Purpose

A blog that focuses on the quest to know and please God in a constantly increasing way. The upward journey never ends. My prayer is that this blog will reflect a heart that seeks God and that it will encourage others who share the same heart desire.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Basic Questions Applied (Psalm 23)

Last week I presented five basic questions that can help to move Bible reading from mindless routine to meaningful communion with God. They do this by giving the reader something to look for as he reads. There are other approaches that can be taken in Bible study and other questions that can be asked, but I believe these are good questions to help the reader identify the main idea of a passage of Scripture. These simple questions can be especially helpful to those who are just starting to read the Bible on their own or for those whose devotional time has previously consisted of simply reading a passage.

I recommend choosing just one of these questions, maybe two; then practice using that question (or questions) on a regular basis. As you will notice from the sample study below, the answers to each of these five questions end up expressing esentially the same truth. (They ought to do this, because the passage has one basic meaning as intended by God.) The different questions are simply different ways of approaching the passage and of organizing one’s thoughts.

With the question in mind before reading, answering the question during or after reading requires just a few extra minutes. Those few minutes, however, can make a huge difference in the amount of profit received from the time in the Word. The difference may not be obvious after one or two days, but it will emerge when this thoughtful examination is done on a regular basis. Writing down the answers is highly recommended – not only because it helps the reader to clearly formulate his answers, but also because it provides a ready reminder of truth and a potential springboard for future study.

The paragraphs below show what answers to the five questions might look like when applied to Psalm 23.

Why did God put this passage in the Bible? What is it supposed to teach?
This passage illustrates how completely God meets every need of His children. It shows how He meets practical needs and how He gives guidance, protection, and comfort. God gives blessings beyond mere needs, and His wonderful care will never end. The passage teaches Christians that they have a caring God they can trust and depend on.

How can I summarize this passage in one to three sentences?
God is like a shepherd who carefully cares for his sheep. God supplies His children with everything they need and keeps them safe in the face of danger. God’s blessings extend from this life into eternity.

What does this passage teach me about God?
God cares for me. God meets all my needs. God leads me in good and peaceful paths. God strengthens me when I am weary. God is with me in the darkest times. God gives me comfort. No threat or enemy can stop God from doing what He wants to do. God gives blessings to His children. God gives blessing in this life and for eternity.

What things can I pray based on this passage?
Father, supply X physical need that I have. Lead me peacefully. Restore my soul, as I am fainting. Guide me so that I will stay on the right path and not stray from You. Walk with me through this very frightening and threatening stage of life. Help me not to fear the situation I face.

Father, thank You for supplying X need. Thank You for Your guidance. Thank You for protecting me. Thank You for the many blessings You have given me. Thank You for the blessings of heaven I can look forward to.

How should this passage impact my life?
I need to look to God as the source that can meet my needs. I need to stop worrying about how the money/food/clothing/car/house/job will be provided. I need to trust God and have confidence that He will supply. In the decisions that are before me, I need to look to God for guidance, asking that He would show me the path that is pleasing to Him. Instead of being afraid in this time of unemployment/illness/opposition/uncertainty/family struggle, I need to be aware of God’s presence with me and of His ability to protect. I need to thank God for the many blessings that He showers on me every day.

Each of these answers is fairly brief, but there is not a right or wrong length. Someone else’s answers might be more concise or more thorough. A single statement above could be expanded into a full paragraph or even a lengthy discussion with God. There doesn’t have to be a limit. Prolonged focus simply means deeper interaction and communion with God.

“Blessed are You, O LORD; teach me Your statutes.” Psalm 119:12 (NASB)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Write It Down

My first devotional entry
September 1: Philippians 1
     1)    key verses – v. 6 (key to Christian life), v. 12, v. 21
     2)   Paul talks a lot about suffering and how he uses it to grow and to win others rather than to get discouraged.  He bases his entire life on Christ.
     3)   applications: v. 3 – I should be thankful for Christian friends.  v. 6 – God has put me here, and I must trust Him to work in my life and provide for me.  v. 12-14 – I should not cause trials to make me complain and gripe and have a bad attitude.  I should accept them from God as ways to help me grow.  v. 21 – I need to try to make Christ my purpose for living, and not always dwell on other things.  He should be my everything.  v. 27 – I should eliminate things in my life that are not becoming to a Christian – i.e. attitudes, bad language, griping, strife with others.

