Page 2,"Pandemic Devotionals"

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Page 2 of selections from "pandemic epistles".

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FRIENDS; JESUS AS OUR FRIEND, HUMAN FRIENDS, FUN, ETC.

How have you been? Do you have any questions or prayer needs as school starts?

Friendship means knowing people who can have different backgrounds or personalities, though friends are often rather similar in at least one of those. This means we should talk with and strive to understand others. Friends share goals; loving a team, for instance. We need to be unified as the body of Christ despite different backgrounds, etc. the same way. We share the goal of bringing people to Jesus & helping them through a sin-stained world. We should share prayer needs, too – join Sal and I praying for a huge unspoken request in particular.

Our closest friends should be saved if possible so we can share spiritual goals. We should never let friends turn us away from God. Some very nice people are unsaved – my friend Sander was unsaved till last year. That’s fine if you’re a leader with such a friend - I’ll explain below.

Sander never put me down. In fact, he was intrigued by my faith; it was part of how he came to Christ years after I broke my leg. We’re important to each other; he always considers me his best friend. I didn’t push my faith, but mentioned it at times, like sharing about Youthquake. The key is we had much (college, sports – albeit different ones, etc.) in common. We’re very similar. We have some different interests but love to learn about each other’s. He’d never knowingly do something to hurt me; if he did and I explained why it hurt he’d stop.

I have saved friends, too. My closest, Rick, died of cancer in 2017. I keep in touch with our mutual friends. Rick was much more outgoing, always setting up game nights, pizza parties at his house for Packer games, etc.. He made sure everyone had a ride (another friend, Don, has cerebral palsy so can’t drive either). It’s harder for me to do that. Being saved didn’t make us friends, silly senses of humor, love of family friendly comedy, sports, etc. did, like with Sander.

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But my saved friends and I could help each other spiritually and talk about the Lord in a way I couldn’t with Sander; and, his girlfriend (the person there each day for him I prayed for) and I are still helping him as a young Christian, doing things like book studies over the phone, etc. (We did “The Lion, the Witch, and the wardrobe” recently. Do you want to do a Google Meet with him and his girlfriend? I’m sure they’d enjoy it a lot. It’d have to be a weekend for her.)

Sander, like Rick, never drank, never did raunchy stuff, etc.. But, spiritually, Rick encouraged my walk with God so I could be the leader Sander needed so he could come to the Lord. And, I encouraged Rick with friends. He made a lot through the Packers that would never have come to church or listened to the Gospel while Rick was here. But, at Rick’s funeral, the Gospel was shared. Well over a dozen trusted Christ as Saviour. A pastor at Canton Baptist shared how we knew where Rick was and why. Rick had trusted Jesus as Saviour at age 12, and they could now. And, many did. He used Godly wisdom to know when to share and when to wait for God’s timing, like me with Sander.

Of course, Jesus is the friend we need for everything. He gives peace and joy to get us through the hardest times in our lives. He gives wisdom to know what to say when we pray for it, like above. It’s neat how I’ll start a topic and sometimes the sermon helps complete it – the Holy Spirit working in everyone. Pastor Frazier spoke on Phil. 2:15-16, how we should live as children of God so we can shine as lights in the world – like I did for Sander & Rick did for his friends. Read the verses on your own, and listen to the message at cantonbaptist.org.

Others who constantly put us down can drag us down if we’re not careful. We need to give friends grace and mercy since we all go through problems. One of my grade school friends was nice through high school – I shared how some trauma may have caused lots of issues - though my mom thinks in retrospect he maybe didn’t value friends much. We shouldn’t tear others down but build them up, to get to the bottom of problems, of course. It’s like Jesus shows us mercy and grace all the time. Still, at times we must separate from people going down the wrong path. Saved friends, like parents, youth leaders, etc., are crucial to help us pray about and discuss how to help unsaved people (friends and others) in our lives and advise when we might need to distance ourselves and how, among other things.

Think about people in your life. How can you be more of a light to them? People need to see we’re different from the world, but also see it’s fun to know Jesus. Some have had bad experiences with religion, but Jesus was persecuted and sentenced to death by them. A relationship with Jesus is what we have to offer the world. We need to pray for the hurting to trust Him to heal that pain.

