Monday, August 28, 2017

“You No My Friend!” Friendship (Part 2)

By Susanne Scheppmann

Key Verse:
Proverbs 12:26, “A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (NIV)
Yesterday I shared the story the of freckled-nose little girl who thought the worst insult she could hurl toward someone was, “You no my friend!”  Unfortunately, there are times we might need to end a friendship with someone we care about. I would be remiss, if I did not recognize the fact that not all our pals are beneficial friends. Many of my own friendships turned into destructive relationships. 

Friends hold great influence over us. They can entice us into activities that we know in our hearts we should not participate in. Our key verse today states, A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” They may damage us emotionally and even worse spiritually lead us astray from a godly life. They become an unhealthy influence.

I feel sure we all have felt betrayed by a “friend” at sometime in life. I don’t believe you can make it through middle school or high school and not experience duplicity by a girlfriend or a boyfriend. Betrayal seems to hide in the lockers, cafeterias, and gyms just waiting to spring upon us in those vulnerable teen years.

Can you recall a time of feeling betrayed by someone close to your heart? Do you still feel the sting of hurt?

Not only do these hurtful friends betray us, but they can also hurt us by leading us astray. In my early years, I was asked to mentor a young woman about my age. As it turned out, our friendship instead of being uplifting and God-fearing turned into a disastrous road of sin. We were not wise in our decisions together. I watched with envy her ability to vomit up her food after she ate to keep her svelte shape. I attempted to become bulimic through her instruction.

Even more devastating was the criticism of our husbands that became the primary topic of conversation. We encouraged each other to live our lives to the fullest capability, with or without our husbands. We prodded one another into deeper and deeper sin. Eventually, we recognized our propensity for double trouble when we were together. The friendship ended, but not before we caused tremendous damage to our families and ourselves.

Unhealthy friendships. A few people disguise themselves as good friends. I have encountered a few friendships that turned sour. They each left a pungent bitter taste when the relationship evaporated out of my life. In hindsight, these type of women never fully displayed true friendship, and it is quite possible that I didn’t show true friendship to them, either.

Sadly there have been times when I needed to say, “You no my friend.” I still valued them as a person, but we were not good for each other. I have tried to end these relationships gently. The Bible directs us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18 NIV). If there is a friendship that you  need to extinguish, seek God’s guidance and wisdom. Allow the Holy Spirit to direct you in your actions and words as you seek a way to say, “You no my friend.”

Dear Lord, reveal to me any destructive friendships in my life. Give me the courage, wisdom, and knowledge on how to handle these relationships.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application steps: 
Study the relationship that Jesus’ held with His betrayer Judas Iscariot. Read the following Scriptures, Luke 22:47-48 and Matthew 26:48-50. How could Proverbs 12:20 and Romans 12:18 apply to the relationship between Jesus’ and Judas?

Do I have a friend who is harmful to me emotionally and spiritually?

What influence do I have on my friends?

Are there any relationships in my life that I feel God is directing me to end?

Power verses:
Proverbs 22:24, “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered.” (NIV)  

Proverbs 21:10, “The wicked man craves evil; his neighbor gets no mercy from him.” (NIV) 

Proverbs 2:13-15, “Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.” (NIV) 

© 2007 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

“The Perfume of Friendship--Friendship (Part 1)”

By Susanne Scheppmann
Key Verse:
“The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.”
 Proverbs 27:9  (NLT) 
Friends. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some have big hearts. A few deliver the sunshine of laughter. One may offer a slender shoulder for you to cry on. One ally might listen while you whine, another may speak the truth even when it hurts. One girlfriend may bring a casserole when you are sick, still another offers a prayer for healing. Pals will compliment you, hug you, watch your kids, and send you a birthday card. Or they might call once a year just to catch up on life. Whichever type of friends filter through your life, true healthy friendships are a gift from God. 

We learn the importance of friendship at a very early age. I remember my friend’s three- year-old daughter throwing out the worst insult she could conceive. Her little freckled face in a scowl, she would growl, “You no my friend!”

Throughout our lives, we long for friendship. This fact is supported by the television shows that we loyally have tuned into throughout the decades. We hum lyrics from the Cheers theme song “Sometimes you want to go, Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” We watch Friends with hopes we too might develop friends through the ups and downs of life. We purchase DVDs of Seinfeld because the characters seem like old friends to us.

