Those Who Challenge Us

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People come in all varieties. Not just in appearance, but in personalities. God asks us to love and care for others. All others. It can feel impossible and of course we should never put ourselves in the position of attempting to interact with those who might put us in danger. But, for all others, loving and caring for the rest, well, it can be such a challenge. You might find yourself asking, “You mean everyone? But what about so and so? They are …” and the rest of the description you provide from past experience. They were bossy, they were overbearing, they were rude, they were… and the list goes on. It is hard to truly embrace the phrase, “love and care for everyone.”

But of all of the people you encounter, those friends closest to you may, at times, be the most difficult. It can be very challenging when a close friend or loved one says something that causes you to react with an, “Ouch, that hurt,” or, “I can’t believe he/she said that,” or, “am I really like that?” The verse below says it is easier to have an enemy bother you than a friend.

“For it is not an enemy who taunts me-then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me-then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend” Psalm 55:12-13

If an enemy or someone you don’t trust says something hurtful it is somehow easier to accept.  You could even choose to avoid the person. But people you see each day may serve to help us become better people. They may hold a mirror up for us to see something that needs our attention.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another Proverbs 27:17

When these comments come our way, even if they feel like daggers to our spirit, we should step back and take a look. Is there something I can learn here? Maybe what I said came out the wrong way or perhaps I did not clearly say what I meant to convey. We should therefore be thankful that we have people in our lives to sharpen us, like iron sharpens iron. They are blessings, too.

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Hope and Worry

It is rare to have a conversation with a friend or loved one and not hear the word “hope.” It is a frequent word in our vocabulary because it indicates anticipation, optimism, expectation, and even courage to face what might happen in the future. Even in our lowest times, we remain hopeful.

In order to believe things we hope for will happen, we must have faith. We must also have trust. We are hopeful events in our future will happen, we have faith they will happen, and we trust our faith. 

In Christianity, we believe that once we have accepted Christ as our Savior, we will have eternal life. This is what the Apostle Paul wrote in one of his letters to the new believers in Rome.

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience Romans 8:24-25

The Apostle Paul conveyed much of the Christian doctrine in the letters he wrote to believers in the newly established churches. In this part of the letter, he is explaining what we know now as salvation in God’s kingdom. We know that this will happen. We hope and wait for the day when we fully know eternal life in heaven. But we cannot see this yet. We know it awaits us and we must be patient.

            As the verse above reminds us, we hope for what we do not yet know. One problem with our earthly hope is that it increases the likelihood we will have worry. We hope something will occur, we wonder when it will happen, we anticipate and hope it happens soon, and when it doesn’t, we worry. Worry can lead to anxiety. This type of hope/worry/anxiety is not helpful to you. But this type of anxiety is linked to anticipation and is part of our human nature. Rather than have these thoughts running around in your mind night and day, you can turn the hope for earthly things into prayer. Pray, then rely on God to hear your prayers. Your prayers will be answered at the right time. Pray and feel the peace that only faith can provide.

Now faith is the assurance of thing hoped for, the conviction of things not seen Hebrews 11:1

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you Psalm 39:7

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Rejoicing in the Day!

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This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it Psalm 118:24

The fact that you are reading the verse above is a blessing.  You have been blessed with another day! How the day will turn out only God knows. But we know one thing for certain: God, as the creator and giver of all gifts, has provided another day.

Perhaps you are facing a day weighed down and overly scheduled with things you don’t want to do. Within that schedule, you have the option of going about the day with a joyful spirit or being disgruntled about the demands on your time. Carefully planned schedules can be disrupted by both unexpected pleasant or unpleasant events. You keep a positive outlook and remind yourself today is a gift and we are to rejoice in this gift.

Later tonight, you will put your weary body to bed and reflect on the outcome. You may realize it turned out differently.. Keeping the verse above in mind, you decided to celebrate the day regardless of the interruptions, unpleasant events, or the tasks you needed to complete. 

