Who’s Got Your Back?

 

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Did you ever watch the television show American Idol?

If so, you’ve seen how each season begins with a trip around the country, holding auditions for contestants. And you’ve seen how, each season, some who come to audition really have no business trying. It makes for great television—a girl squawking out a painful attempt at a Whitney Houston cover or an unfortunate guy trying to deliver his own rendition of a Michael Jackson classic, complete with a laughable moonwalk.

We watch and we wince.

You have to wonder: Shouldn’t someone who loves this kid have pulled him or her aside and told them the truth? “Sweetheart, singing isn’t your gift. Have you tried soccer? How about fly-fishing?”

A truthful word—even if it’s a rebuke—when it comes from a friend, is a form of love. It might be painful at the moment, but it’s profitable in the long run. When rebuke comes from a friend, you can trust the source. You know they have your best interests at heart.

The book of Proverbs, you know, is full of wisdom. Much of it has to do with the importance of true friendship, accepting and giving rebuke. Consider a few examples:

“Folly brings joy to one who has no sense, but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course. Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:21-22).

“Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding. Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 15:31-33).

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:5- 6).

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice” (Proverbs 27:9).

We all need friends—friends to support and encourage us, friends to share the burdens of this life with us, friends to gently (or even firmly) confront us from time to time. Friends can fill our sails with wind.

They can also look us in the eye and suggest, “How about fly-fishing?”

 

My prayer this week – Father, thank you for the blessing of true friendship. Thank you for my friends, who speak into my life lovingly. May I be a true and loving friend in return! Will you give me the grace and courage to live up to the high calling—that of being a friend?

The Signals You Send

 

“To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.”

–Edward R. Murrow

 

Children change everything. Have kids and your every word and behavior come under watchful eye.

If you’re a parent, you remember how your little toddler could parrot your every word—and more often than not, it was the careless word you let slip which the child would seize upon to perfect!

Then there’s the studious adolescent who recognizes from the backseat—and doesn’t hesitate to point out—the speed limit signs say 55, but you’re rolling … a little faster.

The last place you ever want to stand as a parent is on the platform of “do as I say, not as I do.” When you toe this moral precipice, you’re toast.

Perhaps you’ve read the “I’d Rather See A Sermon” poem by Edgar Guest. It observes: “The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear. Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear.”

In the gospels we often read statements about Jesus like, “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law” (Mark 1:22). It’s moral authority which is in view here—the people observed consistency between what Jesus said and what he did.

From there, words like these from Jesus carry weight: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Do what I say, because it’s also what I do.

Jesus’ consistent example and his moral authority allowed him to admonish: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). Indeed, why would you?

Moral authority allows you to look your children, family members, friends, co-workers, and subordinates in the eye and say: “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9).

Those words were among the last the apostle Paul shared with the church at Philippi, who had long observed his words and deeds. To be able to say, consider “everything you heard from me and saw me doing” is a precious gift to give.

As Guest’s poetry rightly captured, “For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give, but there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.”

 

My prayer this week – Gracious Lord, I have seen and experienced the great consistency between your words and actions. May it be so, that others would experience such consistency in me! May the example of my life bless and encourage others!

Who’s Your Timothy?

 

“If you stop learning and growing today, you stop ministering tomorrow.” –Howard Hendricks

 

After a distinguished performing career, virtuoso violinist Jascha Heifetz accepted an appointment as professor of music at UCLA. Asked what prompted his change of career, Heifetz replied: “Violin playing is a perishable art. It must be passed on as a personal skill; otherwise it is lost.”

Heifetz speaks of mentoring. And we should listen to the great musician.

The skills and disciplines for living a Christian life aren’t picked up sitting in the audience, watching skilled veterans perform.

We need hands-on instruction to grow. We have a responsibility, as we’re growing in Christ, to provide those hands-on lessons to the next generation of believers.

When you think of mentoring relationships in the Bible, Paul and Timothy come immediately to mind. Paul was a lifestyle mentor to young Timothy.

This sort of mentoring is kind of like parenting—but without parental responsibilities! It involves letting someone share much of your life, walk with you, and observe you in action.

Late in his life Paul wrote to Timothy: “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them” (2 Timothy 3:10, 11).

Timothy knew, because he’d been there. They were life lessons, experienced. Paul gave his young protégé consistent signals and provided him a consistent example. From such a foundation, he could speak into the younger man’s life, and tell him what to expect:

“Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:12-15).

Paul’s investment in Timothy made a difference in both of their lives. Paul came to view Timothy as “my true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2).

He was able to commend him to others: “I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News” (Philippians 2:20-22).

Who in my sphere of influence would be a good candidate for me to mentor? What am I waiting for?

 

My prayer this week – Heavenly Father, you’ve blessed me so I can be a blessing to others. Who in my life would you have me mentor? Will you give me the courage to live my faith vibrantly before others?

Can I Offer Some Encouragement?

 

“Remember, man does not live on bread alone: sometimes he needs a little buttering up.”

