Saturday, September 17, 2011

Are you REALLY a Friend of God?

"I am a friend of God, I am a friend of Gooood, I am a friend of God; He calls me friend!"
That's a great song...sometimes.  But there are times when I don't like it at all!  Does that surprise you?  The reason is because it causes me to check myself.  Do we really think about what that means?  Can we really call ourselves friends of God?  The verse that automatically comes to my mind that distinguishes God between a master and a friend is John 15:15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. I'm sure some people as they read this post are thinking, Of course I'm a friend of God!  Me and Jesus are tight!  But before you say that, think carefully.  It's a big deal to be called a friend of God.  And just because you're 'saved' or a 'Christian' doesn't automatically mean that you're God's friend.  In fact, other than that verse I just mentioned, there are only two people in the Bible who are called 'Friends of God'.
Of course, there are a bunch of typical examples of the difference between knowing about someone and actually knowing someone, that come to my mind as I write this.  I might know a lot ABOUT the president, but if I walked into a room, and walked up to Barack Obama, he wouldn't know who I was.  And if I started acting like I was his buddy, it would be inappropriate and disrespectful.  A person may know a lot about their favorite celebrity, and many times I'll hear them talk about them as if that person were really their friend.  (Side note: A lot of people are that way with God, acting like they're real close to Him, when they're not.  I know individuals who throw around the phrase, 'the Lord told me' very loosely.  I used to be kind of free with the phrase, 'The Lord said', too, using it even if I just had a thought while I was praying.  But then I read Jeremiah 23, and it scared me.  I don't want to say, 'God sent me', if He really didn't.  It's serious to say that God said something.  Now, I'm very careful using that phrase.  Even if I think God impressed something on me, I'll try to stay away from using those words, because if I'm going to tell someone God spoke to me, they need to be able to be absolutely sure that He did.  Anyways, back to my celebrity example.)  There are people who know the minutest details about that celebrity's life, from what he eats, to what she wears, to what time he brushes his teeth...and if something bad happened in that celeb's life, I know people who would mourn for that person like they would for a close friend.  But if they happened to meet that celebrity on the street...the celeb wouldn't know who they were.  That person doesn't really KNOW him.  We don't know that celebrity's inner thoughts and feelings.
What is a real friend?  I've thought a lot about this before.  Call me cynical, but I think true friends are rare...even (or maybe especially) in this facebook age, where we call all our acquaintances friends.  But I couldn't share certain things with probably 90 percent of my facebook friend's list. (Yes, yes, except for YOU whoever's reading this of my friends.)  A friend should be someone you can confide in, and trust, and share your burdens with.  Now translate that into your relationship with God.  K, now people are thinking, "Well, sure!  I can confide in, and trust, and share my burdens with God!"  But that's not what I mean.  Flip it around.  Can God confide in and trust and share HIS burdens with YOU?  That's the question.
The interesting thing about the president is that even though I don't know him, I still have a relationship to him.  The relationship of a president and a citizen.  I'm still under the president's jurisdiction, whether I know him and can influence his decisions or not.  What he decides to do while in office still affects me.  I'm still under his protection as commander-in-chief.  But I don't KNOW him.  I don't know what goes on in his mind on a daily basis.  I'm not his friend.
