Friendship should not be taken for granted

It’s such a wonderful blessing to be able to share and pray with someone you know. It’s an even greater blessing when you trust that person and can call him/her your friend. 

I’ve come to appreciate the importance and value of the word “friend” and the need to use it sparingly. We have lots of acquaintances, but most of us have very few real friends. Being a “friend” makes an impact on the life of someone else, sometimes beyond what simple words can express. A friend is not one you necessarily talk to every day, or spend lots of time with. Rather, a friend is a person who “is there” for you, understands you, listens, accepts, prays, is one you can talk to freely and openly, someone with whom you can be yourself. Sometimes, you may not have talked together for a while, but once you do, it’s as though time and distance were of no consequence. This happened to me recently, when I spoke with a dear friend about some things at school and life. Just spending time together, especially in prayer, was very refreshing and encouraging. 

As I thought of this topic of friendship, I began to get a new appreciation of how precious it is that the Lord Yeshua called us, those who believe in Him, His friends. In John 15:15 Yeshua said “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, because all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you”. Isn’t that amazing? As we are His friends, He consented to reveal to us all that He heard from the Father. The Lord Yeshua chose us and appointed us to go and bear fruit so that whatever we ask the Father in His name, He may give us. It is interesting that this passage ends with Him commanding His disciples to love one another. Just as a friend loves at all times, we are to love one another. 

I’ve heard it said that if a person has five true friends in life, that is an incredible blessing. We don’t have many close friends. Sometimes, we feel that there is no one that we can even call a friend. But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, who is near to us and is alway available to us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. We can pray that God would bring us friends, who are friends indeed. He knows what we need and when we need it.

As important as it may be to have a friend, it is equally important to BE a friend to someone who needs a friend. By refreshing others, we are refreshed as well. Sometimes, being a friend requires “tough love”. But, if the love is genuine, God will prune us and enable us to bear much fruit for His glory.

Eyes of Compassion – A Story

Peter sat at the corner of the house, his head on his knees, arms on his head. His tears wouldn’t stop. The overwhelming sense of guilt. The Lord knew it would happen and even told him it would.

For three years he followed his Teacher – three years in which he witnessed miracles so extraordinary, so unique, so touching, that they were almost beyond belief. Blind could see, lame could walk, deaf could hear, sick were healed, dead were brought back to life. For three years he sat at the Lord’s feet. He heard Him speak with an authority that he never heard before from anyone else. He saw Him transform right before his eyes, shining brighter than snow, standing with Moses and Elijah. Oh, so many memories of that entire time now all seemed to flood his thoughts. And the more he remembered, the more he cried in anguish.

That particular night seemed to last forever. Peter really thought that he would be the one to never deny the Lord. Oh, he could fling a sword, he was prepared to die for Him. But to live for Him? To acknowledge Him before others? Peter’s mind went through the events of that night, minute by minute. The Lord was taken by so many soldiers, as if coming they were coming for a criminal and He was led to the house of the High Priest. Peter fled with the rest of the disciples, but followed Yeshua to the house. John was able to let him in. Peter watched and heard the interrogation going on inside, including the mocking, the beating, the spiting and the humiliation of the Lord. The King, whose kingdom was not of this world, was treated with less dignity than a slave. 

And then came the moment of truth when he was asked: “You were with Him, weren’t you?” “What are you talking about?” – his first denial. He thought that he can’t be found to be there; no one must know he was a disciple. “If they treat my Master this way, after all He had done…what will become of me?” Fear crept into Peter’s heart. He loved the Lord, but seeing Him now, not defending himself, not responding to the attacks, confused him. He did not understand. “You WERE with Him, you are Galilean”. Peter tried to deny again, swearing he did not know Yeshua. His second denial. “I just want to listen to what is going on inside…” he thought. A third time someone identified him as a disciple. This time, Peter cursed and denied – the third time. Suddenly, the cock crowed. Peter froze as he began to turn, almost without control, to look back inside the house. Yeshua turned His head and looked at him. Amidst all the mockery and beating, Yeshua knew exactly where to look. “Those eyes, He knows“, Peter said to himself. Remorse and anguish overwhelmed him, as he fled from the courtyard. 

Peter remembered the look in the eyes that looked at him. The more he thought of it, the more he realised those eyes were not filled with judgment or anger, but rather, compassion. Yeshua knew this would happen. 

