Friends

It’s Thanksgiving week and this year I plan to spend it in Denver with my daughter. I am so thankful for her and for the close friendship we have and for this opportunity to spend a week with her in her world . . . and also spend a little time with a couple of the friends I made when I lived there.

 

Friends. They’re so important. They’re such a blessing.

 

Or not.

 

It depends on who your friends are.

 

And more importantly, it depends on where your friends take you.

 

Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

 

And John Kuebler said, “You show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

 

The people we choose to spend time with have an effect on our life. And the more time we spend with them, the more effect they have on us.

 

And when we’re hurting and fearful and ‘paralyzed’ by life’s circumstances, it is extremely important to choose the right friends to come around us.

 

Some friends will join you in your pain and stay there. Some will even help you throw a pity party. Some will take you to the local bar to drown your sorrows. Or to the mall for some retail therapy.

 

But those aren’t the friends you need. You need friends like the ones in today’s verse.

 

Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” – Matthew 9:2 (NIV)

 

The man in today’s verse is paralyzed by illness. He’s stuck on his mat. And the friends that surround him are a blessing because they don’t get down on the mat with him and join him in his paralysis. They don’t look at him and whisper to each other, “Guys, this is hopeless.” They don’t say to him, “I’m praying for you, my friend. Let me know what I can do.”

 

No, these friends pick him up and take him where he needs to go. They don’t give up on him. They don’t just help him cope with his current condition.

 

These friends see what he can be. They understand his potential. They believe for the best for him.

 

They have faith that Jesus is the answer to whatever his problem is.

 

And they do something about it.

 

They take him to Jesus.

 

If your friends can’t see your potential, they will accept your current circumstances as final.

 

If your friends aren’t convinced God has bigger plans for you than what’s in your life right now, they’ll just try to help you cope.

 

And if your friends don’t know Jesus, they will do for you what they do for themselves . . . deal with the pain however they can.

 

Let’s face it. There may be times in life when you’ll be ‘paralyzed’ – at least for a while – by what life throws at you.

 

But if you have friends who know Jesus and who see your potential and have faith that God has even bigger plans for you than your current circumstances, then they won’t let you remain ‘paralyzed’ on your mat. They will come and remind you who you are and what you are meant to be doing and of all the great plans God has for you.

 

And then they’ll take you to Jesus. In prayer. In faith. In power.

 

And THEIR FAITH IN GOD FOR YOU will change your life.

 

That’s why surrounding yourself with the right friends is critical if you want to experience God’s best for your life.

 

++++++++++++

 

Who are you allowing to surround you on your mat? What words are they speaking over you? Where are they taking you?

 

What kind of friend are you? Are you enabling someone to just cope with their circumstances? Or are you carrying them to Jesus . . . believing He has greater plans for them?

 

It’s Done!

 

Well, it took me long enough. But I’m finally a published author. Yay!

 

My book is titled Treasure Seeker Bible Study Workbook. This workbook shares the three-question study method I’ve been using for 15 years, walks you through an example of how to do it, and gives you multiple copies of the worksheet I designed and use for my personal study.

 

This method is simple, but very powerful. It’s the method I typically use for writing my blog posts.

 

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The picture is of me with a framed copy of my cover. My graphic designer, and now friend, Sarah Delaney did a fantastic job on the cover. I love it!

And my friend Kimberly Martin, owner of Jera Publishing, did a great job formatting the interior.

The only entity that let me down was CreateSpace. They are running a week behind in their printing and weren’t able to get copies to me in time for a holiday market I was involved with last weekend. But I took orders and will deliver them in the next few days.

 

My workbook is available on Amazon and other online booksellers. Or if you live in the Kennesaw/Marietta area, I can deliver without any shipping charges.

 

And now . . . on to my next book . . . or three.

 

Total Freedom

Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. – Matthew 8:34 – 9:1 NIV

 

 

Jesus was doing what Jesus always does when He delivered the two men who were possessed by demons. He was showing His compassion for people who were suffering, displaying His authority and power over everything in the physical and spiritual realms, and bringing everything back into alignment—like He always desires to do.

 

And when the whole town came out and pleaded with Him to leave their region, Jesus left.

 

He got back in a boat and went somewhere else.

 

It doesn’t say He healed anyone else. It doesn’t say He called out any more demons. It doesn’t even say that He said another word to the townspeople.

 

It just says He left.