Compare that with the examples in the Bible.  Remember, earlier I said there are only two? (Which, of course, isn't to say there aren't others that apply, but these are the only two specifically mentioned.)  Abraham.  The thing that comes to my mind is an account in Genesis when God is standing with two angels and asks, "Should I show Abraham what I'm about to do to this city?"  God revealed His plans to Abraham, and Abraham was even able to influence the Almighty's decisions!  That's being a friend with God.  In a very respectful way, of course.  I was just reading a book called "The Fear of the Lord" by John Bevere, and he emphasizes that in order to be a friend of God, you have to have a healthy fear of God.  This is shown by Jesus' statement, "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I have commanded you" and an account in Genesis 22.  God told Abraham to offer up his only son.  And only because Abraham loved God more than the dream God had given him, Abraham did it.  Abraham had a fear of God.
The second example is Moses.  Psalm 103:7 says, He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.  The Bible says God talked to Moses face to face like a friend talks to a friend!  That's crazy!  A lot of times, we fall into the category of the children of Israel.  We see God's acts.  We see what He's doing.  We see the parting of the Red Sea, etc.  We see the what.  But Moses knew God's ways.  He knew the why behind the what.  That's why you can see the intimate conversations Moses has with God.  He was legitimately God's friend.  Not knowing God's heart can result in the kind of golden calf thing the Israelites took part in.  But the fear of the Lord endures forever.  And it's when we have a fear for God that we honor Him best.
So now you're wondering about me.  Do I consider myself 'a friend of God'?  I'd like to give you a quick 'yes.'  But, honestly, I don't know that God considers ME a friend.  There have been times in the past when I've felt God's burdens for people, (on a small scale, I'm sure, but I have felt His burdens and His pain in some instances) but not for a while.  I want my relationship with God to grow to the extent that He can trust me enough to share what He's thinking about with the extent that I'm not so wrapped up in myself that I can't hear what God wants to say.  How about you?
Once, when I wasn't feeling God's presence, I was at the altar and I began crying out and accusing God.  "You said You'd never leave me or forsake me!  You said You'd love me forever! You're supposed to be like a loving Father, to the extent that even if I turn away from You, You'll never turn from me!  You said You'd never leave me no matter what!" Etcetera, etcetera.  Then all of a sudden, this gentle thought dropped in my head.  "You once said that about Me."  And I stopped.  It was true.  There were times in moments of rapture at God's presence, when I had said similar things to God.  Even if He forsook me, I should keep loving Him.  And this verse came to me, also in John.  Joh 14:28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.  The disciples at this point were focused on themselves, because THEY were going to suffer when Jesus left.  But Jesus says, "If you loved me, you would rejoice..."  True love is wanting the other person's good more than your own.  Placing them above yourself.  The same is true with God.  To be a true friend of God...our focus has to be on Him and what His plans are.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Scene from Jesus' Childhood