How have you been? Have you learned a foreign language? Sal and I have shared the 4 words for love in Greek. Phileos is the term for best friends, also called “brotherly love.” Hence, Philadelphia is called the City of Brotherly Love. Even though their fans boo a lot. 😊

Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Siblings should be close. Some are really close even as kids; my cousins’ kids are like that. Part of that is how easygoing the people are. But, Jesus always seeks to help the best possible way.

A South African contact with Global Media Outreach named Drea last month asked how to help the poor in her city. I asked what skills she could teach. Sewing or quilting came to mind. I didn’t know why, but as she said, we both have a friend who knew. She’d learned how to sew a few years ago. Friends in her church make money making things. So, she and some others in her church will get the people material so they can start making and selling things. I said I’d mention this in my devotionals to you. It’s so cool how we can be testimonies and help each other in different parts of the world.

This is a great example of how friends share about each other. Drea knew right away she could boast of what God had done. We do the same with friends our age. When Sander and I talk my parents enjoy hearing what’s new with him. Not everyone enjoys such things, but someone will, even if it’s the Lord you tell. The great thing is, He’ll even help when we listen to the Spirit guiding us when we have questions about how to help.

 It doesn’t always have to be big things. Sharing lighthearted fun and laughing together is a joy. It helps us remember to be humble. We’re not perfect, but we’re in this crazy thing called life together. Remember my story of how that one kid called the wrong number from France because he got the wrong country code? That high school or college kid laughed with me when I said his friends would tease him about calling a whole other country while they were on their trip. He knew what I knew. His friends and he would have fun with it. He’d likely come up with funny lines about it. If the Lord delays enough, he might tell his kids or grandkids about it.

            There’s something even more important. I’ve said friends don’t put each other down. But, they also shouldn’t act superior. Jesus is, was, and always will be God. Yes, He had to straighten His disciples out a bit, but He humbled Himself as a servant. He rebukes Peter a few times, like Courtney’s friend may correct her if Courtney gets too mad at herself or thinks of quitting. But, it’s done in a spirit of love and compassion. The friend isn’t saying she could do better when she does this. Rather, the friend is telling her she knows she made a mistake before but now she can get through it with God’s help. Jesus may have been frustrated, but He never stopped loving His disciples. And, He never stops loving us.

 If Jesus, being God, was willing to be a servant, we should do be that way even more. We shouldn’t see any task as beneath us. That especially includes making friends with those who aren’t like us. We should always be humble. Part of that is knowing we aren’t perfect. When we’re willing to laugh at ourselves, it’s easier to have fun with others.

Being humble doesn’t mean putting yourself down. It just means building others up. You know you don’t have to be top dog. Remember, when Jesus said one of His disciples would betray Him, each looked within and asked, “Is it I?” (Even Peter was willing to ask.)

 

Has anyone ever told you they were surprised Christians had fun? Some have had very bad experiences with legalism, as we discussed. So, don’t assume these people want the world’s kind. They may need to see the joy we have as believers.

Christians should have the most fun of anyone. We’re forgiven & equal before the cross. We don’t have to try to be better than others. We don’t have to use fake fronts. We can be silly and admit mistakes. We laughed like crazy after a goof I made in our first regular online meeting last Thursday – I thought Angel referred to her 11YO brother when she meant her 17YO one.

You’re loved by God just as much as God loves Sal or I or the greatest evangelist or the biggest giver. We can all afford to be ourselves. Some people act a certain way so as not to let fears, anxiety, etc. show. But we can tell God and should be able to trust our friends, though some will be better able to listen and help, based on their skills.

Jesus always humbled Himself as a servant. Sure, friends goof around and have fun. You can think of plenty of examples in your own lives, I’m sure. They’re great to share. But friends are also there to serve. Remember how my friend Rick always made sure others had rides? That’s just one example of how God’s people should strive to serve others.

