Friend of Sinners

There’s a beautiful wood carving of a cross in this home I visit often. It hangs on a wall, at the head of the dining table, reminding all who see it of the names of God. It includes all the holy titles such as, “Lord” and “Wonderful Counselor,” and names that reflect the humility of God such as, “The Good Shepherd.”

But as I read through them, I noticed one was missing. 

Friend. 

Friend of sinners. 

God is holy. There is absolutely no doubt about that in my mind. But often it’s easy to forget that He is also our Father, our rescuer, our friend. 

To think that the righteous God of the universe would send His Son Jesus, in the form of a man, to call the unrighteousness like you and me His friends!

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” -Jesus (Matthew 11:19, ESV)

Jesus was ridiculed and misunderstood because He ate meals with tax collectors, who were at that time seen as cheaters because they kept much of the collected money for themselves. But that was exactly why He ministered to the tax collectors. “For the Son of man came to seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

When He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, delivered to be crucified, Jesus called Judas “friend.” Even as Judas sinned against Jesus, Jesus was gracious to him. Christ died so that He could call us, those who sin against Him daily, His friends. 

This leaves me in so much awe of God’s grace and mercy. As Paul wrote in His letter to the Ephesians,

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:1-10)

That right there is the gospel. That sums up our past, present, and future as Christians, as Jesus-followers, and oh how marvelous it is!

Because of Jesus, we can call Him friend. Because of Jesus, we are children of God. We have an amazing Father, and long to be with Him forever on streets of gold. In this hope, life here on earth becomes a striving to glorify Him, not counting the cost because He has already given us everything.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!”

Making Time for What Matters

A couple years ago, I made the commitment to move my set-aside time with the Lord to the early mornings. I woke up an hour earlier each day to spend time reading the Bible, praying, and listening to quiet worship songs. But after several months, I fell out of that habit. Suddenly, I was trying to cram in that time right before retiring for the night, and I began to feel the negative effects. It became a box to check off the list, rather than an active suiting-up in the armor of God to take on the day.

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A Budget Based on Hope

A couple weeks ago, I was in a meeting where the natural course of action was to discuss the budget. In the middle of this discussion, somebody sighed, “Unfortunately, our budget is based on hope.”

They pointed out how it all depended on whether the powers-that-were liked the idea, how many people were willing to fight for the project, and what other things were also receiving part of the budget.

I immediately thought, not so with Jesus.

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What I Learned Offline

I recently took five weeks to step away from social media. The primary reason was that I wanted to focus on my work, yet I ended up gaining much more than productive days. My social media break taught me several important lessons that I hope to continue applying even when I’m back online.

Social media is a reflex, not a need. During the first week of my hiatus, I found myself going to check websites and apps without even thinking about it. I caught myself each time, but it was interesting how I didn’t need or consciously want to check for updates every five minutes. It was something my body had been programmed to do, and it had become an unhealthy habit.

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Run to Jesus

We can all agree that suffering stinks like a puppy that hasn’t had a bath in a while. It comes out of nowhere, no matter how much we expect it. It breaks out hearts or our bones. It brings a new weight onto our shoulders. It crashes into our routine lives and overturns issues we thought we could just push aside and deal with later.

But maybe that’s the point. Maybe suffering is designed to stir us up out of apathy. It shakes us out of spiritual sleep. If we’re looking at the ground when a massive wave throws itself at us, we’ll definitely look up.

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Sorrow and Joy

“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

In telling the story of Lazarus, John writes the shortest verse in the entire Bible. Jesus wept.

Jesus knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, as a powerful foreshadow to Christ’s own death and resurrection. Jesus knew that Lazarus would one day enter into eternity with his Heavenly Father. Yet Jesus still wept. 

It’s okay to feel both joy and sorrow at once. It’s natural. Jesus Himself experienced this paradox of emotions. He understands. He weeps and rejoices with us, and oh what a source of peace and comfort that gives us.