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For anyone, the painful sufferings we go through in life can be difficult. When we have to endure it alone, it can be unbearable. For a Christian in a difficult situation, a friend can stand by with a shoulder to cry on, provide moral support or consolation, and even encouragement, because we are united by Christ.

Wikipedia defines friendship as “a relationship of mutual affection between people”. It can be a mental leap to expect that complete strangers can hold mutual affection toward one another. BEING a Christian provides a basis for mutual affection with another Christian — the possibility for friendship, because we both possess a uniting element: the Holy Spirit.

Christian personalities can be as diverse as anyone else in the world: we are all different. But, we can love and be loved by people who are in Christ.

In the Old Testament and the New Testament there are numerous references where people stand united. As I had lunch with friends today, I was reminded of our brotherhood in Christ.

In 2 Corinthians 1:26 and following, Paul said:
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Paul nicely points out that Christians have discovered that life is not about them. It is not about greatness. It is about making God known. In the process of doing that, mutual affection and admiration are common traits among brothers and sisters in Christ.

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With the occasion of the Olympics happening in Rio the past couple of weeks, the best athletes in the world were on display. It was awesome and wonderful to behold. Our hearts stirred with pride and hope as we observed humanity at its best. We were able to partake in their striving for the finish line, and basked in their surge of acclaim when they won.

We would not be thrilled with mediocre athletes in a mediocre contest. We watch a contest to see our best examples, striving to overcome — for a prize. The apostle Paul may not have been an athlete, but he provided an example of the disciplined, purposeful life in which we can partake. As Christians, we strive to BE, and DO, the best we can, because we serve a risen savior. We are not called to serve God aimlessly, based on whatever whim strikes us that day. Paul’s passage about running a race, comes to mind.

I Corinthians 9:( 24-27)
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

My task, or any Christian’s task, is to compete for God in life, and not to do anything which would disqualify God from being presented to the world. It is a serious and specific goal, and the reward is permanent and lasting — a crown that will last forever.

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A person of science knows we cannot prove the existence or nature of God. So, a person of science is likely to be an agnostic. I used to be that guy. Science remains unequipped to PROVE the existence of God.

Science says we need to be able to experience it with our senses. The senses that easily come to mind include one of the five: feel, taste, see, smell, hear. Of course there are more senses than that. We also have a sense of time, balance, right, wrong, and consciousness to name a few.

To hear God,

  1. We have to be listening for Him.
  2. He has to let us know He is there.

Regarding point 1:
Ask yourself – Has there ever been a time in your life when you were so focused on doing something, that nothing else mattered, and you did not listen to other people? Clearly, we know that scenario is possible. It is easy to prove there are times when we will not listen. We have to choose to listen.

Regarding point 2:
In Isaiah 65, verse 1, a writer for God speaks on his behalf: “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’” God speaks for himself, and does the choosing concerning whom he will speak to. The great thing is: he will speak to you when you are ready.

This sounds a little elitist. Only a privileged ‘few’ will get to hear God speak, and those are the ones who will know He actually exists. If you are an agnostic as I was, there is a way to resolve this. Call out to the darkness, and ask God to speak to you. Allow some time. Listen with all your senses. He will let you in.

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Years ago I used to be a carpenter for my father’s construction company. In the early years, I was good at following directions; I was not the architect, and I was not the builder. When there is no direction and no vision for a project, we cannot expect a good outcome.

I do not like to think of myself as religious. I am merely a guy in a relationship with a knowledgeable expert, who happens to be the architect and finisher of my faith. As long as I follow God’s direction, I make progress.

I am reminded of Psalm 127:1 “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.”

As we go through life, our best shot at making progress is to follow directions provided by God.

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With the political season of decisions we are in, we may face difficulties to determine truth. When we deal with people who lack a strong personal faith, it is vital to find the good in them, and reject what is evil.

In some last instructions from Paul, Silas, and Timothy (1 Thessalonians), they write:
12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.

The easy phrase for me to remember is “Do not quench the Spirit”. God is in everything we do, and finding the good in someone or something ‘evil’ can be hard to do. Our best instruction during these times is to seek encouragement from one another in Christ, and we need to make decisions that will honor God, at all times.

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