Our lives and activities have been caught off guard in the past months. At times, the days came one after another with little distinction. You may have looked at the same four walls too many days in a row or too many hours in a day. It was difficult to be hopeful and rejoice about anything. One morning, maybe this morning, you looked at your family, your circumstances, and thanked God for your many blessings. Perhaps it was at that time you realized joy still exists in the simple things God provides like sunshine, talking with family and friends,, or going for long walks. Sunrises, sunsets, children laughing, faithful dogs at our side, a shared meal, are pleasures we enjoy in our lives. These simple things are the ways God continues to lift our spirits. It has been a time for reflection and reading Scripture. A time of contacting love ones and friends through technology or brief socially distanced visits. 

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But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you Psalm 5:11

When we trust our faith, God eases our worries and fears and we are again able to rejoice. We know that God will protect us and the events of our day are part of a larger plan only God knows and understands.  Mornings, facing each new day, can be a time to ask for help in the twenty-four-hour journey. As the Scripture says above, “let all who take refuge in you rejoice.” Take refuge in Him. Ask for calmness. Ask for peace. Ask for strength. God will listen.

Support Networks

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Goodness knows we’ve had our nerves tested lately. Living through months of an unknown virus, unpredictable weather in many areas of our country, constant negativity in the media, even an unfounded nationwide fear of killer bees!

This year has been a different experience from years past. We have had difficulty networking in the usual way. Our friends and family who give us support may not have been accessible for many reasons. Thankfully, we have another family, our family in Christ, who can lift us up and support us through our trials. These friends can help us keep our faith strong and our hearts hopeful.

That their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ Colossians 2:2

When Paul wrote this verse, which is part of a letter, he was concerned that some of the brand-new congregations of believers had fallen away from the true doctrine and were listening to false teachings. Paul wrote this part of the letter stressing the love and fellowship the believers felt toward each other and toward Christ would be strong enough to chase away any false beliefs. He felt that the connections the new believers had with each other would work to the glory of Christ and spread of Christianity.

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The strong fellowship with Christians toward other Christians remains true today. When Christians need support and help, they turn to each other. Why? Because we all have the same christlike worldview. We understand God’s grace and how much He loves us. This strong foundation supports believers when we need to ask for help. This same love of Christ is why we help each other, as He instructed.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you John 15:12

Today, you might need help or be the helper for someone else. Follow the teaching of Jesus and support each other. Blessings abound in our connection to each other.

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Friendships in Hard Times

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Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Last winter, before the CoVid quarantine, we took a trip south to escape the cold, wet weather. We traveled for ten hours and returned to our previous home city to visit with friends. It was as if we’d never left. We were greeted with open arms in the homes of our friends and our church. We were invited to dinners and lunches, and a couple of rounds of golf. We attended our former Bible Study and were absorbed into the warmth of our church friends.

Friendship is something that lives within your heart. And in the past, we talked to our friends each day face-to-face, not realizing what a gift it was to be able to do so.. Nowadays, we are visiting through FaceTime, telephone, zoom, chat, or messaging. We’ve had friends offer to pick up grocery items for us, friends who dropped of gifts “just because”, and friends who made face masks for us. We’ve had driveway visits from friends who pull up, emerge from their vehicles, and stand out in the drive for lengthy periods just because we miss seeing each other.

Friends spend their time together talking, laughing, listening, and supporting each other. True friendships have an additional characteristic of feeling like you are “at home” or anchored and secure in the world. Scripture reminds us that friendships serve a purpose of lifting each other up and supporting each other through rough patches. The verse below, from a letter to the Romans written by Paul, reminds us of the importance of loving and showing honor to others.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10

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And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

The love we have from our Father and His Son is the greatest love we will ever know. It is placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. This love dwells there, waiting to serve, to comfort, and to guide us in our everyday lives. The friendship with our Father is the ultimate. There will be no greater friend and no greater love. And, as an added blessing, God places worldly friends in our lives, too. I am so thankful.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever Hebrews 13:8