Now, Yeshua is being led to the cross and there is nothing any of them can do. In the midst of the sorrow and anguish, Peter thought, “I must see Him, at least from afar, one last time“. He went and stood at a distance as he saw his beloved Lord carrying a cross on His bruised back, bleeding, unrecognisable from all the beatings and lashes the Romans inflicted on Him. Peter wanted to cry, but his eyes were already red from the tears shed over his own actions. He watched and followed, as they led Yeshua to the cross. There, he saw Miriam, Yeshua’s mother weeping, falling to the ground at the sight of her son, as the nails were driven into His hands and legs. “No mother should see her son die, not like this”, he thought. Emotions were raging inside of Peter, he felt as if he were in a dream, not being able to wake up. Suddenly, the sky went dark and people began to panic. He looked and saw a centurion thrust a spear into Yeshua’s side. That was more than Peter could bare to watch. He was broken. He was overwhelmed. He fled the scene.

A few days later, as he met with the rest of the disciples, no one mentioned what happened. They all knew. They had all heard Yeshua say it would happen. The pain they were all feeling was enormous, as if a member of their own family had died. Peter was beyond being comforted, as guilt lay heavily on his heart. Then there was a commotion and women shouting, “We saw Him! We saw the Lord!” The disciples were startled as a few women came bursting in the room, claiming to have seen the Lord. “He is alive, Yeshua is alive, just like He said!” Peter’s mind was racing. He quickly got up, John along with him and they ran towards the tomb where Yeshua was placed. Peter ran like never before, but John outran him. They made it to the tomb and it was empty, just like the women said. “He’s alive!” Peter tried to think. “What will He say to me? What will I say to Him? How can I face Him again after what I’ve done?”

A short time passed and the disciples were back in Galilee, fishing again, after more than three years of not fishing. It was hard work, but one that Peter enjoyed and gave him some peace. “Look to the shore!” someone yelled. Peter looked up along with the disciples. “It’s Yeshua!” Immediately, he jumped into the water and rushed to get to Yeshua, who had prepared a meal for them, some fish and bread. Peter didn’t say a word, he didn’t know what to say, what to expect. Yeshua asked him, “Do you love me more than these?” Peter looked into those eyes that stared into his.  Three times Yeshua asked him if he loves him. “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You”. Those eyes that were once filled with sadness and compassion now seemed full of love as Yeshua told him to feed His lambs, to tend and shepherd His sheep.

Something had happened. Peter knew it. Healing had taken place at that moment. The guilt and shame Peter felt earlier were gone. The Lord, His Lord, had not condemned him but, rather, welcomed him and showed him forgiveness, mercy and grace. Years later, as Peter was about to die for his faith, he understood. Living for the Lord Yeshua is the greatest sacrifice he could have done, and in his dying for the Lord, he knew he had completed the race.

© Hannah Kramer

A Crown of Joy

 “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away” Isaiah 51:11

I attended a young adults conference last week. It was a sweet time of fellowship with dear friends, a time for laughter, learning and worship well into the night.

The focus of the conference was God’s love. More specifically, it dealt with how God loves you and me and the implications of that to our lives. It is always good to be reminded of how God loves us. Have you truly considered that thought and begun to cry out of gratitude and love for your savior as a result? There were times I was so overwhelmed by God’s love me, my heart overflowed with joy and all I could do was cry from thankfulness.

From conversations during and after the conference, I know there were others who were touched as well by what we learned. We needed to be reminded that God loves us with an everlasting love, a love that transcends human love – a love that would never fail us and that we can lean on.

Some of those I spoke with had recently been through disappointments from people. Their hearts were hurt and only the Lord can reach out and heal the pain and comfort them. As we spoke, we were reminded that we are but vessels of clay, and that even if we get bruises and scars, we were Fashined by the Potter, and He would not let us get crushed.

I thought of the Song “Who Am I”, by Casting Crowns as I pondered on the events of the conference. I remembered a verse someone once shared with me, which greatly encouraged me. So I shared it with you now (at the top of this post). I encourage you to listen to the song and to consider that verse and, if you are going through a time of trouble, doubt, fear or uncertainty, be assured that He longs to adorn you with a crown of joy to replace the sorrow. It is not because of who we are, but because of what He is, a God of love. Not because of what we are, but because of who He is, Our God.

© Hannah Kramer

Who Am I – Casting Crowns