pastors reached out to me and offered support; the others stood back. This experience taught me the importance of reaching out to people in crisis.

Helping others requires an investment of time and energy. We start by praying for them and asking the Lord how we can help. He may have us lend emotional support, provide spiritual guidance, offer assistance in a physical or financial way, or find others who can. Standing with people will encourage them.

When friends abandoned him, Paul asked God not to count their actions against them (4:16). He followed the example of Jesus, who prayed for the Father to forgive His persecutors. What’s your response when friends let you down? Forgiveness is the choice that pleases God every time.

Charles Spurgeon – Watch-night Service

 

“Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord.” Lamentations 2:19

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 90:1-12 (an exposition of which was given earlier in the service)

Dear friends, may grace be given unto you, that ye may be able to pour out your hearts this night! Remember, my hearers, it may seem a light thing for us to assemble tonight at such an hour, but listen for one moment to the ticking of that clock!…… It is the beating of the pulse of eternity. You hear the ticking of that clock!—It is the footstep of death pursuing you. Each time the clock ticks, death’s footsteps are falling on the ground close behind you. You will soon enter another year. This year will have gone in a few seconds. 1855 is almost gone; where will the next year be spent, my friends? One has been spent on earth; where will you spend the next? “In heaven!” says one, “I trust.” Another murmurs, “Perhaps I shall spend mine in hell!” Ah! Solemn is the thought, but before that clock strikes twelve, some here may be in hell; and, blessed be the name of God, some of us may be in heaven! But oh do you know how to estimate your time, my hearers? Do you know how to measure your days? Oh! I have not words to speak tonight. Do you know that every hour you are nearing the tomb? That every hour you are nearing judgment? That the archangel is flapping his wings every second of your life, and, trumpet at his mouth, is approaching you? That you do not live stationary lives, but always going on, on, on, towards the grave? Do you know where the stream of life is hastening some of you? To the rapids—to the rapids of woe and destruction! What shall the end of those be who obey not the gospel of God? You will not have so many years to live as you had last year!

For meditation: The march of time is a terrible enemy to all who persist in unbelief, but the Christian sees things differently—”now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand” (Romans 13:11-12).

Spurgeon must have the last word: “Now, my friends, in the highest and best sense, I wish you all a happy New Year.”

Sermon no. 59

31 December (1855)

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Way of Grace and the Way of Nature

Ravi Z

As a young girl, one of my favorite games was hide and seek. Gathering all of our friends from the street on which we lived, we played this favorite childhood game that offered the entire neighborhood as a hiding place. The familiar call “Where are you?” echoed down the streets as the seeker looked far and wide to find our hiding places.

A cosmic game of hide and seek is often how many view the search for God. “Where are you?” is the question that echoes throughout the ages as human beings seek for God in a vast universe often filled with inexplicable mystery.

This is no trivial game. Atheist Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if after death he met God, to which he replied: “God, you gave us insufficient evidence.”(1) While those who have found God quite evident would balk at Russell’s impudence, it is helpful to remember that theists often wrestle with a similar struggle. Many of the biblical writers themselves have depicted God as hidden. “Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalms 10:1). Indeed, the psalmist accuses God of being “asleep” to his plaintive cries: “Arouse, yourself, why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, and do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression?” (Psalm 44:23-24). Even blameless Job wondered aloud if in fact God viewed him as the enemy: “Why do you hide your face and consider me the enemy?” (Job 13:24). And from the place of his deepest suffering, Jesus himself cried out using the words of the poets of Israel, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Clearly, the hiddenness of God is problematic for theists and atheists alike. Indeed, the belief in a God who can be easily found, and who has acted in time and space, makes the experience of God’s hiddenness all the more poignant and perplexing.

“Where are you?” serves as one of the central questions in the film The Tree of Life. Recipient of the highest prize awarded at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, the film explores the paradoxical experience of both God’s astounding presence and God’s apparent absence. The questions concerning God’s whereabouts are posed by an adult man in the throes of a life-crisis resulting from family tragedy. Through a series of cinematic visions, the man reflects back on his life as his question “Where are you?” sounds a thematic refrain when tragic events ensue. It is this question that takes the man on a search for God, not only through recalling the events of his childhood in a small Texas town, but also as he contemplates the grandeur of the cosmos at the dawn of creation.