When I started to read the Bible for myself, someone gave me very simple guidance to help my time be profitable. She encouraged me to get a notebook, choose a book of the Bible, read a chapter each day, and write down what I learned. Each day I wrote down key verses from the passage, a brief summary of the passage, and personal applications.

This simple plan was effective, because it helped me to do the three important things mentioned in my previous blog entry. It helped me to read with direction, as I read through a book from start to finish. It helped me to read with comprehension. In order to write a summary, I had to understand what I was reading. It also helped me to read with purpose, as I looked for key verses and for how the passage should affect my life.

One thing she didn’t tell me, but that I found helpful for my spiritual health, happened very naturally. Within two months, the way I wrote started to change. The application section started getting longer, and it started to take the form of prayer. Instead of “I should . . . ” and “I need to . . . ,” my words changed to things like, “Help me, Lord, to . . . ” and “Thank You, Lord, for . . . .” In other words, what started as a seeking of truth quickly became personal, as God spoke to my individual needs through His Word and as I responded to God about what He was showing me. That’s what time in the Word of God can and should do. Writing down what one learns is a very helpful tool, as it forces the reader to clearly identify what he has learned, rather than sliding by with an assumption that understanding has happened.

“Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it.”  Psalm 119:35 (NASB)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Teen-Aged Aimlessness

Though saved as a young teen, I never read the Bible faithfully on my own until my second year of college. As a result, I didn’t grow much as a Christian. I didn’t profit from any private interaction with the Word of God; even in public settings like church, I was rarely convicted or challenged. I don’t remember making any significant decisions during those years. I sang hymns rather mindlessly, and my favorites were based on melody rather than message. I read voraciously, but only fiction and Christian romance, with an occasional biography thrown in. Life was mostly about having fun (and working hard in school). My discussions about spiritual things, when I had them, were to argue about inconsequential issues or to demonstrate my Bible knowledge. I rarely thought about the Bible outside of church.

I guess I thought that was normal, but when I got to college, I began to see Christians my own age who were different. I saw students who prayed and who talked about spiritual things. They shared Bible verses with each other and things God was teaching them. They sang like they meant it. They talked about service they had done for God. In my mind, they were weird. I considered them to be super-spiritual. Because this type of person was so unusual to me, I doubted their sincerity. Were these people for real? Did they really mean the things they said? I didn’t understand them, and sometimes they actually annoyed me. These people had obviously started climbing spiritually sooner than I had, and they were far enough ahead of me that they didn’t even make sense or seem reasonable to me.

So why hadn’t I started sooner? Why had I not spent time alone in the Word? It wasn’t because I didn’t know I was supposed to. I heard more than one message both at church and at my Christian school about the need to read the Bible on a personal level. I knew that good Christians read the Bible every day. In fact, at times it seems I was bombarded with that theme: Have your devotions. A few times I even attempted it. I don’t know that I ever tried because of a strong passion. Maybe after a particular sermon, “everyone” was responding with new resolve, and I joined the excitement. Maybe it was partly my inclination to conform to expectations. I felt guilty about not doing something I was supposed to do.

On the few occasions when I did resolve to read the Bible daily, my attempts usually didn’t last more than a few days. I think my longest attempt lasted less than two weeks. Why didn’t I keep it up? In short, I lacked vision. I didn’t understand what time in the Bible could be. My goal was to establish a habit so that I would automatically read the Bible every day, just like a good Christian should. So if I missed a single day, I had failed already; being successful would require starting all over. My objective was faithfulness in the activity; Bible reading was a Christian task to check off, rather than an opportunity for spiritual profit. I don’t think anyone ever helped me to understand the real benefit of devotions. I was just told that I was supposed to do it.

There was something more damaging, however. The Word of God is powerful, and had I ever continued reading faithfully, I would have discovered the benefit on my own. Unfortunately, I didn’t stick with it because I didn’t see benefit, and I didn’t see benefit because I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I don’t remember anyone ever telling me how to read the Bible. The only thing I knew to do was to read a chapter every day; if I was in a hurry, I could read less than a chapter, but that was kind of cheating. On a really bad day, I could read a single verse and appease my conscience that I had at least done something to check off my duty. The sad reality was that a single verse could take as little as a few seconds, and I could speed read even an entire chapter in a minute or two.

