Saturday, October 13, 2018

There May Be Fire

by Candace Cortez

I’ve been a Christian for a lot of years, and there are some stories and verses in the Bible that I have heard too many times to count: Daniel and the lion’s den, David and Goliath, Esther saving her people, the story of Jesus’ birth, Jesus feeding the 5,000, Paul and Silas singing while in prison, and many others. Fortunately, as you read and re-read, the things you can learn do not stop as your familiarity with the story grows. Here’s a quick lesson within a lesson: NEVER STOP ASKING QUESTIONS! We do not know it all, especially about God, and we can always discover more. 

Recently, I re-read the story of the three young men; Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego, and the time they were thrown into the fiery furnace. If you haven’t read this story, it’s found in Daniel 3, and you should read it today! If you have time, stop reading this, and go read Daniel 3 right now! It’s so good! Here is a question that has not left me since I’ve read this passage: What fires am I approaching because of my walk with Jesus? 

These three young men were living according to the standard set by God. This standard was in direct opposition to the expectation of their current culture. Because of this, they were punished by being thrown into a fire, with the intention of murdering them for their beliefs. This is intense! I believe we also live in a world that is counter-cultural to God’s design for the perfect relationship with Him and with others. I also believe this may cause some conflict, or heat when we decide to make choices in light of the One we are trying to serve. For example, what if your supervisor makes a mistake and asks you to lie to the boss to help cover for them? On one hand, it’s literally a sin to lie (one of the basic ten commandment ones!). On the other, we want to salvage the relationship or potential ease of working environment with this person, who may be a good person, and you do not want to see them get in trouble. If the answer is easy and you would choose to lie, ask yourself why it was an easy option when that’s an “obvious” sin? If the answer is difficult, but you would choose to lie, you’ve faced the fire and surrendered to an “easier” option. If the answer is honesty, and you tell the boss the truth when asked, then you faced the fire and decided it’s worth it to be obedient. The thing about this third option is although it leaves you vulnerable for feeling the heat from your choice, you also are set up for a potential miracle. 

When we choose to live the way God guides us, even in the little things, we set ourselves up to see Him do some crazy awesome stuff. The challenge is, not every fiery furnace story leads to a happy ending with a miracle. Some of them just end in fire. That’s why it’s so scary. There’s not a guarantee that we will receive compensation for our obedience while we are alive. The promises extend beyond this lifetime. This is why faith is hard. If we knew we would never feel the heat of those flames, then the choice would be easy. 

I don’t know what fires you may be facing today, but trust that as the three young men in this story, God is with you. Choosing Jesus’ way is not always easy, but it is the life that leads to miracles. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

A Good Friend is Hard to Find

by Andrew Cromwell

It has been said that a good friend is someone who walks in when everyone is walking out. They are someone who not only sees through you, but is determined to see you through the tough spots in life.

Don’t we all want friends like that?

Shallow friendship is easy. It just doesn’t take much effort. Every time I walk into an elevator and say “hi”, I’ve made another shallow friend. We remark pleasantly about the weather, say things like “how long are you in town” or even, “where are you from?”. Shallow friends like your social media posts and might even make a comment or two, but that’s as far as things go.

No one needs instructions on how to make shallow friends. As a matter of fact, I have a few shallow friends that I’ll happily hand off to you if you’re interested!

Deep, meaningful friendships, on the other hand, are hard to come by. That’s because real friendships take time, energy, and effort. Most of us can think of a friendship that used to be close but is now cold and distant.

Why? Usually it is because the cost of maintaining the friendship was more than we were willing to pay.

That friend moved out of the area and we didn’t make the effort to call or keep calling. Or perhaps, one or both of us stopped doing the activity that gave us an excuse to spend time together, and we never took the time to find another reason to connect. There are so very many reasons why we drifted apart, but at the end of the day, we weren’t willing to pay the price to keep growing closer. And so we drifted apart.

Real friendship takes effort. It requires investment. You have to be willing to rearrange your schedule, go out of your way, push through inconvenience, and make relationship building a priority.

If you want powerful relationships, then you have to be willing to pay the price. King Solomon said if you want to have friends, you have to be friendly. That means you have to make time. You have to be willing to engage in a person’s life, care about what they care about, and show up when it matters. You have to decide to love people even when you see them at their worst instead of making your friendship conditional on their behavior or performance.

Do you want people to tell the the truth at your funeral, or do you want them to lie and tell a nice story? The way you invest in your relationships today, will decide the answer to that question.

Above all, we must remember that there is one person — Jesus Christ — who chose to love us unconditionally even though He knew everything about us. It is His love and acceptance that serves as the model for how we all do our friendships.