Have you ever wondered what Jesus' childhood was like?  No...??  Well, I have...  All we know from the gospels is how he was born and a short incident in the temple when he was 12.  Other than that, it's silent until he's like 30!  What was going on?  We know that he was human in all points like we are, so he probably had a fairly "normal" childhood going through all the stuff children normally go through.  But we also know that he was without sin!  So he was a sinless child!  That's quite a concept!  Well, I was reading in a history book one day about a town being built close to Nazareth during the time when Jesus would have been growing up.  The book said that Joseph, as a carpenter, would have likely had lots of work there.  So it captured my imagination, and just for fun, I wrote this conversation between Jesus and Joseph which I'm going to share with you...
(p.s. I couldn't decide whether to use Jesus or Yeshua, and the result is that I use both, and it doesn't really make sense, but just bear with me.  And don't judge me to harshly...I don't consider this my finest work or anything.  And it's not that exciting...just a conversation between him and Joseph.  Okay, I'm done with the disclaimers.)

Joseph pounded away with his hammer, beads of sweat forming on his forehead underneath the strap holding his head covering in place.  He stopped, and motioned for the water flask, which Jesus handed to him.  Closing his eyes, he took a long drink, and listened to the sounds of Sepphoris clamoring all around him.  The murmur of conversation, and haggling going on in a nearby marketplace.  The sounds of the construction project they were working on.  He heard the distinct bray of a donkey, and the plod of camels' hooves, as a caravan passed by.  A man called out in a foreign language to a friend.  A Roman's chariot drove by, going at a quick pace.
Joseph finished his swig, and opened his eyes, wiping his mouth.  As he handed the flask back to Jesus, some Gentile women with heavy make-up, and uncovered heads walked by, making provocative gestures, jewelry jangling from their wrists.  A few of the Jewish men on the job stopped working to watch the seductive show.  One of them sidled up to them, and made a lewd comment.
Joseph shook his head in disgust, and turned back to his work.  "Yeshua, you know how important it is for the Jews to stay away from Gentile affairs, particularly in marriage."  Joseph looked pointedly at him.
Jesus was looking sadly at the man talking to the women.  "Haven't they read, 'Do not give your daughters to their sons, nor take your sons for their daughters?'  Don't they know it will turn their hearts away?"  He paused.  Then with a softer voice said, "Like Solomon."
Joseph raised his eyebrows at his son.  His knowledge and the way he retained Scriptures never ceased to amaze him.  Though he taught the boy as much as he knew, Jesus seemed to grasp so much more than the carpenter thought possible.  And the way he had said 'Solomon', just was almost as though he knew Solomon personally, and was lamenting the king's poor choices, rather than talking about a dead king he'd heard about from the Tanahk.
Joseph shook his head, and kept hammering.  "And you know, son, even within our own people, there's cause for caution.  We're different...our family is set apart."  He grunted as he pounded in the last nail, and reached for the next piece of timber.  "We're of the Davidic line.  Which means we're the great king's descendants.  And we have to keep the royal bloodline pure."  He turned and looked at Jesus' bright eyes boring into him, and added, "So when you look for a wife, son, be sure to look for a good woman of the tribe of Judah."
He smiled and motioned for the pouch of nails.  Jesus bent down to grab it.  The thought crossed Joseph's mind that he should possibly lighten up the conversation.  "What kind of woman would you like to marry, hmm?  You're getting closer to that age."
Jesus shook his head solemnly, as he handed Joseph a handful of nails.  "I must be about my Father's business."
Joseph laughed.  "Well now, you can be a carpenter and still get married.  Why, look at me.  You don't have to devote all your time to work, you know."  He grinned at Jesus.
The boy cocked his head to one side, and a smile touched the corners of his mouth.  Then he turned, and his eye seemed to catch something. "What is that building?" he asked, pointing to a structure behind them.
Well, I guess he's done with that conversation, Joseph thought, slightly amused.  He glanced over to see what Jesus was talking about then grimaced.  "Ah, that's one of the towers being built for Herod Antipas' new palace."  He turned back to his work.
"Why is it only half-finished when the other buildings around it are completed?" Jesus asked.
Joseph grunted, steadying the beam he was working on.  "Because the builders didn't count the cost.  Didn't have enough funds to finish it.  You'd think if a king has enough sense to plan out his army going to war, he'd plan out the cost of his extravagant palace.  But no.  That tower's become a laughingstock among the people."
Jesus nodded.  "We should count the cost in our lives too, shouldn't we?"
Joseph looked quizzically at him.
Jesus smiled, and hopped down from the ledge he was sanding to help Joseph hold the beam in place.  "Some men don't marry for the kingdom of heaven's sake, because they count the cost of their lives.  He that is able to receive it, let him receive it."  He smiled, and added, "You know, the angels in heaven don't marry, and they get along just fine."
The beam tipped a little, and Joseph caught it, as he chuckled at the boy's insight.  "I suppose so."
Jesus continued, "but you know the wife I would want? I would want her to be pure, undefiled, and unspotted.  A chaste virgin.  Holy, and without blemish."  Suddenly, Jesus lowered his head, and murmured, "Not a treacherous harlot...with a whore's forehead."
Joseph looked at him sharply, in surprise.  "Now, what in HaShem's name made you say that?!"
Jesus didn't answer, but reached for another hammer, and pounded in the last nail on the other side of the beam, then returned to the ledge he had been sanding.
Joseph's eyes trailed after the child.  He seemed to remember similar language to what the boy had said in the prophet Jeremiah's writings.  But surely the child hadn't been thinking of that!  Sometimes the things he said astonished him.  Other times he couldn't make sense of them.  There certainly was something different about this boy.  The one the angel spoke of...