Reading under these conditions, it’s no wonder that I didn’t grow or see the value of time in the Word. I was reading without comprehension, without direction, and without purpose. With such shallow input and unsatisfying results, it’s not surprising that I never remained faithful. I viewed my devotional time as profitless and, with my methods, I guess it was. I wasn’t gaining anything because I had no tools or procedures to help me learn.

My experience, which mimics that of many others, presents the problem. What is the solution? Learning how to profit from the Bible is a life-long pursuit that could fill many printed volumes. Future posts will explore more in-depth ideas, but for now, let’s examine a few simple tips that can take Bible reading from profitless to meaningful.

Read with comprehension. Speed reading is not allowed. It’s better to read one verse and know what it says than to skim over an entire chapter. Read slowly and thoroughly enough that you can summarize the passage or restate it in your own words.

Read with direction. Do something consistent. Don’t bounce around from day to day, reading randomly from wherever your Bible happens to fall open. Work systematically through a book of the Bible, a section of Scripture, or a particular topic.

Read with purpose. If you look for nothing when you read, you will probably find it - so look for something when you read. The questions below can help to guide your reading. Choose one or perhaps two of these questions, and use them as a guide. This practice can help you learn to read the Bible in a profitable way that will encourage faithful reading.
·         Why did God put this passage in the Bible? What is it supposed to teach?
·         How can I summarize this passage in one to three sentences?
·         What does this passage teach me about God?
·         What things can I pray based on this passage?
·         How should this passage impact my life?

Next weekend’s post will demonstrate answering these questions based on Psalm 23.

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.” Psalm 119:18 (NASB)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Prayer Answered With Trials


                      Dare to Pray
I’ve prayed, “O God, make me like Christ,”
And “Will You do Your work in me?”
“Restore and cause Your face to shine,”
And “Teach me, Lord, to do Your will.”
 
Such prayers as these are Your delight.
Your interest in these things is great
Because You long to see me grow
And Christ is praised when I’m like Him.

And when I pray You’d make me grow,
There’s just one way to bring results.
The process is through trials and tests;
Great vict’ries come through pushing hard.

So when You work, Your favor’s shown.
I can’t resist or even fret,
But see tests as Your means to teach
And take the methods that You send.

I cannot quibble with Your plan -
Must let You answer in Your way.
Each day I must see everything
As opportunity to grow.

If I’d known what my prayers would mean
And how You’d bring results about!
But even now, knowing the way,
“Do what it takes,” I dare to pray.

We have often heard the statement that if we are going to pray for patience, then we should expect trials. Praying for spiritual growth can be somewhat the same. This should not surprise us. When we want to grow physical muscles, we need to have a good diet and work against resistance. We build our spiritual muscles in the same way. We need a good diet – lots of the Word of God. We also need to work against resistance.

The real-life challenges provide opportunities for us to strengthen our muscles as we put into practice the things we have learned during our time in the Word. The trials stretch us and cause pain just like physical exercise does. They are also effective just like physical exercise. Is the pain worth the profit? Absolutely. From a somewhat selfish standpoint, our growth through trials reassures us that our faith is alive and real. Better than that, increasing maturity helps us to better face the realities of life and fosters a sweet, peaceful communion with God. Most importantly, it points others to God, the only source capable of producing such growth and change.

If we pray for spiritual maturity, will trials come? Most likely. We must dare to pray for it anyway, and then allow God to do His work in His way.

“It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” Psalm 119:71 (NASB)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Upward Growth Through Prayer

A number of years ago I found myself, for various reasons, in a position of great spiritual drought. At that critical time, God graciously pulled my heart back to Him. He began to revive my spiritual appetite and sensitivity. As He showed me areas of need, I started a list of prayer requests, each one addressing some aspect of spiritual growth. The requests included things like that I would be thankful in all things, that I would learn to go to God as my refuge, and that God would strengthen my inner man. I ended up with over fifty such requests, each one linked to a corresponding verse from the Bible.