As the film begins, we hear the voice of this man’s mother extolling a life of grace, as opposed to a life lived according to nature, for the self alone. To the oft-repeated question, “Where are you?” the film suggests God’s presence in this life through grace. The life that is grace-filled lives for others, revels in the beauty and wonder of the created world, and extends a gracious forgiveness toward others. It is this grace-filled life that the now adult Jack remembers as a clue to God’s whereabouts. The gracious way in which his mother lived, and the way his younger brother extended forgiveness to the young Jack after he viciously shot him in the hand with a pellet gun provide the first hints for God’s hiding place. Jack recalls, “Brother, mother, it was they who led me to your door.” In these grace-filled human encounters, the doorway is opened to God’s dwelling place.

This gracious way is set in contrast to the way of nature, which competes and wrestles for control of Jack. The way of nature seeks to make its way in the world forcefully; its acquisitive nature clawing after worldly success, fortune, and power. It is a battle waged within every human being, and the film suggests that it is a path that leads one away from God; it is the way that hides us from God’s grace and God’s presence.

For indeed, the game of hide and seek is not one-sided. The film opens with a quotation from the book of Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth…when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” A cinematic kaleidoscope of those foundations—from a one-celled organism to the galaxies beyond invites the viewer to see the gracious hand of God touching all that makes up the universe. From the dawn of time to, by contrast, this seemingly insignificant family living in 1950s Waco, Texas, the film shimmers with God’s presence. We often fail to accept the invitation, the film suggests, as we succumb to the way of nature—a way that reduces one’s vision only to self-interest. But God’s glorious grace is all around us. Sometimes abundantly obvious, sometimes subtle, God’s gracious presence beckons to us in this world and in our relationships with one another. “Always did you seek me” Jack recognizes as he wrestles with his own propensity to hide. Always do you seek for us—we humans who play hide and seek—from the very foundation of the world.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) Cited in Dr. Paul K. Moser’s booklet, Why Isn’t God More Obvious: Finding the God who Hides and Seeks (Norcross, GA: RZIM, 2000), 1.

Our Daily Bread — Roadside Assistance

Our Daily Bread

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. —Psalm 46:1

An acquaintance of mine was hunting with friends near Balmoral, the country estate of the queen of England. As they walked, he twisted his ankle so badly that he couldn’t go on, so he told his friends to continue and he would wait by the side of the road.

As he sat there, a car came down the road, slowed, and stopped. The woman driving rolled the window down and asked if he was okay. He explained and said he was waiting for his friends to return. She said, “Get in; I’ll take you back to where you are staying.” He limped to the car and opened the door only to realize that it was Queen Elizabeth!

As shocking as receiving help from the queen of England may be, we have an offer of help that is even more astounding. The Creator-God of the universe descends into our world, sees our trouble, and offers to marshal His resources to help us. As the psalmist confidently affirms, “God is . . . a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1). Our Savior helps by giving us grace to endure, His Word to sustain us, friends to encourage and pray for us, and the confidence that He will ultimately work it all together for our spiritual good.

Next time you feel stranded along life’s road, look for your Helper. —Joe Stowell

Lord, I’m thankful that when I experience trouble

You are waiting and wanting to help. Teach

me to look to You and to rest in Your kind and

loving care until You deliver me safely home.

Rejoice! Your God is a helping King!

Bible in a year: Job 5-7; Acts 8:1-25

Insight

Psalm 46 celebrates God as the supreme defender of His people. This particular psalm inspired Martin Luther to write: “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing. For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; his craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.”

Our Daily Bread — Our Daily Bread — You’ve Got A Friend

Our Daily Bread

Psalm 23

[Jesus said,] “I have called you friends.” —John 15:15

One of the ironic consequences of the sweeping growth of social media is that we often find ourselves more personally isolated. One online article warns: “Those who oppose leading one’s life primarily or exclusively online claim that virtual friends are not adequate substitutes for real-world friends, and . . . individuals who substitute virtual friends for physical friends become even lonelier and more depressive than before.”

Technology aside, all of us battle with seasons of loneliness, wondering if anyone knows, understands, or cares about the burdens we carry or the struggles we face. But followers of Christ have an assurance that brings comfort to our weary hearts. The comforting presence of the Savior is promised in words that are undeniable, for the psalmist David wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4).

Whether isolated by our own choices, by the cultural trends that surround us, or by the painful losses of life, all who know Christ can rest in the presence of the Shepherd of our hearts. What a friend we have in Jesus! —Bill Crowder

I’ve found a Friend; O such a Friend!

He loved me ere I knew Him;

He drew me with the cords of love,

And thus He bound me to Him. —Small

Those who know Jesus as their Friend are never alone.