Monday, September 5, 2011


This may be appropriate for Labor Day since it's a day to honor the "social and economic achievements of workers." Or it may be entirely inappropriate, depending on how you look at it.  You see, this is a thought God has been dealing with me about lately through various means, but it's a sticky subject because while IT is a good thing, IT can be very bad if your motive is wrong.  I know that's kind of a cryptic way to start, (particularly since you may not know what IT is), but hopefully I'll be a little clearer as I go on.
I thought I would open this blog post with these verses.
James 4:13-16  Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:  (14)  Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.  (15)  For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.  (16)  But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.
Over the last few weeks, I have been reading two amazing books that were written in the 1800's by someone called E.D.E.N Southworth, titled Ishmael and Self Raised.  And I'm not just saying they were amazing because I'm interning with the publishing company who republished them!  (Although, if you do want to buy them, you could go to and use my code, GUILD02, in the promo code box so I get credit. ;) haha just kidding about the credit thing, but seriously, you should look into finding these books somehow and reading them.)
In these books there is a lot of great, life-changing material, with admirable character role models, but to keep this relevant to my post, there was one character in particular that struck me, not as a role model, but as someone you SHOULDN'T follow.  The character's name was Claudia and in the book, she is part of a high class in society and has everything a girl could want, but she still wants more.  She wants to marry into an even higher class of society.  And so she consents to marry someone she doesn't love, even though there's someone else of a lower class but of a higher character whom she really cares for, just for the sake of the title this man can give her.  Now bear with me through this soap-opera-sounding explanation.  There's a particular scene in which just before the wedding Claudia goes to her cousin and confesses the state of mind in which she is doing it.  Her cousin begs and urges her not to go through with the marriage, but Claudia is determined and in the course of the conversation she says: "I must fulfill my destiny....I am in the power of the whirlpool or the demon."  Her cousin is horrified, and answers, "The name of the demon is Ambition, Claudia; and the name of the whirlpool is Ruin."  And Claudia responds, "Yes! it is ambition that possesses my very soul.  None other but the sins by which angels fell would have power to draw my soul from heaven."  Now, as you read the entire scene, which is much more heart-wrenching than the few lines I've shared here, especially since you already feel for the characters so much by this point of the book, (but I had a reason for sharing those particular lines); but as you read, your heart is screaming at Claudia to stop what she's doing.  Her total deprivation in her resolution seems so obvious, and it seems so clear that what she should do is lay aside her ambition and do what's right!  The reader can see that what she's after is so fleeting and temporal, and what she's giving up is so essential and eternal!  And yet, ambition seems to have such a strong hold on her!  I won't tell you, of course, whether or not she actually marries the guy, because that would spoil the book for you!  (I've probably already given away too much!)  But this scene left an impression on my mind, and I wanted to share it with you to make my point.
So coming back to the point, I was mowing the lawn the other day, which is a great reprieve a lot of times in my day, because it's so boring and gives me a chance to just think about things, but I was thinking of Claudia and the scene with ambition.   Now, while I was reading the scene, I certainly didn't identify myself with Claudia!  In fact, I thought she was acting idiotically, and I couldn't believe she was doing it!  (Yes, I get into my books.)  I rarely identify myself with the characters who mess things up...(I usually try to see myself as the hero, you know).  But as different thoughts were going through my head, God convicted me.   One of the reasons I've been writing so much about prayer is because I have been lacking in prayer over the last few months, and I've felt a revived sense of urgency to pray.  But these last couple months have been extremely busy for me!  I have been traveling all over, competing in the national Bible Quizzing tournament in Ohio, attending the Lamplighter Guild in New York, finishing up high school, starting college, helping out with various programs at my church, doing odd jobs to get a little bit of money, etc., etc.,.  And I started to realize how self-centered my focus has been.  I have had certain goals in my mind all summer...the Lamplighter Guild, Nationals, etc.  This is the time in my life when I'm beginning college, thinking about my career, preparing for my future.  And the word 'my' has been very prominent in what I've been doing.  In my head, I rationalize it, in that I'll be able to do great things for God once I attain these goals...but there are times and places where I can see that in my spirit, Ambition was rearing it's ugly head.
Let me define what I mean by 'Ambition' before I go any farther. has two definitions of Ambition that I want to point out.


an earnest desire for some type of achievement or distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment: Too much ambition caused him to be disliked by his colleagues.
desire for work or activity; energy: I awoke feeling tired and utterly lacking in ambition.