–John C. Maxwell

 

A gentleman opened his door on a Monday morning to get his copy of the newspaper. He was surprised to find a strange little dog sitting on the front porch with the newspaper in its mouth.

Delighted with the unexpected delivery service, the man rewarded the dog with some treats and attention. “You’re a good dog!” he praised.

The next morning the man was shocked to find the same dog sitting on his porch, tail wagging—and this time surrounded by eight newspapers!

A little encouragement sure does go a long way.

A young Jewish man by the name of Joseph in the Bible knew this. He was such an encouragement to others, people started to call him Barnabas, which meant “Son of Encouragement.”

If you want to learn how to encourage others, who better to consider as an example than a man named Encouragement?

Barnabas encouraged others by practicing stewardship: “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:36-37).

He saw a need and gave of his possessions to meet it. Giving encourages everyone.

He encouraged others by extending friendship: “When [Saul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles” (Acts 9:26-27).

He encouraged Saul by extending him love and friendship when no one else would.

He encouraged others by being a bridge builder: “News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts” (Acts 11:22-23).

He was an emissary and brought encouragement from the church at Jerusalem to the church at Antioch.

He encouraged others by making introductions: “Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:25-26).

He encouraged the believers in Antioch by recognizing Paul’s skills were a great match for their needs, and bringing him to them.

Consider this doxology from the apostle Paul: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all encouragement, who encourages us in all our troubles, so that we can encourage those in any trouble with the encouragement we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Who have I encouraged lately?

 

My prayer this week – Father, will you move my heart to encourage others as you’ve encouraged me? Will you open my eyes to those around me in need of encouragement? Whether through giving, extending friendship, building bridges, or making introductions—will you give me the courage to act?

26 Sep 2017

Called To Share…

Called To Share

 

“The gospel must constantly be forwarded to a new address, because the recipient is repeatedly changing his place of residence.” –Helmut Thielicke

 

A missionary home on furlough offered to lead a seminar on personal evangelism. Anyone interested could come to the home where the missionary was staying at 7:00 on Sunday evening. At the appointed hour, one young man rang the missionary’s bell.

“I’m here to learn about evangelism,” he announced.

“So you are,” agreed the missionary, slipping on his shoes and grabbing his Bible. Expecting to be invited in, the guest was surprised when the host stepped outside with him.

“Follow me,” he instructed.

The pair made their way down the sidewalk and to a neighbor’s front door. Without saying a word, the missionary knocked.

When the door opened, the missionary began, “Hello. I’m your neighbor. My friend, here, wants to tell you about Jesus Christ.” And then looking to his young protégé he said, “Go ahead!”

When it comes to sharing the gospel—we’re it! We’re Plan A, and there is no Plan B. There’s no substitute if we don’t tell others about Jesus Christ.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it?

Scary, maybe, but the apostle Paul tells us: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Then he goes on to ask a series of very important questions: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14)

Consider Jesus’ words: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

This instruction was among the last words Jesus spoke to his disciples before ascending into heaven, and the disciples took it seriously. Thank the Lord they did!

Because the disciples carried out those marching orders, and because others were faithful enough to do so after them, somehow, over the thousands of years and across thousands of miles, that Good News reached you!

God has uniquely placed us where we are—at work, at home, in the community.

He’s given us a unique set of circumstances and surrounded us with a unique crowd of people. He’s done all this so we can be ambassadors of the gospel right where we are. We’re Plan A, remember?

 

My prayer this week – Gracious Lord, I recognize you’ve placed me in a unique setting and unique circumstances so I might reveal your love to others. Will you open my eyes to opportunities? Will you give me courage to seize them? Will you give me the words to speak and the grace and love to share Jesus with others?

19 Sep 2017

Forgiven…

Forgiven

 

“I have more trouble with D.L. Moody than any other man I know.” –D. L. Moody

 

Four preachers met at a conference. One of them suggested, “People always come to us and confess their sins and shortcomings. It’s a relief to their souls. Let’s do the same.” The others agreed.

The first preacher admitted, “I’ve watched some movies with less-than-wholesome content.”

The second owned up to enjoying a good cigar some Sunday evenings.

“I like a sip of whiskey every now and again,” the third preacher confessed.

They looked to the fourth preacher, who was reluctant to speak up. “Come on,” they chided, “We’ve shared with you. What’s your vice?”

Finally he answered, “My vice is gossip—and I can’t wait to get out of here!”

While it’s just a silly story, there is a certain promise attached to confessing our sins and shortcomings. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

And in being forgiven, there is real blessing to be experienced. King David knew it firsthand:

“Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:1-5).

Our sins require our attention. When David kept silent, he bore the weight of his unconfessed sin. When he spoke up and acknowledged them, he experienced forgiveness and relief—he summed it up as a blessing.

It’s a great practice to make confession a regular part of our prayer life. When there are occasions of sin we recall, own them.

It’s not a bad idea to allow the Lord to reveal sins to us which we may have overlooked.

We can pray, as David did: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23).

 

My prayer this week – Lord, you’ve searched me and you know me. Will you show me any offense within me? Hear my confession. Cleanse me. Purify me.


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