Friday, April 25, 2014

A Friend (Part 3)


Just like Jesus, a friend loves unconditionally!

In Part 1, I wrote about the trait of unselfishness; in order to be a friend I must be willing to give myself to others. In Part 2, I wrote about the trait of honesty; in order to be a friend I must be honest with others about myself. In this third and final part, I want to share what I believe is the third trait one must have to be a friend; I must be willing to love.

The word love can be and is interpreted to mean so many things to every one of us, but if we look in scripture we find one supreme example of love:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.1

In order to understand the depth of God’s love, we must acknowledge that He gave what no ordinary person would do; He gave His one and only Son.

God gave…period!

Love is really about my willingness to give. The mistake we humans make is in our effort to get something from others. We confuse getting with love in the belief that it will bring satisfaction, but getting only leads to an emptiness which must be further fueled by additional getting. Sadly, so many relationships have become stranded (much like a beached whale in the hot sun) because one or both people never truly understood the value of genuinely loving someone other than themselves. A friend never seeks to have the advantage in a relationship. A friend never has an attitude of getting something from a friend. That’s not what I would call friendship; words like self-serving, manipulator and deceptive readily come to my mind.

A friend loves in such a way that they are willing to give to another; it’s a conscious choice they’ve made.

Love really is about giving!

When you learn to give love, you realize it’s not about someone else living up to your expectations, because the truth is they cannot. In this life, every one of us have said things, done things that we regret (I know I have), but I’ve come to appreciate God’s love for me in spite of my personal failures. Discovering this truth has helped me to see the need to love others not on the basis of what they do, but on the basis of who they are. This change has freed me to love in a way I didn’t know was possible.

I remember having a discussion with a single mom about love and she contrasted the love for her child to the love for her ex-husband. I understood her to say that her husband failed in some way that prevented her from continuing with the marriage. I asked if her child ever disappointed her in some way that was unforgivable and she could not fathom an instance when no matter what the child did, there would ever come a time she could not love her child. Her answer made me wonder how the mother of a murderer, thief, or liar would respond. Some might say that it’s a maternal thing with women that enables them to love someone they’ve birthed into the world, but then, not all women exhibit that trait. Some mothers abuse their children, some even kill them. A mother must choose to love her child, she must choose to give love, no matter how much disappointment a child may cause in her life.

Can it be any different to choose to love someone I didn’t give birth to?

Adoptive parents are capable of loving a child which is not biologically related.

How?

They choose to love. They choose to give their life to another.

How does a husband love an unfaithful wife? How does a wife love an abusive husband? How do I love a friend who betrays me?

These are not questions which can be answered with a fortune cookie. There are hard questions which challenge the longevity of relationships and friendships. If I am going to be a friend, I must understand and accept that the durability of my love for others will face adversity, disappointment, and possibly regret. In the end, it will come down to what I choose.

Is this person worthy of my love? Am I willing to continue this friendship?

Please understand that I am not advocating anyone be a doormat. On the contrary, we all understand the need for boundaries. There are parameters which each of us accepts as part of any friendship; if they are not explicit, they should be implicitly understood. Friendship requires an open channel of honest communication between two people. Friendship requires a level of trust that demonstrates dependability and loyalty. Others may desert you, but not your friend.

A friend loves. They’ve made the choice to love you, just as God made the choice to love us; He gave….

Love gives!

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Footnote:
  1. John 3:16, NIV
References:
  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
  2. Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
  3. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA
Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

He's Alive (Part 2)

He's Alive
Mary Magdalene sees the Lord, Jesus Christ

Introduction: This story is a fictional account of Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-11 and John 20:1-18. It is told through the eyes of Mary Magdalene, who along with three other women go to anoint the body of Jesus. For these women, this was an act of devotion and love. As a Christian, I realize that while Palm Sunday leads me to Calvary and the suffering, crucifixion and death of Jesus, Easter is the revelation of His glorious resurrection and the reality that He's Alive! This story now concludes with Part 2.

Part 2:
Slowly, Joanna and Mary awoke and dressed. Usually, they were quite talkative but this morning, none of us said anything worthy of discussion. Joanna always had something to say about Chusa and his work for Herod. Mary is a proud mother of both James and Mark, as is Salome, mother of two disciples of Jesus. Sometimes, we would laugh and joke as most women did, other times we would talk about family, but more often we would discuss what Jesus said and meant to each of us. This morning, we are all silent. We watched Jesus hanging for hours on that cross; finally, he uttered words I shall never forget:

It is finished.