Bible in a year: Judges 16-18; Luke 7:1-30

Insight

As a young boy, David, the author of Psalm 23, was a shepherd. He was responsible for his family’s sheep, which were a significant part of the family’s livelihood. In order to make sure the sheep were well fed and watered, shepherds in ancient Israel would often have to take their flocks deep into the wilderness for long periods of time. It is possible that when David penned this psalm, he was reflecting on God’s presence in the wilderness as he was alone with his sheep. Thinking of the constant and watchful care he provided for each and every sheep, he found comfort in the presence and care of God even when his only companions were animals.

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Temporarily Able Bodied

Ravi Z

My friend Sylvia is a paraplegic. She has not been able to use her legs since she was a high school girl. A horrible accident took away her ability to walk or to run, and left her without any discernible feeling in the lower half of her body—her spine severed, the nerves do not receive the necessary information to register sensation or stimulation.

Prior to her accident, Sylvia was an aspiring athlete. Without the use of her legs, this aspiration would be put on hold, but not permanently. Though she is paralyzed in body, she is not paralyzed in spirit. And she eventually competed in several World Championships and in the Paralympic Games. Her determination to excel at world-class competitions, despite her injury, and her intention to live a full-life has been an immense inspiration to me.

Sylvia uses a term for people like me who have the use of our legs. We are “TAB’s”—Temporarily Able Bodied. Every day I wake up with a new ache or pain, or I see my stamina waning, I recognize the truth of her naming me a “TAB.” I truly am temporarily able bodied—at some point in my life, I will need assistance in many of my daily tasks.

Sylvia is not one to ask for help: she drives, works at least a 40 hour week and has traveled the world. She has mastered the art of navigating the world in a wheelchair. Yet, there are times when even this accomplished athlete needs some assistance. She is grateful for the technology that has developed excellent, lightweight wheelchairs. She is grateful for friends who can reach for the pan in the high cabinetry when we have gathered for home-cooked meals.  And she was grateful when we helped her out of the wheelchair and into the lake so she could swim one beautiful summer day not too many years ago. She welcomes the kind of assistance that develops her abilities in spite of her disability.

While I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to be physically paralyzed like my friend Sylvia, I certainly understand the emotional, spiritual and psychological paralysis that results from trauma or duress. After suffering my own form of paralyzing accident, I experienced what I could only describe as a numbing paralysis. While my body functioned, my mind and heart were paralyzed. I could not create any momentum to move me past the questions that imprisoned me or the doubts that bound me. Initiative fled away, drive and determination left me. I was stuck and unable to move. All that had propelled me forward in the past stalled, stopped, and froze. I was, practically speaking, immobile.

I know that my emotional, psychological and spiritual paralysis doesn’t compare to my friend Sylvia’s being a paraplegic. But it did help me understand what it must feel like to lack the freedom to move and to have a sense of being able.

The gospels are filled with stories about paralytics. But the story that always gets my attention occurs in Mark’s gospel. Jesus was teaching in Capernaum in a house that was filled to capacity with listeners. There was not any more room for anyone, let alone a paralytic being carried on a cot by four friends. Yet the crowded house would not deter these determined friends. They were so determined to get their friend to Jesus that they got up onto the roof of the house, with their paralyzed friend, removed the portion of the roof above where Jesus was teaching, and lowered their friend down on his pallet.(1)

I’m not sure how the owners of the house felt when part of their roof was removed, but Jesus, the gospel tells us, saw their faith—faith that went to extraordinary lengths to bring their friend to him. As a result of their faith, Jesus declared that the paralytic’s sins were forgiven. To demonstrate his authority to forgive sins, Jesus then heals him and tells him to “rise, take up your pallet and go home.” And immediately, the paralytic jumps up (perhaps for the first time) and went out before everyone so that “they were all amazed and glorified God.”

In periods of paralysis, we are forced to depend on others, perhaps even relying on the faith, courage, and strength of those who see our abilities even through our disability. Something very beautiful and healing occurs when we allow others to offer us assistance. In my own paralysis, friends gathered around to help me. They did the things I could not do any longer. They said the prayers on my behalf; they believed on my behalf. When I slowly began to move again, they held my arms and steadied my legs. I came to experience a kind of healing because of the assistance and help of my friends. Their faith inspired movement in me towards the God who heals. Indeed, those who are willing to carry the cots of their paralyzed friends embody God’s healing love and care.

There will always be times in life that inhibit forward movement—or any movement at all. In those times, we trust that there will be others to help carry us and care for us.  And when we are moving along, perhaps with such momentum that we could miss those lying in cots along our path, may the same kind of care and determination to help others cause us to stop, pick them up, and carry them with faith to Jesus.

Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Mark 2:1-12

 

Charles Spurgeon – Watch-night Service

CharlesSpurgeon

“Arise, cry out in the night: in the beginning of the watches pour out thine heart like water before the face of the Lord.” Lamentations 2:19

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 90:1-12 (an exposition of which was given earlier in the service)

Dear friends, may grace be given unto you, that ye may be able to pour out your hearts this night! Remember, my hearers, it may seem a light thing for us to assemble tonight at such an hour, but listen for one moment to the ticking of that clock!…… It is the beating of the pulse of eternity. You hear the ticking of that clock!—It is the footstep of death pursuing you. Each time the clock ticks, death’s footsteps are falling on the ground close behind you. You will soon enter another year. This year will have gone in a few seconds. 1855 is almost gone; where will the next year be spent, my friends? One has been spent on earth; where will you spend the next? “In heaven!” says one, “I trust.” Another murmurs, “Perhaps I shall spend mine in hell!” Ah! Solemn is the thought, but before that clock strikes twelve, some here may be in hell; and, blessed be the name of God, some of us may be in heaven! But oh do you know how to estimate your time, my hearers? Do you know how to measure your days? Oh! I have not words to speak tonight. Do you know that every hour you are nearing the tomb? That every hour you are nearing judgment? That the archangel is flapping his wings every second of your life, and, trumpet at his mouth, is approaching you? That you do not live stationary lives, but always going on, on, on, towards the grave? Do you know where the stream of life is hastening some of you? To the rapids—to the rapids of woe and destruction! What shall the end of those be who obey not the gospel of God? You will not have so many years to live as you had last year!

For meditation: The march of time is a terrible enemy to all who persist in unbelief, but the Christian sees things differently—“now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand” (Romans 13:11-12).

Spurgeon must have the last word: “Now, my friends, in the highest and best sense, I wish you all a happy New Year.”

Sermon no. 59

31 December (1855)

 

 

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Where Were You?

Ravi Z

As a young girl, one of my favorite games was hide and seek. Gathering all of our friends from the street on which we lived, we played this favorite childhood game that offered the entire neighborhood as a hiding place. The familiar call “Where are you?” echoed down the streets as the seeker looked far and wide to find our hiding places.

A cosmic game of hide and seek is often how many view the search for God. “Where are you?” is the question that echoes throughout the ages as human beings seek for God in a vast universe often filled with inexplicable mystery.

This is no trivial game. Atheist Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if after death he met God, to which he replied: “God, you gave us insufficient evidence.”(1) While those who have found God quite evident would balk at Russell’s impudence, it is helpful to remember that theists often wrestle with a similar struggle. Many of the biblical writers themselves have depicted God as hidden. “Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalms 10:1). Indeed, the psalmist accuses God of being “asleep” to his plaintive cries: “Arouse, yourself, why do you sleep, O Lord? Awake, and do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face, and forget our affliction and our oppression?” (Psalm 44:23-24). Even blameless Job wondered aloud if in fact God viewed him as the enemy: “Why do you hide your face and consider me the enemy?” (Job 13:24). And from the place of his deepest suffering, Jesus himself cried out using the words of the poets of Israel, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Clearly, the hiddenness of God is problematic for theists and atheists alike. Indeed, the belief in a God who can be easily found, and who has acted in time and space, makes the experience of God’s hiddenness all the more poignant and perplexing.

“Where are you?” serves as one of the central questions in the acclaimed film by Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life. The film explores the paradoxical experience of both God’s astounding presence and God’s apparent absence. The questions concerning God’s whereabouts are posed by an adult man in the throes of a life-crisis resulting from family tragedy. Through a series of cinematic visions, the man reflects back on his life as his question “Where are you?” sounds a thematic refrain when tragic events ensue. It is this question that takes the man on a search for God, not only through recalling the events of his childhood in a small Texas town, but also as he contemplates the grandeur of the cosmos at the dawn of creation.

As the film begins, we hear the voice of this man’s, mother extolling a life of grace, as opposed to a life lived according to nature, for the self alone. To the oft-repeated question, “Where are you?” the film suggests God resides in this life of grace. The life that is grace-filled lives for others, revels in the beauty and wonder of the created world, and extends a gracious forgiveness toward others. It is this grace-filled life that the now adult Jack remembers as a clue to where God may be found. The gracious way in which his mother lived, and the way his younger brother extended forgiveness to the young Jack after he viciously shot him in the hand with a pellet gun provide the first hints for God’s hiding place. Jack recalls, “Brother, mother, it was they who led me to your door.” In these grace-filled human encounters, the doorway is opened to God’s dwelling place.