Today’s verse, “The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense,” reminds us of the importance of friendship in our lives, Friendships enrich our lives. They help us through the valleys of despair and rejoice with us on the mountaintops of joy. Friends do life with us. Which of your friends has been with you through your joys and depressions?

Friends help hold us accountable in what we do. My friend, Sally, holds me accountable to exercise with her. If it weren’t for her, I would stay in my pajamas, instead of putting on my walking shoes. Scriptures tells us, “You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 MSG). Sally keeps me dedicated to our agreement to improve our health and fitness. Another friend encourages me in my walk with God. I admire her dedication to God. Her passion sharpens my desire for a closer walk with the Lord   Do you have a friend that inspires you in some way?

Of course, in order to have good friends, you must be a good friend to others. Certain qualities promote deep and lasting friendships. For example, honesty and loyalty set the foundation for friendship that can last a lifetime. My best friends are people I can trust and I want them to know they can trust me, too. In addition, patience, kindness and a sense of humor are essential in developing and maintaining enduring friendship. Recently, I forgot a lunch date with a girlfriend. Hours later I remembered; horrified I called only to discover she had completed forgotten it, too. Relieved, we laughed together at our forgetfulness. A good chuckle at our human foibles helps us to keep in mind that even the best friendships will have imperfections. Do you show kindness, patience, and humor in your friendships? 

Friendship! It’s one of the true riches we can have in life. Will you thank God for personal friendships?

Dear Lord, thank you for giving me a variety of friendships to help me walk the road of life. I am especially grateful for the friends who inspire me. Lord Jesus, teach me how to be a better friend. In Your Name, I pray. Amen.

Application steps: 
Say a prayer of thanksgiving for specific friend in your in your life. Take a moment to send a card or an email to a friend whom you haven’t spoken with for awhile. 

What character traits do I value in a friendship?

What type of friend am I?

Do I treasure the friendships in my life?

Power verses:
Proverbs 25:13, “Reliable friends who do what they say are like cool drinks in sweltering heat—refreshing!” (MSG)

Proverbs 18:24, “Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.” (MSG)

© 2007 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 14, 2017

“Bootleg Faith”

Key Verse:
Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT)
A skeleton hangs in my family history closet. It’s very quiet. No one brings the skeleton to our family gatherings. It seldom rattles, but when it does, we all look at each other appalled. How can our family have a history of bootlegging?

To my shock and dismay, it’s true. My great-grandfather and grandpa bootlegged alcohol during the Prohibition of the 1920’s. The original term, bootleg, comes from the attempt to conceal something, usually whiskey, in a flask down the inside of a high-top boot. However, during the Prohibition, the word “bootleg”  was soon coined to mean brewing drink that was only a copy of the real thing—whiskey.

So, when the government prohibited the making or selling of any type of alcohol, my forefathers saw opportunity. They contrived a small distillery in a basement and sold the liquid gold at exorbitant prices. The folk who remember the brew said it smelled like oil and tasted like acid. However, it was in high demand. So, the “family wealth” expanded from the illegal activity of making something that produced the desired effect-- drunkenness--but no one actually considered the concoction the “real stuff.” The bootlegged moonshine made everyone happy—my ancestors and the city drunks. 

Sometimes our faith is bootlegged. We try to fake the appearance of faith in others. We tuck their “faith” inside our spirit, so we can be “spiritual.” Or, like my “family wealth,” perhaps our faith is passed down to us. We assume it’s real. “Family faith” feels comfortable, like a well-worn leather boot. We participate in all sorts of rituals, celebrations, and prayers that we don’t understand or even care about. Bootlegged faith is never authentic growing faith. It’s fake faith.

I want my faith to be genuine and not a hand-me-down, don’t you?  Let’s pledge today to grow our own faith by reading God’s Word, praying and attending a Bible based church.  Let’s show our communities, not a bootleg faith, but an authentic faith that glorifies God.

Dear Lord, help me not to “bootleg” my faith from others.  Grow authentic faith within me. Grant me the privilege of glorifying You through my faith. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application steps: 
Read Acts 2:41-42. List the spiritual disciplines of the early followers of Christ.  Choose one to practice in your own life.  Ask God to increase your personal faith as you seek a closer relationship with Him.  

Do I try to falsely imitate someone else’s faith?

How can I develop a strong faith of my own? 

Power verses:
Acts 2:41-42, “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (NASB)
Romans 10:17, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (NIV)
1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (NIV)

Excerpt from Birds in My Mustard Tree by Susanne Scheppmann

© 2008 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.