VIDEO A Friend in Jesus

No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. John 15:15

In early social media lingo, to “friend” someone was to establish a digital connection with them. Some people had thousands of “friends,” many of whom they might have barely known. That practice watered down the biblical idea of a friend.

Friend was a covenant term; Abraham was called the friend of God (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8). In light of the New Covenant, Jesus called His disciples His friends. What does that mean? It means what David and Jonathan exemplified in their friendship: Whatever you need me to do, I will do it (1 Samuel 20:4). Jesus said the same thing to His friends: “You will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). True friends are closer than brothers (Proverbs 18:24), and no friend is closer or more loyal than Jesus.

Let your friendship with Jesus be closer than all others. Be bound to Him in love and faith through His New Covenant (Matthew 26:28).

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! Joseph Scriven


Slaves and Friends of Jesus, Part 1 (John 15:12–17)

God’s Provision

See how the flowers of the field grow. . . . Will he not much more clothe you? Matthew 6:28, 30

We trekked deeper and deeper into the forest, venturing farther and farther away from the village at Yunnan Province, China. After an hour or so, we heard the deafening roar of the water. Quickening our steps, we soon reached a clearing and were greeted by a beautiful view of a curtain of white water cascading over the gray rocks. Spectacular!

Our hiking companions, who lived in the village we had left an hour earlier, decided that we should have a picnic. Great idea, but where was the food? We hadn’t brought any. My friends disappeared into the surrounding forest and returned with an assortment of fruits and vegetables and even some fish. The shuixiangcai looked strange with its small purple flowers, but tasted heavenly!

I was reminded that creation declares God’s extravagant provision. We can see proof of His generosity in “all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit” (Genesis 1:12 nlt). God has made and given us for food “every seed-bearing plant . . . and every tree that has fruit with seed in it” (v. 29).

Do you sometimes find it hard to trust God to meet your needs? Why not take a walk in nature? Let what you see remind you of Jesus’ assuring words: “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need [all these things]” (Matthew 6:31–32).

By:  Poh Fang Chia

Reflect & Pray

How has God provided for you in the past? How can you continue to lean on His provision in the present?

Loving Father, You’re a generous provider. Help me to trust You to meet my needs.

Becoming a Patient Person

Acts 25

Continuing our discussion on patience, we can learn a lot about the topic from the story of Paul’s trial. Instead of letting his accusers stir him up, the apostle patiently went through the legal process. He refrained from attacking the opposition or decrying the injustice of the charges. And eventually Paul’s peaceful manner won favor with the governor and earned him a hearing for the gospel (Acts 25:24-25).

We need the Lord’s help to grow in patience like Paul. This will involve our …

• Thoughts. We should try to shift our attention away from circumstances and onto our heavenly Father. His Spirit will help us gain the right perspective.

• Emotions. When we notice negative feelings, it’s good to pause and ask the Holy Spirit to guide our reactions. Then we can request that He empower us to respond in a godly manner.

• Speech. Pray for self-control over your tongue. A timely word can defuse a situation (Prov. 15:18).

The Lord will answer our prayers and provide what we need, just as He did for Paul when the apostle faced Festus and King Agrippa. Despite the injustice of those situations, Paul remained unprovoked. Imagine what God will do through you as you grow in the virtue of patience.

Our Rock of Salvation

“He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4)

Here in the song of Moses, which God instructed him to write for the children of Israel as they were about to enter the Promised Land (note Deuteronomy 31:19), is the first of at least 40 references in the Bible to God as the Rock. There are four others just in this song. In verse 15, He is the “Rock of [Israel’s] salvation.” In verse 18, He is “the Rock that begat thee.” See also verses 30 and 31.

Note some of the other wonderful metaphors picturing God as our great foundation stone. He is “my strong rock” in Psalm 31:2 and “the rock that is higher than I” in Psalm 61:2. In Psalm 62:7, He is “the rock of my strength” and “the rock of my refuge” in Psalm 94:22. Isaiah calls Him “a great rock in a weary land” and “the rock whence ye are hewn” (Isaiah 32:2; 51:1).

During the wilderness wanderings, the Israelites were supplied continually with water from the rock, and the apostle Paul tells us “that spiritual Rock that followed them…was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). And, of course, Christ told His disciples that Peter’s confession of Himself as the “Son of the living God” was the Rock upon which He would build His church (Matthew 16:16, 18).

But to unbelievers He is “the stone which the builders rejected” (Matthew 21:42), “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word” (1 Peter 2:8). “Therefore,” said Jesus, “whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24-25). HMM

Ballad of Burnout — Psalm 102

Worn Out

Then the nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth Your glory, for the Lord will rebuild Zion; He will appear in His glory. He will pay attention to the prayer of the destitute and will not despise their prayer… “Long ago You established the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; all of them will wear out like clothing. You will change them like a garment, and they will pass away. But You are the same, and Your years will never end. Your servants’ children will dwell [securely], and their offspring will be established before You” (vv. 15-17, 25-28).