As you share Jesus, remember, a person who is one way at home & another at school may have lots of hidden anxiety, or think only certain people understand them. Usually we see serving as cooking, cleaning, etc.. But, listening is service, too. We have to understand people to help them. Say someone yells “help!” and you run to them. They’re crying with a bowling ball on their foot. You think “they broke some toes and maybe their foot.” That might be, but they might be more worried about the fact that now, they can’t watch their toddler brother. As you listen, you can offer to babysit. Or, maybe it’s a Nerf ball, it doesn’t hurt, and they’re upset about something else. People need to see we care before they’ll tell us big details.

We’ll talk about returning to God in prayer again next week, but one key is to listen to the Holy Spirit inside you as a believer. He’ll guide you in what to say. That’s important because we can get confused by this world. Some things can have either a normal meaning or a scary one. Someone saying their soul is totally black might be showing support for black people and working to help make life better for them. But, they could be saying they are in a very dark place emotionally, as if they are suffering from depression.

Some people prefer investigating Jesus on their own. Sander was like that. A Jewish friend in college, Paul Wexler (not the same as my online friend Paul) became a Messianic Jew at some point later. I didn’t learn till I shared some basics, like Isaiah 53, from the Old Testament and asked if he had considered Jesus as Messiah when I asked if he would like to be on my mailing list for Youthquake prayer letters. He replied with a huge thumbs up. For these people, you can still point the way. Call or e-mail with questions if you ever have questions on the Bible or how to respond to others’ questions.

One important thing to remember is to pray for the Jewish people, too. They believe their Messiah is near, but they will worship a false Messiah for 3.5 years before realizing that Jesus is and has always been their true Messiah/Saviour. The Church has never replaced Israel. The Jews are still God’s chosen people. Just wishing someone Happy Jewish New Year (it is Friday) you can show God’s love. And, perhaps someone will welcome when you offer to read Isaiah 53 and discuss it with them. There are many ways to reach others.

Suppose your friend had never tried your favorite food. It’s pizza for many of you, so it might seem odd. But, it’s possible. The point is, you’d want them to try it, right?

We often have friends who need help. We say “You don’t know what you’re missing” and get all excited about it, but of course they have to want to try it.

When you trust Jesus to save you from your sin, Jesus writes you in His Book of Life. He comes to live in you through the Holy Spirit. And, He wants to help you just like you would for that friend you want to enjoy that favorite food.

What do you do if they’re doing something dumb, though? It’s a lot worse if they put oil in a car’s radiator or use a mouse as a foot pedal. One will wreck a car; the other sure isn’t using things to their best ability. (It sounds dumb, but it happened! Google “crazy tech support stories” and foot pedal for a funny “Computer World” article from 2009.)

Another great hymn is “No, Not One.” Find the lyrics; it’s rewarding to read great humn lyrics. Part says “There’s not a friend who’s so high and holy…. and yet no friend is so meek and lowly.” Yes, there are times when God needs to be brutally honest with His message to us. Like when Peter got so excited on the Mount of Transfiguration he wanted to build altars for Jesus *and* Moses and Elijah. God spoke verbally to remind him Jesus was His Beloved Son - that Jesus is God in flesh so we never put others on His level.

 

Usually, though He speaks in a much more tender manner. Take John 11, when He used the euphemism of sleep to describe Lazarus. The disciples took Him literally, and He spoke – probably as a parent would to a small child, calmly explaining “Lazarus is dead.” He wanted them to feel the full effect of what He was about to do by raising Lazarus from the dead.

Backsliding believers, of course, get tougher and tougher reminders as God tries to get through to them. Sometimes it’s through the still, small voice of the Spirit, sometimes others or circumstances. But God wants to be able to guide us gently. In spring of last year, an illustration of walking with God showed different ways to walk. You can walk beside a person. You could follow behind a little or a lot) but on the right path. You might zig-zag quite a bit or just stop and the person needs to coax you back onto the right path. Or, you might turn and go the other way – in which the person has to get you back onto the right path.

Imagine seeing each happening as two friends walk down the street. What would you think of each? Now, think about how you are walking with Jesus.