This gracious way is set in contrast to the way of nature, which competes and wrestles for control of Jack. The way of nature seeks to make its way in the world forcefully; its acquisitive nature clawing after worldly success, fortune, and power. It is a battle waged within every human being, and the film suggests that it is a path that leads one away from God; it is the way that hides us from God’s grace and God’s presence.

For indeed, the game of hide and seek is not one-sided. The film opens with a quotation from the book of Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth…when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” A cinematic kaleidoscope of those foundations—from a one-celled organism to the galaxies beyond invites the viewer to see the gracious hand of God touching all that makes up the universe. From the dawn of time to, by contrast, this seemingly insignificant family living in 1950′s Waco, Texas, the film shimmers with God’s presence. We often fail to accept the invitation, the film suggests, as we succumb to the way of nature—a way that reduces one’s vision only to self-interest. But God’s glorious grace is all around us. Sometimes abundantly obvious, sometimes subtle, God’s gracious presence beckons to us in this world and in our relationships with one another. “Always did you seek me” Jack recognizes as he wrestles with his own propensity to hide. Always do you seek for us—we humans who play hide and seek—from the very foundation of the world.

Margaret Manning is a member of the speaking and writing team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.

(1) Cited in Dr. Paul K. Moser’s booklet Why Isn’t God More Obvious: Finding the God who Hides and Seeks (Norcross, GA: RZIM, 2000)1.

 

Campus Crusade for Christ; Bill Bright – No Longer Slaves

dr_bright

“And you are My friends if you obey Me. I no longer call you slaves, for a master doesn’t confide in slaves; now you are My friends, proved by the fact that I have told you everything the Father told Me” (John 15:14,15).

How many really close friends do you have? Not many, I think you will agree, for a close friend is one in whom you confide regularly. who knows you just as you are and loves you just the same.

So it is with our heavenly Friend, the one who “sticks closer than a brother.” And how do we earn the right to become that kind of intimate friend? Simply by obeying His commands, “which are not grievous,” but really are necessary to keep us in the straight and narrow path and to give us a happy, blessed life.

In a sense, of course, we are still His bondslaves, His servants, but He deigns to call us His friends if we love Him enough to obey His commands. And He proves His friendship by sharing with us all that the Father has shared with Him. What greater friend could we have?

Jesus not only called His disciples friends, but He also treated them as friends. He opened His mind to them, made known His plans and acquainted them with the plan of His coming. His death, His resurrection and ascension. He followed this proof of His friendship with the actual title of friend.

Oh, that you and I might see Him today truly as our friend – one who sticks closer than a brother or sister or mother or father.

Bible Reading: John 15:11-17

TODAY’S ACTION POINT: As I take inventory of my real friends today, I will especially include the one Friend above all friends, the Lord Jesus Christ, the source of the supernatural life which God has commanded me to live.

 

Make Room for Jesus This Christmas – Greg Laurie

 

Have you ever had one of those birthdays when you wanted people to throw a party for you?

You wanted them to buy some nice gifts. You hinted at what gifts you wanted and even left maps to the places where you wanted them to shop. You were hoping someone would get the idea of throwing you a surprise party. You were certain that every time you went out to dinner with a friend that people were going to jump out and yell, “Happy Birthday!” You were looking forward to it with great excitement. But nothing happened. The party never took place. In fact, it seemed like people forgot your birthday. Or worse yet, they remembered it but failed to acknowledge it.

Christmas is a Birthday.

In theory, that is what Christmas can be like. It is supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. In contrast to your birthday or mine, everyone recognizes it. Everywhere we go, there are reminders that Christmas is coming. Merchants want you to shop till you drop and spend money. Shoppers, in turn, can get psycho about getting good deals.

The Reason for the Season.

We all need to just relax a little bit and remember what this season is about: it is the time when we celebrate Jesus’ birth. In the midst of our activities and preparations to celebrate Christmas, how often do we forget about the honored guest? We string our lights. We trim our trees. We talk about Christmas. We hear recorded songs mentioning the birth of Jesus. But how many people actually take time for Him? We run around the malls and buy things for everyone we know—and even some people we wish we didn’t know. But we can forget to make room in our schedules for Jesus.

Make Room for Jesus.

The fact there was no room for Jesus at the inn that first Christmas was indicative of the treatment that He would receive throughout His entire earthly ministry. One telling passage is found for us in John’s Gospel where it says, “And everyone went to his own house. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives” (John 7:53—8:1). Everyone went home for the night, but Jesus went to sleep out in the open air on the Mount of Olives.

There was never room for Jesus. And today, there is just no room for Him in so many situations. Is there room for Jesus in your life right now? This Christmas, as we prepare to start a new year with new opportunities, will you make room in your life for Him?