The words haunt me, echoing in my mind, again and again. Why did he have to die? Perhaps, I didn’t understand His purpose. I remember him saying on the way to Jerusalem,

We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!

Salome interrupted my thoughts with a question:

Do we have enough sweet spices?

I think so,” answered Joanna.

Having gathered all the spice we could carry, we left the house and silently walked toward the tomb.

As we walked, Salome asked a question none of us previously considered,

What about the stone in front of the tomb? How will we move it?

Perhaps we can ask the soldiers or some of the disciples if they are there.

Why would any of the disciples be there Joanna when they all fled once they arrested Jesus?

I didn’t want to think about obstacles, moving stones, fearful disciples, acts of cowardice or anything else, I just wanted to anoint his body this one last time.

We will find someone to help,” I said.

Finally, we arrived, but to my surprise, the stone was rolled away from the tomb. I stood outside as Salome, Joanna and the other Mary walked inside the tomb.

Mary spoke first, “His body isn’t here!

I could hear Salome scream, “They’ve taken his body!

I ran from the tomb to tell the disciples.

Inside the tomb, the others saw two men, whose appearance illuminated with a brilliant light. The three of them bowed low to the ground as the two men spoke,

Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!

Salome wondered how it is possible to rise from the dead.

The three of them became so frightened that they fled to their homes.

I arrived to find Peter and John.

They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!

Immediately, Peter and John ran to the tomb; John arrived first to see the body was gone just as I said. John looked inside but would not go in. When Peter arrived, he walked inside the tomb, examining the strips of linen and the burial cloth which was used to cover the head of Jesus. John then entered the tomb but both he and Peter had a perplexed expression on their faces. Neither they nor I fully understood what took place. The two of them decided to go back home and left me at the entrance of the tomb crying.

I heard something inside the tomb and decided to take a look. There were two men sitting where I last saw the body of Jesus.

One of the men asked me, “Why are you crying?

They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.

Suddenly, I could feel the presence of someone behind me and as I turned, there was Jesus standing; but for some reason, I did not recognize him. He seemed familiar in a way that I cannot explain; hearing his voice brought comfort to me.

Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?

For some reason, it occurred to me that perhaps he was the gardener; if he was, I thought he would surely know.

Sir, if you have carried away the body of Jesus, please tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.

It occurred to me that I could not possibly retrieve the body of Jesus by myself. Who would I ask to help me return him to the tomb? As questions poured over my mind, the man spoke one simple word to me,

Mary.

Immediately, I knew whose voice it was that spoke. I turned and cried out,

Teacher!

I wanted to hold him and never let go. In that moment, I realized Jesus is alive, he is standing in front of me! As I extended my arms toward him, he spoke.

Do not hold on to me, I have not yet returned to my Father. Go to my brothers, tell them, I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.

The emotions I felt were overwhelming. Earlier, I felt great sadness and now, I experienced such tremendous joy. I ran with purpose to tell each of the disciples the good news; that I have seen the Lord, He’s Alive!

MTJ


A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, April 18, 2014

He's Alive (Part 1)

All week long I've been thinking about Jesus Christ. How triumphantly he rode into Jerusalem to the praise and applause of so many, and less than one week later he was hanging on a cross. I am reminded that every aspect of the events that unfolded were for my benefit. He was accused, for me, he was lied against for me, he was beaten for me, he carried the cross for me, he hung on the cross for me, he died on the cross for me, he rose from the dead for me, and he sits at the right hand of the Father for me. Thus is the meaning of Easter for me. This is a repost from a two-part series; Part 2 will be reposted on Easter Sunday. I do pray you are blessed on this Easter weekend.

Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene's encounter with Jesus Christ

Introduction: This story is a fictional account of Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-11 and John 20:1-18. It is told through the eyes of Mary Magdalene, who along with three other women go to anoint the body of Jesus. For these women, this was an act of devotion and love. As a Christian, I realize that while Palm Sunday leads me to Calvary and the suffering, crucifixion and death of Jesus, Easter is the revelation of His glorious resurrection and the reality that He Lives! This story will conclude next week with Part 2.

