I Thought You Were My Friend!

20 My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant. 21 His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. 22 Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Likely, each of us has experienced the pain of a relationship break up. It happens in a variety of ways. Sometimes, we just gradually grow apart. For instance, I have fond memories of high school and college friends that I am no longer close with because of geographic separation. The same is true with colleagues I once worked with. Friendships grew out of opportunities to collaborate on common goals and projects. But, once the season of teamwork was complete, new assignments made it difficult to remain close.

As a child, I remember taking family vacations to Alabama to visit grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. We cousins always made the most of our opportunities to share new ways to play games, laugh at new jokes together, and terrorize the neighborhood. But, time moved on and we became adults with our own families and responsibilities to attend to.

Psalm 55 tells a different story. The Psalmist reflects upon a relationship gone sour; a friend had become an enemy. This was not a gradual growing apart. This was a case of hurt feelings and purposeful retaliation coming from someone who had been an equal, a companion, and familiar friend.

David writes, “For it is not an enemy who taunts me— then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. 13 But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. 14 We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng.”

While in seminary, I took a class on conflict resolution. I learned that the deepest wounds are often inflicted by the individuals closest to us.

As a pastor, I’ve talked with many people who spent their childhood being verbally, physically, and sexually assaulted by parents. This evil brand of abuse can stay with a person for many years, exacting waves of depression that seem impossible to overcome.

Spouses typically fall into this category. I truly believe that one of the reasons God hates divorce as much as He does is because of the deep scars it leaves behind. It can be especially devastating when someone you have shared the intimate details of your life with decides to leave. Some never recover from these wounds.

Is there hope? I believe there is! It is found in the one relationship that can heal the hurts of life. David knew that! He counsels us to, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Did you catch that? He will sustain you! That’s good news.

I want you to be encouraged today. I realize that you may be experiencing the pain that comes from a broken relationship. But, remember, God loves you! He won’t leave you comfortless. He’ll always be beside you. As the old song says…

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer

PRAYER: Father, thank you for being my friend. Earthly relationships can be unfriendly, unkind, and fleeting. Help me to never be like that. I would rather be like You; faithful, kind, loving, and trustworthy. I’m committed to that! Amen.

Salted With Fire

(Mark 9:42-49 ESV) 42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 For everyone will be salted with fire.

Nothing gets me more riled up than when I hear reports of child abuse. To think of someone doing harm to an innocent child is something that I just can’t understand or tolerate. Jesus was also an important advocate for children. He allowed them to have access to Him. He valued children by explaining to adults that they would have to become like them to enter into the Kingdom of heaven.

In the context of this passage of scripture, Jesus warns, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” Those are powerful words! He proceeds to give examples of personal mutilation that would be more acceptable than to have a hellish impact upon a child. Jesus is talking about much more than physical abuse. Read His words again… He’s talking about being responsible for leading a child–a young, impressionable mind–into a lifestyle that leads them into sin.

It is not uncommon these days to read news articles about the prevalence of gay sex being forced upon very young boys. (Here) Beyond that, we are seeing an uptick in young children declaring gender confusion. How do these things happen? Do parents play a roll in promoting this kind of thinking? For more on that… (Here)

One of the great horrors of modern society is abortion. Especially, abortion for convenience sake. We so desperately want what we want, when we want it; and are willing to pay any price to obtain it. Our lust for sex is so strong that some are willing to kill the seed of their own body just to indulge in a few moments of pleasure. Fathers and mothers sacrifice the wholeness of their own children by subjecting them to sexual abuse.

It seems that everyone has human rights except the children. It seems that many proponents of women’s right have forgotten the right of the women in the womb.

Go back to the context of this scripture one more time. While I don’t believe Jesus was advocating personal mutilation, it is clear that He was suggesting personal responsibility. He says it would better for one to go through life maimed than to allow the physical body to freely express itself through fleshly lusts.

Thank God for grace.

I’m glad God dispenses grace to the vilest sinner. I’m not so sure I could be that gracious. Jesus can and does forgive all manner of sin–even the most repulsive–when the offender comes to Him with sincere repentance. But, just to be clear, for those who refuse to control the lust of the flesh and instead influence others to walk in their sinful footsteps, God has a word for you… control your ungodly impulses or be thrown into the sea, go to hell, be thrown into hell (twice), and you will be salted with fire. And, I think we all know what that means without me giving some deep theological explanation.

PRAYER: Father, I pray for the children of the world. We have neglected them in so many ways. Protect them from the hands of the offenders. And Lord, as hard as it is for me to pray for them, transform the lives of the offenders. Save them. Bring them to repentance. There is NO HOPE–except in You! Amen!

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