Our own walks with Jesus were the focus of that message. But, what did you think of the friends you imagined walking each of those ways? Consider how your walk with Jesus impacts the way others follow Jesus. It can even impact whether others choose to follow Jesus. After all, we’re trying to tell people it’s a relationship, but if somebody’s walking downt he street 20 feet behind someone else, would you think they were together? People will only believe you are with Jesus if they see you being Christlike.

Just remember, it’s not something we have to do. We get to be examples to others. We get to earn Heavenly rewards and one day reign with Him because He loves us so much. We must show that love to others in how we treat them and how we help them. Humbly, not superior but instead taking on the role of s ervant, like Jesus always did.

Have you heard anyone who is more worried about being friendly to the planet than to people? How do we respond while sharing Jesus’ friendship and salvation? Miami zoo expert Ron Magill said something on the radio recently that helps.

You can tell all creatures amaze him. He sidestepped a question on Noah’s Ark once by saying he wasn’t there, but God can do anything since God is all powerful; he won’t question that. He doesn’t believe in Creation, while the Bible says each animal is made after its kind. He confuses microevolution (like dog breeds are all in the wolf kind) and macroevolution (the impossible, unproven idea that animals become different kinds.) Still, he sees a purposeful design in all animals. Maybe he called on Jesus as a child to save him from his sin & the Spirit in him helps him see that design. Or maybe his heart is just now tender. Pray Ron Magill is saved or will be.

What he said was that zoos are great: They preserve species that might die out otherwise. (2 great term paper topics: The bald eagle was endangered & being saved when I was little; and, the California condor was almost extinct till zoos helped bring it back.) But wild animals are used in ways which are bad for them, like how people swim with dolphins. He said that’s forcing wild animals to act like they were domesticated like dogs or horses (or cats, though if you poll 100 cats even house cats may deny being domesticated by people.😊)

His words made me think of the Millennial Kingdom. Animals will be peaceful then. They won’t eat each other – wolves and lambs, lions and calves will all live in peace together. A little child can lead them. We can have fun with them when Jesus rules the world. We’ll hang out with hippos or ride cheetahs like motorcycles or swim with dolphins. Because the problem is we want to now, but we can’t in the wild. We’d get hurt – badly.

Lions in the London Zoo all ate grass and such during World War 2 – they’re still built to do that if they have to. That was God’s original design. But, “by one man sin entered the world, and death by sin, so that death passed unto all men, for that all have sinned.”(Rom. 5:12) Sin caused a perfect world to be cursed. People don’t always understand that God didn’t mean for all this violence to happen. You can explain that to people.

Some just see it as part of nature, though, and that’s okay. Some people will listen if you say, “Well, animals have that killer instinct when they try to protect territory or look for food, but we have free will to choose not to sin, but we sin anyway,” or something like that. Then, you can talk about how you, like they, fall short of God’s perfection. That missing the mark is sin. And, Jesus made a way to be saved from our sin through His death and Resurrection.

The key is to narrow things down when you witness. Don’t argue over secondary issues. God will work in the person’s heart on those. I sense if Mr. Magill is saved, for instance, he’s humble enough he’d be the first to say, “Oh, that’s how you did it, Lord Jesus. It wasn’t evolution after all.  I’m sorry, Jesus. I had no idea how you created things according to their kind like that. I’m just thankful you died to save me and rose again anyway.”

That’s what’s important – has the person put their trust in Jesus by calling on Him to forgive and save them from their sins through what He did on the cross.

So, when people talk about climate change, or other things about nature, remind them we have all sinned. What we do to the planet – and to animals – is part of our sin nature. If they say they always respect the planet, fine. We haven’t all committed every sin. Ask if they ever lied, for instance. They can still accept they’re not perfect, and fall short of the glory of God. You can also share about the huge natural disasters in Revelation.

People need the Lord. Arguments distract from the simple Gospel. We can agree it is important to care for nature, but even someone like Ron Magill says we’re more important. The Bible says why – God breathed life into us. Jesus died for each of us and rose again. That’s what people need to hear, so they can be saved from the consequences of this world of sin, but also from their own sins.

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