The first kind of ambition is the kind Claudia represents in my mind.  The second definition is the kind that is desirable to have.  It's the kind that Proverbs talks about over and over and over.  "Seest thou a man diligent in his business?  he shall stand before kings."   Interestingly, it's also personified in another character in the book, the hero, Ishmael Worth.  (We know he's the hero, because that's who the author named the book after.)  Ishmael is born in very, very humble circumstances, but through hard work, honesty, perseverance, and dedication he rises to a position of greatness.  This is also ambition--he desired this position and worked hard to get it.  But there's a difference between the ambitions of Ishmael and Claudia.  I'm drawn to the one and repelled by the other.  Why?  I believe it's because of the other striking thing about Ishmael, which is his servant's heart.  He is constantly serving others, and thinking of others and God's righteous causes before his own.  Several examples of this are given in the book which I won't give away, but I believe that this is the fundamental difference in the two types of ambition.  My pastor preached about it this last Sunday.  We are supposed to have ambition and work hard and be diligent...but the end result is supposed to be to glorify God and be about our Father's business.  Our attitude isn't supposed to be that we are working hard to achieve great things for ourselves!  But that we're working hard to glorify God and to serve others.  We must have the same attitude as John the Baptist-- "He must increase; I must decrease."
Claudia's ambition was to gain great fame and attention and wealth and prestige for herself.  Ishmael's was to attain a great station so that he could serve God and others.
We must humble ourselves in the sight of God.  I talked about this in my last post, but it bears repeating because it is such an important concept in God's kingdom.  When we are out to please and glorify ourselves, the result is that we will do the opposite.  Two passages of Scripture really bear this out to me.  Proverbs 16:18-19  Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.  (19)  Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.  And Jesus' words in Luke 14:11  For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
So as I begin this internship with Lamplighter, and work to get my college degree, and study for Bible Quizzing for next year, and develop relationships with people, and teach Bible studies, and get involved with a theater group, and attend an apprenticeship weekend, the Lord is reminding me: don't be about yourself.  Focus on God.  It is better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud because that's where God is at.  And I don't want to enter the Promised Land and not have the Presence of God go up with me.
One last passage of Scripture before I quit.  (Of course, you can stop reading at any time, but I'll try to keep my explanation short anyway.)  I read this the other day in the book of Jeremiah.  It's a short chapter...just five verses, and it's addressed to Baruch, who was kind of like Jeremiah's secretary.  But the last verse has a very profound, simple, important message.  The land is about to be destroyed because of Judah's sins, and God is very angry and grieved with the people of Israel.  So God is doing a work in the land, and yet it seems like Baruch is just thinking of himself and his ruined plans.  He's upset because God has brought about grief and sorrow in his life.  (That's true for us many times, too.  We get upset at God when we suffer, even if we know it's part of His plan.)  And at the end of the chapter God asks him, "Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not."  I believe that applies to us as well.  And God's reason when He speaks to Baruch is that more intense suffering is coming on the land.  But if we have the spirit of John the Baptist, like I talked about earlier, or the Apostle Peter when he writes about their attitude of rejoicing in suffering in 1 Peter...then it won't matter that our plans to prosper ourselves were foiled.  Because it's not about seeking great things for ourselves.  It's about seeking Him.  And if you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things shall be added unto you.  I'll close out with a few verses from 1 Peter, and that last Scripture in Jeremiah, but I strongly encourage you to read the whole chapters.  (Come on, the one from Jeremiah is only 5 verses!  And 1 Peter is just awesome.)  I know God has been dealing with me about this stuff.  Maybe it's a good reminder for someone else who's reading this, too.
Jeremiah 45:5  And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.
1Peter 4:1-2  Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;  (2)  That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God....1Peter 4:11  If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
1Pe 5:5-6  Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.  (6)  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

God bless you.