While many of those requests were regarding general spiritual growth, others were requests that I considered to be more fundamental and therefore more critical. These requests included that I would not turn away from God, that I would believe God’s goodness and love every day, that God would increase my faith, and that I would fully believe the truth of God’s Word. I prayed these requests on a regular basis, asking God to do a work in my heart.

A few months into the process, I remember sitting on my couch one Sunday afternoon, spending some time with God. As I read the Bible, God gave me great encouragement with His truth, and then He started to open my eyes to see the gracious work He had accomplished in my heart. I began to comprehend how many of my requests He had begun to answer. Each realization seemed to lead to another, and soon I was having a private praise session with God as I recognized request after request that He had answered. He had done that through His Word, through the softening of my heart, through a deliberate focus on key issues, and through godly counsel.

As is often the case in the quest for Christian maturity, many of those requests were only partially answered at the time. While I rejoiced in the progress, I understood that there was still plenty of room for additional growth. I continued to pray for God’s work, and He answered in an unexpected way. As a complete surprise to me, and with very little notice, I lost my job. Directly connected to the job loss was the loss of my housing. I had little choice but to rapidly pack up and move several states away to live with my parents for what ended up being over a year and a half of unemployment and underemployment.

As I drove those 400+ miles, I had a lot of time to think and pray, and God directed my thoughts to a very clear realization. This unexpected upheaval and unpleasant situation was God’s way of continuing to answer my prayers. The situation itself, as the significant trial that it was, certainly provided the opportunity for growth. It was the perfect setting in which to grow in the areas of submission and faith, and it was the right circumstance in which to see God’s love and provision and evidences of His character. Beyond that, it provided me with an opportunity that many people never have. At a very sensitive point in my life, I was provided with hours and hours to spend with God – week after week and month after month. God had given much growth in the previous months, but He knew that for the additional work He wanted to do, I needed large quantities of time with Him.

Almost as soon as I arrived back at my childhood home and church, my pastor there challenged each of us to choose a theme verse for the year. Knowing my current need, I chose Psalm 80:3. This verse, contained in a psalm that is entirely a prayer for revival, acknowledges the need for God’s blessing in the restoration process. The verse became the basis for frequently-offered prayers that God would give the necessary help in the spiritual growth process. Without God’s blessing, such growth is not possible. No amount of determination or structured attempt or even strong desire is enough to bring about growth. The work can only be accomplished as God in His grace gives His blessing.

Did I realize that my prayers for growth would be answered by an abrupt life upheaval, by the loss of my job and ministry, and by the loss of independence? No, I had no idea. I thought the prayers would be answered through my seeking heart and the time focused on God’s truth. God did give some of the answer that way, but there were other aspects of growth that He needed to accomplish through trial. It is remarkable to look again over that list of requests and to realize how God so abundantly answered. He hasn’t completely answered yet; I’m still on the upward journey, but I thank Him for the work He has done.

Praying for growth and asking for God to give it are important in the quest for spiritual maturity. When we come to God with a heart that truly seeks Him and with a sincere desire to mature in Him, God will answer. We do not know how God will answer that prayer or how quickly He will answer that prayer, but we can be sure that He will answer. God loves to see His children growing in Christian maturity, and He loves to see them rightfully dependent on Him to do the work.

“O God, restore us and cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved.” Psalm 80:3 (NASB)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Growth Through the Word


                 No Change? (Sonnet 33)
Through passing days and weeks I see no change;
My heart desires to progress and grow.
When things seem stagnant, Lord, I think it strange,
For I seek You; I long Your ways to know.
When I look to Your Word with unveiled face
And seek to learn, I see Your glory there.
You are transforming me by Your good grace;
Your Spirit modifies the shape I bear.
And when You send afflictions to my way,
Immense eternal value they produce.
You are renewing me day after day,
So for Your work I’ll have a greater use.
No change? Oh, weakness of my human eyes;
Your Word and work will do what You devise.