Part 1:
It was still early morning, the sun, yet to rise and signal a new day. I looked out the window and saw only darkness. I turned to see the women still asleep. There was Mary, the mother of James and Mark, Salome, the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John, and Joanna, the wife of Chusa, Herod’s steward.

We were all tired and exhausted from our sorrows as we watched Christ hang for hours on the cross. Our cries for a merciful end to his suffering went unanswered.

Why did one innocent man have to endure so much?

I felt a sense of relief when Joseph came and took his body from the cross. I watched as he wrapped Jesus in cloth and used all 75 pounds of spices he bought. The tomb where they laid his body was unused and would be a safe, secure place of rest for his body.

I thought back to the first time I met Jesus. People said that I was possessed with seven demons but thinking back, it seems such a distant memory now. I was so confused, my mind unable to focus on anything. I remember often hearing laughter as I passed by the faceless people on the street; the constant sound of voices in my head shouting for attention. I have no memory of my childhood, my mother or father; there was no one who valued my life. I now see how even in my misery, God was watching over my life. Though I did not know it at the time, God really has a purpose for me.

Jesus revealed my purpose to me!

Although I was tormented daily by these voices, I somehow managed to follow the crowd to hear Him speak that day. It was as if something was compelling me, so I moved closer and closer until I was standing before Jesus. I listened to Him speak, watched Him heal many, but the voices inside my mind sought to cry out against Him.

I felt this need to flee from His presence, but I couldn’t move. I was afraid, confused and awed as He looked upon me. It was as though He could see inside me; knowing my complete life and struggles, down to the smallest detail.

His voice spoke with authority as He called the demons out from me and finally, I was free; I vowed never to leave His presence. I joined the other women who accompanied Him, aiding to support Him and The Twelve from our own means.

I see you are awakened, Mary.

It was Salome’s voice speaking as she stood up stretching her arms upward. She gently moved to wake Joanna and the other Mary.

Come now, we must hurry to the tomb before the sun rises and prepare the Lord’s body…

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Friend (Part 2)


What A Friend We Have In Jesus - Aretha Franklin

Last week, I wrote about unselfishness being a characteristic trait of one who is a friend. We see this trait in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit, and in our Heavenly Father. If we are to imitate Christ as Paul wrote:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…1

When I have the mind of Christ, it means that I can be unselfish. It also means that I can be honest. If I am to be honest, I must be transparent about myself. I must be willing to allow others to see and know who I really am. Sometimes, the challenge we face as Christians is conforming to perceptions of who others think we should be.

Being diagnosed with a serious medical condition can lead me down a path where I’m uncomfortable talking openly about my personal struggles. Many men and women have to face the reality of being let go by their employer after years of hard work. Some come to learn that getting that next job can be a difficult river to navigate. Parents may struggle with a son or daughter who is caught up in a lifestyle which includes the self-destructive use of drugs and or alcohol. Some are faced with the suicide, murder or death (from another cause) of a loved one. There may be the tendency to put on a happy face despite the underlying conflict within.

What will my friends and family think of me if they know I am struggling?

The truth is that even the ones we look up to as towers of faith and strength face doubts and reservations about life. Saying so doesn’t make me less faithful. Acknowledging that I need God’s grace is an honest expression of my faith. Affirming that God’s grace is sufficient for me is the assurance I need to face whatever struggles I experience in this life.

Being a friend means that I’m comfortable listening to the perspectives of others (about me), and knowing the difference between wisdom and criticism. It also means that I’m willing and comfortable with being accountable to my friends. When I’m not willing to be accountable, I’m really not being honest.

We can see the example of Christ being both honest and accountable to the Father:

The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.2

Being honest and accountable begins with my relationship with God, and extends in my relationships with those I know here on earth. I don’t question God’s love for me; I have many examples which demonstrate His love. But I know there have been instances when I questioned the love others claim to have for me. I realize now that what I was really questioning was my own ability to love; really love by freely being honest with them about my life.

I’m not inferring here that having the mind of Christ means that I’m a people pleaser. On the contrary, having the mind of Christ enables me to focus on pleasing God with the life I’ve been entrusted to live. That for me is the ideal way of being a friend to others. I want to be compassionate, caring and honest, so that others know they can count on me being the kind of friend who isn’t afraid to be honest. I also means that I'm sensitive and caring enough to know that sometimes, it’s better to listen rather than speak.