 

Jesus knows who He is. And He knows how much every person on earth needs Him.

 

He knows the authority He carries and His ability to do whatever needs to be done so that every person on earth is free—from sin and death and demons.

 

And there is nothing that He wants more than for us to experience total freedom from anything and everything that hinders us from being all He created us to be. He proved that by going to the cross.

 

But He also knows that our “total freedom” includes our freedom to choose Him or reject Him. To accept what He’s offering us or refuse it. To follow His lead or to go our own way.

 

And the reason I think He gives us the freedom to reject Him is because love isn’t really love if it’s coerced or forced. Real love is freely given. We choose to love. Anything less is just a different shade of bondage.

 

So although He could “make” us love Him, “make” us accept Him, and “make” us do what He knows will be the very best for us, I believe He will let us live life our own way before He will take away our freedom.

 

What is Jesus offering you today?

 

Will you accept it or reject it?

Pigs and Priorities

When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way.  “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”

Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.

Matthew 8:28-34 (NIV)

 

Every time I read this story, I get so confused.

 

It’s not a difficult story to follow. In fact, it’s very simple.

 

Jesus and the disciples made it through the horrible storm we talked about last week and have landed at their destination across the lake.

 

Two demon-possessed men come to meet Him. The demons in these two men start questioning Jesus. Essentially they’re saying, “What are you doing here? It’s not time to send us to Hell yet. You’re early!”

 

I find it amazing that these demons recognize who Jesus is immediately. And they know what their future is. And they also know Jesus has authority over them and that He’s probably going to kick them out of their present home (the two men) because they don’t belong there and Jesus loves putting things back into alignment.

 

So the demons request that Jesus send them into a nearby herd of pigs.

 

And Jesus obliges.

 

The pigs go crazy—naturally—and commit suicide by jumping into the lake and drowning.

 

The guys responsible for taking care of the pigs run back to town and tell the townspeople what happened—to the pigs and to the demon-possessed men.

 

Now remember, the townspeople had not been able to travel through this particular part of town because the two demon-possessed men were so violent.

 

And now they aren’t.

 

Hallelujah! Praise God!

 

As a result of the report from the watchers of the pigs, the entire town heads out to the tombs.

 

So what did they see as they approached?

 

I imagine they saw Jesus and his companions. And I imagine they also saw the two men—men they had been afraid of earlier—now walking around in their right minds. The two men were probably still amazed at what Jesus had done for them. They were probably still thanking Jesus and possibly discussing going back home for the first time in a long time. Possibly dreaming what it will be like to lead normal lives again—get back to work, be respectable citizens, enjoy being husbands and fathers.

 

Can you imagine how it would feel to get your life back after that kind of experience? To not have people afraid of you anymore? To not be shunned? To not hate yourself and what you’ve become?

 

How liberated they must have felt!

 

And here come their fellow townspeople. Coming out to celebrate with them.

 

Or so they thought.

 

The last verse says, “Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.”

 

Wait! Whaaat?

 

There are a few other ways I would have expected that last sentence to end.

 

For instance, they pleaded with him to come stay in their town a few days and heal some other people.

 

Or to heal the other people right here, right now.

 

Or teach them like he had taught people across the lake.

 

But, no. Instead, they asked Jesus to leave their region.

 

They didn’t want Him anywhere near them. He was disrupting their status quo and ruining their economy.

 

I understand. Pigs died. I get it. And apparently that was somebody’s livelihood. Or it could have been the town’s main livelihood.

 

But seriously. What is a herd of pigs compared to two men getting their lives back?!? Two families getting their husbands and fathers back? A town getting two productive citizens back? How can you compare the value of a herd of pigs to the health and dignity restored to these two men?

 

I’m sorry but I’m confused.

 

But that’s not unusual these days.

 

A lot of things happening in our country right now confuse me.

 

It has become very apparent that there are several things that many people in this country consider a lot more important than human life. And sacred vows. And righteous living. And justice. And truth.

 

And it’s obvious there are things that some people value more than being honest. Or merciful. Or gracious. Or honoring. Or respectful. Or faithful.

 

In a lot of different regions of this country (education, government, media, business, entertainment, etc.), Jesus was asked to leave a long time ago.

 

And now we’re living in the aftermath.

 

So what are we going to do about it? It’s up to us.

 

“If MY PEOPLE, who are called by my name . . . .” II Chronicles 7:14