My wife Karen is an astonishingly beautiful lady whose clothes make an artistic statement. A person with a strong sense of style and color, her tastes run from sporty and classic to elegant and sophisticated. With her fair Nordic coloring, I love to see her in pink. In any gathering she stands out, and I’m always proud of her. Whatever the occasion she’s always appropriately dressed.

But clothing, no matter how fine the fabric or how well constructed, eventually wears out or becomes outdated. In this passage the psalmist calls our attention to the fact that even the heavens, that vast canopy covering the earth, will “change them like a garment” (v. 26). The Lord will change them (heaven and earth) “like a garment” and “they will pass away” (v. 26).

Karen is no clotheshorse. While she enjoys dressing in good taste and with a kind of flair, she’s a person of great spiritual sensitivity and depth. She knows as well as this psalmist that the only covering that will endure is Jesus Christ, who clothes us in his righteousness.

We can have confidence that the Lord knows the deepest needs and desires of our heart and will respond accordingly. Styles may change—in fashion and other art forms, including music! Only our great God remains the same, from generation to generation, world without end!

Personal Prayer

Lord, Karen and I bring our pitiful wardrobe to you. In your sight our garments are as filthy rags. We rejoice that we will be dressed in your righteousness throughout all eternity!

Fullness—Only in God

To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ—to Him be the glory forever! Amen.—Romans 16:27

The subject of God’s knowledge must be linked to His wisdom, and it is this aspect of the divine nature that we consider now. What does the Bible mean when it describes God as wise? Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge to the best possible ends. This ability is found in its fullness only in God. God is never other than wise in everything He does. Knowledge without wisdom would be pathetic, a broken reed. Wisdom without knowledge would be inoperative and quite frightening. God’s boundless knowledge and wisdom are perfect in every way, and it is this that makes Him utterly worthy of our trust.

One of the great difficulties we have in the Christian life is trusting the divine wisdom. We can recognize wisdom only when we see the end to which it is moving. Yet God often calls us to trust Him when we can’t see the end that He is pursuing. And then in such times we have to ask ourselves: “How much do I trust Him?”

Before I began speaking to a Christian youth group once, I asked if someone could offer a definition of God’s wisdom. One young man said: “God’s wisdom is the ability to get us through scrapes and difficulties without getting hurt.” I gave the young man full marks for attempting a definition, but I had to show him that this was not what divine wisdom is all about. The goal behind divine wisdom is not to make us happy but to make us holy. And sometimes pursuing that goal may involve us in considerable pain.

Prayer

Father, here I am again—at the road less traveled. Help me tread the road ahead knowing that whatever pain You allow me to feel is for my good. I do not welcome it, but I do not run from it either, as long as You stay with me. Amen.

Further Study

Ps 104:1-24; Pr 3:19; Rm 11:33

Where is God’s wisdom evidenced?

What was Paul’s conclusion?

Why Sorrow?

Hebrews 2:10

Someone asks, “But why all this suffering—why should it be permitted at all? Is it not bad for the world, and so bad that God, if He be God, should prevent it?” Well, that is a difficult question. But it is, I admit, a fair one. It is, of course, a very old one. Many stricken hearts have asked it in all ages. Many fine minds in every age from the time of Job have tried to answer it. And the real difficulty about answering it satisfactorily is that there is no one answer. It is a subject on which we cannot generalize.

Nevertheless, two principal explanations of sorrow and suffering do stand forth in the history of mankind—two answers to that insistent inquiry, “Why should this or that agony be permitted in the scheme of a world created and governed by a wise and benevolent God?”

The first is that sorrow and pain are the first fruits of sin. By this it is not, of course, meant that every sorrow is a direct penalty for some particular wrong. No doubt some sorrows are. If, for example, a father neglects to train and discipline his boys and they grow up and rebel against him and break his heart, he is largely the cause of his own grief, and his neglect of his duty finds him out. Or if a woman neglects her health, or takes drugs or lives an unnatural life, she brings trouble upon herself.

It would, however, be absurd to say that all sorrow has this character. For it is evident that while much of it has, much of it has not. Suffering goes on its way to afflict many who have no responsibility for the wrong which brought it about. This is one of the most hideous facts about evil; but the responsibility for it is no more to be placed upon God than upon any other sufferer. He is one of the many who suffer from the consequences of sin—perhaps it will turn out at last that he was the greatest sufferer of all!

Why, then, is it all permitted? I answer not for punishment, but for discipline, for instruction, for warning, for training, and for turning men’s hearts away from the earthly to the heavenly, from the human to the Divine. Unnumbered multitudes have realized in suffering a gift of priceless value, renewing the soul—refining character, and developing sympathy, humility, patience, strength—and bringing with it a revelation of God and His grace and power which had before seemed impossible. Suffering is permitted, not only to refine our spirits, not only to strengthen our faith, but to make us perfect for the work of saving others—of reaching other hearts, of carrying the heavy burdens of others, of healing the wounds and woes around us.

Bramwell Booth, Life and Religion