The times of greatest growth in my life have always been accompanied by renewed or increased time in the Word. The relationship is probably reciprocal; that is, because I am growing, I want to spend time in the Word, but I also grow because I am spending time in the Word. This Word-inspired growth is not surprising. The Bible is our way of understanding what God wants. It is, however, far more than just a guide or handbook for Christian success. It is greater than a mere collection of instructions. The Word of God is alive.

The Bible has the power and ability to impact lives like no other book. The Word of God is sharp enough to pierce any resistant exterior, pointed enough to penetrate where nothing else can, and skillful enough to deal precisely with each problem. The Bible very effectively cuts directly to the appropriate areas in each individual’s life. The instruction does not have to be convicting or painful, though sometimes it is. At other times the growth is positive and exciting, like slashing away at the bonds that hold one back or at the coverings that seek to smother. Whether correction is needed or simply more instruction, the Bible is uniquely able to prompt spiritual growth.

 "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (NASB)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Starting Toward Higher Ground

Though saved as a teenager, I was in college before I really got serious about the upward spiritual climb. Two key things happened at the same time at the beginning of my sophomore year – both in response to a single sermon. The first was that I decided to live for God instead of for myself. Though I was pretty commonly viewed as a “good kid,” I had a rebellious nature under the surface. I believed that no one could make me do anything, and I chose to conform to rules and expectations mostly because I preferred to avoid undesirable consequences. At that point in my life, however, I realized the necessity of allowing God to make the calls and be control in my life. I yielded myself to Him – not just for the somewhat nebulous future, but also for the very practical day-to-day life of the present.

The second decision was to begin for the first time in my life to faithfully read the Bible. Without having made the first decision, the second one would not have meant much; it would have been simply more conformity. With a softened heart, however, God’s Word was able to make a difference. I began reading each day and writing down what I was learning. By the end of the year, I had read much of the Bible on my own, chapters and books that I had previously been exposed to mostly only in isolated snatches in sermons.

These decisions played out practically as they made a difference in my life. I started to move upward on the mountain, and the advance was noticeable both to me and to others who observed. At the end of the school year, I had a meeting with my dormitory supervisor. She commented on the significant difference that had occurred in me over the course of the previous eight months. She mentioned something I had not realized – that there was a difference in my demeanor. At the beginning of the year, there had been a hardness in my face, the outward demonstration of my inward rebellion. I hadn’t realized it was there, and I didn’t realize it had disappeared, but this lady had. As she acknowledged the change in me over the year, she revealed that she and other leadership in the dorm referred to me as the “dorm miracle” for that year.

I share this not to bring any honor to myself, but to illustrate what a difference God can make in a life. I did two very important things that allowed God to do the work He wanted to do. I yielded myself to Him on the day-to-day level and I began to faithfully read His Word. When anyone does those two things, he can expect God to do a great work. Both are important. Reading the Bible without yielding to God will have some impact, because God’s Word is powerful, but the impact is limited due to the resistant heart. A yielded heart without input from the Bible also limits growth, as there is nothing to fuel spiritual growth. Until these two steps are taken, it is awfully difficult to make much upward progress. With the two decisions made, on the other hand, the journey has great potential to prosper.

“Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall observe it to the end.” Psalm 119:33 (NASB)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Looking Like My Friend

                    Make Me Beautiful
I desire and I long to be beautiful, Lord.
I want sweetness and grace to come out of my soul
So that others would see something lovely outpoured.
To encourage their faith I’d be used as a tool.

So I scrub and I primp and I preen every day
To create something lovely to shine out of me,
But I’m troubled to realize I can’t find a way.
When I look, just an ugly black heart I can see.

Oh, how could I have thought there was beauty inside?
I am nothing but one whom Your grace has redeemed,
And my efforts to change things have all been denied.
What I thought was becoming was not what it seemed.

Only You, my dear Father, can make me look good;
It is possible when I reflect Your dear Son.
So please give me His beauty; I do wish You would,
So that my life would point to the Beautiful One.

It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. When there is someone that we admire, we want to be like that person. In the entertainment and sports worlds, we refer to that person as an idol – someone other than God who becomes the object of worship. God, on the other hand, is the correct recipient of worship, so our imitation of Him is a very good and appropriate response.

Romans 8:29 talks about this process. As we allow God to use all things to work in our lives, He accomplishes the good result of our becoming more conformed to the image of His Son. We start to look more and more like Christ. We imitate Him as the one that we want to be like – as the exalted focus of our worship. What does that do to Christ? It lifts Him up as the firstborn, the pre-eminent and rightfully most important figure. What glory God would receive if we could imitate Him more faithfully!

“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:29 (NASB)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

My Best Friend

One spring several years ago, a friend of mine was preparing to move away. Our friendship had been spiritually profitable and edifying, and I considered it to be perhaps the best friendship I had ever had. My friend took a couple of short preliminary trips prior to her permanent departure, and I was surprised at how hard those precursors to her departure were for me. They made me face the reality that my friend would be leaving, and I struggled deeply over the coming change. It bothered me that the situation bothered me so much. How could a single person make that much difference? How could the “loss” of a friend be so devastating?

I was brought to consider this question: Who is my best friend? Christians have learned to say automatically, “Jesus is my best friend,” and in many ways, that is true whether we realize it or not. On the other hand, that pat answer is often just that – an expected answer that we have learned to give, but without any real conviction or actual assurance that it is true. It is an instinctive and automatic answer, but not always a sincere or authentic one. At least that is how it seemed to be in my life.

I recognized this as a problem. Jesus should be my best friend. I should be fully convinced of that in my heart, and it should make a difference in my life. What was I to do about this weakness? As a teacher, the entire summer vacation stretched before me. I was working part-time, with hours set at my own discretion, so I had plenty of time. I resolved to spend that time with God for a very specific purpose. I wanted to grow in Him and get to know Him better. I began to pray that God would become my best friend by summer’s end.

It was a wonderful summer. I spent many hours in the Bible, studying topics and books. It was exciting to spend days and weeks deep in the Word to an extent that I had never done before. I was amazed at the things God opened up to me. I learned and grew and came to appreciate this special relationship with my God. At the end of the summer, I asked myself the question, “Has God become my best friend?” I found the question difficult to answer, because I was challenged to define exactly what that meant or what it would look like. Of one thing I was sure, however; God was a better friend to me than He had been at the beginning of the summer, and probably than He ever had been before in my life. At the very least, much progress had been made, and I was on the right path. That was enough to satisfy me that God was at work to answer my prayer.

Several years later, in the midst of health challenges and unemployment, the thought suddenly came to me one day, “God is my best friend.” By this time, I was sure of it. When had the change happened? And how? I’m not sure I know the answer. I don’t think there was a single date on which the transition was made, nor do I think there was a single event that brought the change. As I had continued to pursue God and desire a closer relationship with Him, He had given His blessing. Some of that growth came through continued time in His Word, and some of it came through the difficulties and challenges God had brought into my life.

I had previously wondered what it would look like for God to be my best friend. Maybe I still can’t completely define that, but over the years there are some things I have realized. Anyone that is so near to me and goes through difficult times with me so faithfully is a good friend indeed. When others forget or neglect me, God is always there. When I feel unloved or unlovable, God assures me of His deep love. Spending time with Him can cheer and comfort me like nothing else can. There are times when no one else is available, but I can talk to God at any time. When I have burdens too personal to share with others, I can take them to God. If it takes me a long to time work through or explain those burdens, God patiently listens. I may fear that another friend will grow weary of listening to another burden, or to the same burden again, but I don’t have that fear with God. I am afraid that other friends will pull away from me if I am too needy or too consumed by troubles, but I never have that fear with God. I worry that other friends will become annoyed if I try to spend too much time with them, but God always desires to spend even more time with me. Truly there is no other friend like Him.

That statement is not “sour grapes.” When other friends disappoint me, hurt me, or seem to disappear, it is easy to respond to the premise of God as my best friend with a statement like, “He sure is. People are jerks.” That’s neither a proper response nor is it the point; God isn’t just better than people at their worst. He is a friend that surpasses all others even at their best.

Neither is the statement that God is my best friend a lack of appreciation for other friends. Friends, especially Christian ones, are a great gift from God. He has given those relationships within the church to be a blessing and an encouragement. We are to help and love one another. Those blessings are not to be taken lightly. I value other dear friends that God has given me, but there is no friend like Jesus.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8a (NASB)