I’ve been guilty enough times to know than anyone can spout off a bunch of words which may be true, but lack compassion, and honesty so that they just ring out as hollow sounding piety. Those kinds of words never help, they cut wounds; deep, raw, and painful wounds which on some occasions, never quite heal properly.

If I am to be a friend, I must support my unselfish mind with the backbone of honesty.

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Footnotes:
  1. Philippians 2:5, NIV
  2. John 8:29, NIV
Note: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).Spiritual Sundays

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Friend


A Friend -- The Winans

A friend, a friend, a friend, a friend
Friend of mine and yours
Out of all the love in the world
No one could love you more

"I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts."1

"A friend loves at all times..."2

"...but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."3

"And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend."4


As I sit here today, listening to the chirping of birds, the sky is blue and the sun is shining, my thoughts looks to the one friend I know I can always count on…Jesus Christ.

Don’t get me wrong, I could not have lived this life of mine without friends, but time and distance often make friendship less of a priority; things get in the way of friendships with others. In spite of this obstacle, I’m trying to be a friend to those who know me. I’m learning from Christ what it means to be a friend.

I’m reminded of what Luke wrote in his gospel5 about an expert in the Judaic Law. The man came up to Jesus, asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Their conversation wasn’t so much about learning to do what is important, but an example of self-justification we humans so often are guilty of. Jesus asked the man,

What is written in the Law?...How do you read it?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.

The man’s response revealed that although he knew the letter of the law of God, the spirit of the law had not touched his heart. Jesus told the man,

You have answered correctly...Do this and you will live.

The man then asked, “And who is my neighbor?

We have neighbors of varying types, some good, others not so good. The good neighbors, we consider friends, others fall into another category. Jesus continued talking to this man by revealing the example of the Good Samaritan. In His conclusion, Jesus asked:

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?

The expert in the Law finally answered truthfully from his heart by saying,

The one who had mercy on him.

Jesus didn’t give a long legal explanation of the Law. He simply spoke to the man’s heart and revealed that for all of us, we have an example before us that enables us to follow a pattern which never fails. The beauty in the response of Jesus is revealed in four simple words:

Go and do likewise.

I realize that God would never ask me to be a friend to someone, if He never demonstrated His friendship to me. I don’t have to wonder, Who is my friend? I don’t need to discriminate, pick and choose, or compartmentalize people. It’s not up to others, it’s up to me to be a friend.

What does it mean to be a friend?

A Friend is Unselfish:
Jesus reveals the true example of friendship in the gospel of John:

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.6

Ask yourself these questions:
  1. Does God make time for me or is He always too busy?
  2. Is God honest with me even when I don’t want to hear the truth?
  3. Does God love me when I am my most unloving?
These questions cut right to the heart of being a friend because it forces me to look at how selfish I have been toward others. I could offer some plausible explanation as to the circumstances which precipitated my behavior, but the truth is I was a selfish person. I cared more about myself.

Being a friend means giving myself to others, and I don’t simply mean those who are kind to me; that part is very easy. The friendship I speak of is not an easy road to navigate. I’ve encountered some people who have said some of the cruelest, vile, hurtful words to me; some I even considered to be closer than mere friends. What I realize though is that my example of friendship did not instill in others what I truly desired from them; friendship.

Being a friend means being unselfish to others, making time for them; even when it is an inconvenience to me. Being a friend is being honest with others, not just being honest about them, but more importantly, being honest about myself. Being a friend means loving others when they do not share love towards me.

In the coming weeks, I hope to share more on this topic of friendship. I hope you will join me, by sharing your thoughts and experiences. Until then, be blessed.

MTJ

A Note of Thanks: I would just like to say Thank you, to each of you who visit My Thought-filled Journey. Taking time out of your busy schedule to read a post on this blog encourages me. Many of those who visit, will from time to time leave a comment, but it really doesn't matter whether a comment is left. What matters, is that you came here. I hope you find encouragement and inspiration in these words. Please know I will pray with you regarding any circumstance you may be facing. Feel free to write me to say "Hello", request prayer, or share what God is doing in your life. I have not said it enough, but thank you for the light of Christ in your life which illuminates the way for us all.

Footnotes:
  1. Psalm 119:63, NIV
  2. Proverbs 17:17, NIV
  3. Proverbs 18:24, NIV
  4. James 2:23, NIV
  5. Luke 10:25-37, NIV
  6. John 15:12-14, NIV
Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte).