Give “Til It Hurts

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Perhaps you’ve dismissed the old saying, “Give ‘til it hurts” as simply a motivational technique used by money-grubbing preachers to get bigger offerings. But don’t miss the point: a sacrifice to the Lord your God that costs you nothing is no sacrifice. Now understand that it’s not the amount that counts, it’s the heart from which the gift comes that makes it acceptable before God. When the Lord calls you to sacrifice, be ready to give until it hurts—which will actually feel pretty good!

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Samuel 24:21-24

David said to Araunah, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.” Araunah replied, “Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar. I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the Lord your God accept your sacrifice.” But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen.

There is nothing wrong with looking for the best deal. Sniffing out good discounts is not only an American pastime, it just may very well be a matter of good stewardship. I would argue that being diligent with the financial blessings God has entrusted to us by going after the finest quality goods at the most affordable price is proper. But when it comes to that which we are called to sacrifice unto the Lord, it is to be just that—a sacrifice!

I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.

If what we give to God cost us nothing; if we have cut corners or gone on the cheap or have manipulated a discount; if we give second hand or second best when we could have done better, then it is not a sacrifice. God deserves our best.

Now understand that our best is not to be compared to someone else’s best—it is simply that which for us is of the highest quality and the deepest devotion and the greatest love.

King David illustrates this kind of costly sacrifice here as we close the book on 2 Samuel. This story was important enough that the Holy Spirit inspired the human author to include it in this inspired account of David, thus leading us to conclude that it represents a principle of giving God expects us to observe.

The context of this story is David’s refusal to accept a plot of land for free—land that the prophet Gad had instructed the king to secure upon which he was to build an altar. The altar was for a sacrifice to absolve David of his guilt in wrongly ordering a census of Israel’s fighting men. That sacrifice would stop the plague that God has visited upon the nation as a result of the king’s prideful and disobedient act. The sacrifice David wanted to make was of the most serious nature—there were 70,000 fresh Israelite graves to prove it. God himself had ordered the altar be built to accommodate that sacrifice—so this was a matter of utmost importance. In a real sense, this was a time for David to give until it hurt.

After Gad’s instruction, David went to Araunah, who owned the land where the angel of the Lord had stayed his execution of the Israelites, and this was the very spot where the sacrifice was to take place. Araunah responded to David’s request to buy the land by offering it for free—along with the sacrificial elements—all in the name of the Lord. But David refused this generous offer, insisting on paying full price for both the land and the animals to be sacrificed.

In refusing to accept the land for free or at a discount, David established an enduring and God-honoring principle for sacrifice: “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God offerings that cost me nothing.” God always asks for our best—and he deserves nothing less!

So how are you doing in the sacrifice department? Does that which you offer God cost you your best—that which represents your highest quality and the deepest devotion and the greatest love? If not, now is the time to start a new pattern of giving. If it does, keep it up!

Going Deeper With God: You have heard and likely dismissed the old saying, “Give ‘til it hurts.” But there is truth in it: we must never attempt to pass off a sacrifice to the Lord our God that cost us nothing. Now understand that it is not the amount that counts, it is the heart from which the gift comes that makes it acceptable before God. Is the Lord your God calling you to sacrifice something to him? Give ‘til it hurts—it will feel pretty good.

The Stand

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

In the Christian life, the greatest joys come from the greatest victories, and the greatest victories come from the greatest battles. And the greatest battles are won as we take our stand, and then stand firm against our Enemy. It is in “the stand” that faith gets enlarged and testimonies are born and history gets written.

Going Deep // Focus: 1 Samuel 23:11-12

These are the names of David’s mightiest warriors. The first was Jashobeam the Hacmonite. The second was Eleazar son of Dodai, a descendant of Ahoah. Third in rank was Shammah son of Agee from Harar. One time the Philistines gathered at Lehi and attacked the Israelites in a field full of lentils. The Israelite army fled, but Shammah held his ground in the middle of the field and beat back the Philistines. So the Lord brought about a great victory.

In the Christian life, the greatest joys come from the greatest victories, and the greatest victories come from the greatest battles. And the greatest battles are won as we take our stand, and then stand firm against our Enemy. It is in “the stand” that faith gets enlarged and testimonies are born and history gets written.

Case in point is here in 2 Samuel 23. Shammah took a stand, and it was one for the history books. Shammah was one of King David’s three mightiest men. He stood his ground when no one else thought that was a wise thing to do. He fought when everybody fled. He risked his life when the odds weren’t in his favor. He stood courageously when there was no encouragement. And through this one man taking a stand in the middle of a bean field against the Philistines—then standing firm—God gave a great victory to Israel.

And the nation’s faith was enlarged…and the nation’s enemy was defeated…and the trajectory of the nation’s history was changed…and a warrior’s testimony was born!

Now in some part of your life—in the middle of your bean field—you need to stand your ground against an Enemy who’s intimidating and defeating you. You say, “I don’t have the courage of Shammah,” but remember, courage is not the absence of fear; it’s the willingness to take action in the teeth of fear. Today, if you will take your stand, this might just be the day your faith grows some muscles and your victory gets secured and your testimony is birthed!

The Apostle Paul said it this way, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you’ve done everything, to stand. Stand firm, then…” (Ephesians 6:13-14) Take your stand!

When Martin Luther stood before the Diet of Worms, he was accused of heresy. As he was condemned for stating that we are saved by faith alone and not by works, he declared to his critics, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God… Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.”

Every believer who trusts God’s Word, who grasps their identity in Christ, who gets that their destiny is Abba’s child, knows when they can do nothing other than to take their stand—then stand firm. And the devil, with all the powers of darkness at his disposal, cannot withstand a standing believer.

In his book, The Good Life, Max Anders tells the story of a huckster who went to a wild-west town with a huge rattlesnake in a glass cage. The man covered the glass with a blanket and took it into a saloon. He told the people what was under the blanket and bet that the meanest, bravest man in town wouldn’t be able to hold his hand against the glass when the rattler struck. The townsfolk went wild. They found their toughest guy and told him about the bet.

Of course, that stoked his ego, so he couldn’t resist the opportunity to be the hero. He went into the saloon and they all bet on him! So the huckster tore off the blanket, and there was the biggest, meanest snake they’d ever seen. Suddenly annoyed by light and noise, the snake coiled, hissing, ready to strike. The tough guy broke into a cold sweat…but he had a reputation to protect, so finally, his hand touched the glass. And the snake struck with a fury.

Of course, the meanest, bravest man in town reflexively jerked his hand away. The rambunctious crowed was stunned into silence as the huckster collected their loot and high-tailed it out of town before they figured out they’d been duped.

What a powerful metaphor for the Christian life. Satan, the serpent, is real, he is fearsome, he is deadly, but there is a shatterproof glass between him and us—Jesus—and as long as we’re on the right side of that glass—in Christ—we can stand firm.

So take your stand, my friend: you win!

Going Deeper With God: Where do you need to take a stand today? Do it. Stand firm.

Go Ahead And Sing!

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Go vertical with your gaze once in a while, and you’ll see that God is still in control. Do that as the regular practice of your life, and you will find that you have much to sing about. Now this is not a proverbial whistling past the graveyard, it is an act that not only expresses faith, that not only builds faith, but it is an act that actually releases even more faith into your life. So you should sing—a lot!

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Samuel 22:1-23

Then David spoke to the Lord the words of this song, on the day when the Lord had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. And he said: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior…”

David sang a lot! We don’t know how good of a singer he was, but who cares. He didn’t. Besides, he was king, so who was going to tell him he didn’t have a good voice. And while we don’t know if he could carry a tune, we do know that he could really write those tunes. Many of them are still topping the charts thousands of years after the fact; they are sang by millions of people around the world every Sunday when congregations sing the psalms.

David sang a lot! And why not? God had bailed him out of bad times early and often, and he was grateful. Whether it was deliverance from a lion or bear, or from a king named Saul or a giant named Goliath, or from his own personal sin, his gratitude for God’s lovingkindness often spilled over the containment walls of his being. And he sang.

I think you should too. It is good for you. It releases more faith when you lift up your voice in praise. It elevates your mood, minimizes your problems, and sends shockwaves into the unseen realm where your Enemy resides, causing him to quake in his boots. And I would argue that like David, you should make up your own songs. They may never be sung by others, or even known, but they are powerful because they come from your heart, and from your fresh experience with the lovingkindness of God. They remind you of who God is and who you are; of what he has done and what he will do. That is precisely why you should sing—a lot!

Furthermore, singing songs of praise is not meant just as a response to God for his goodness in the good times. Singing is an act of faith in the challenging times that recognizes a higher reality than the one you see in your horizontal view-finder: That God is King—he always was, and always shall be. Given that, you should sing—a lot!

Go vertical with your gaze once in a while, and you will see that God is still in control. Do that as the regular practice of your life, and you will find that you have much to sing about. Now this kid of singing is not a proverbial whistling past the graveyard, it is an act that not only expresses faith, it is an act that actually releases even more faith into your life. Singing is calling into your present reality the greater, more real, infinitely powerful reality of eternity. Singing praises invites the presence of God and invokes the power of God in your life. So you should sing—a lot!

So if you want to squeeze every ounce of joy out of the good times and have more faith for the troubling times in life, sing! Go ahead, I am not joking, and belt out a tune.

Going Deeper With God: What has God done in your life lately? What do you have to praise him for? What about him causes you to be grateful? Write it down in the form of a song. You may never publish it, but you should certainly sing it, at least in the privacy of your prayer closet. Make up your own tune, and don’t worry if you are on key or not. God is your audience of one, and he will love it!

Repairing The Past

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

There is much debate these days over reparations for the national sin of slavery. People seem to take polar opposite sides on this one, but is this something that we seriously need to consider? Could it be that much, not all, but much, of the racial tension and hostility today has roots in the unaddressed shame of what happened to our brothers and sisters of color during slavery? But let’s not stop there: what about the treatment of Native Americans? What should we do with the more recent holocaust of millions of innocent pre-born babies that have been slaughtered through abortion? Whatever the issue, God has given us a process to restore his blessing upon our lives: repent and repair.

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Samuel 21:1-3

During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the Lord. The Lord said, “It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.” The king summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them. (Now the Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to spare them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them.) David asked the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? How shall I make atonement so that you will bless the Lord’s inheritance?”

What do we make of a chapter like this? God has revealed to King David that divine disfavor in the form of a three-year drought has afflicted Israel because of the sins of the former king. Specifically, King Saul had sorely mistreated the Gibeonites, a group of foreigners that Joshua had covenanted to protect during Israel’s subjection of the Promised Land. (Joshua 9:15) We don’t know what he did, but it was so morally offensive to God that he sent a drought, and it was so brutal that the Gibeonites wanted to take their revenge against the household of Saul. And God permitted it.

Again I say, what are we to do with that? I don’t know that any biblical scholar can give an adequate answer to that, and anyone who presumes to speak for God on the matter is probably wrong, but one of the insights that I have gleaned from reading the Old Testament is that much of the brutality we sometimes come across is frankly the result of what happens when men forget God. When the law of God is set aside, in the individual heart and in the national conscience, and there is no controlling moral authority, the people and their leaders begin to what seems right in their own eyes. And that is always disastrous.

Another spiritual insight from this story is that God takes our covenants quite seriously. When we set aside what we have sworn to do because of the inconvenience it creates for us, or because we suddenly don’t like it, or we want to renegotiate our contract, or we are lured by a far better deal, we have become morally offensive to the covenant-keeping God. And there will be consequences. In the case of this chapter, Israel was now suffering, many years after Saul’s covenant violation.

Now as we fast-forward to the twenty first century, granted, America is not a theocracy like Israel. We do not have leaders who are God-hearted like Joshua and David. Our governmental leaders do not call for the high priest to consult the Urim and Thummin to determine the mind of God. In fact, a growing number of leaders want to do away with “the mind of God” completely. Be that as it may, does God still hold us nationally responsible for violating his covenant in how we have treated groups of people? My sense is, yes he does.

There is much debate these days over reparations for the national sin of slavery. People and leaders seem to take polar opposite sides on this one, but is this something that we seriously need to consider? Could it be that much of the racial tension and hostility today has roots in the unaddressed shame of what happened to our brothers and sisters of color during slavery? But let’s not stop there: what about the treatment of Native Americans? And, in my opinion, what should we do with the more recent holocaust of millions of innocent pre-born babies that have been slaughtered through abortion?

Since God’s Word is true and unchanging, we can rightly assume that we suffer nationally and culturally today because of national sins for which both people and leaders have not repented. Now that doesn’t answer the question of reparations—and that is a very complex issue. But what I do know is that when we authentically repent, these seven steps must be taken:

  1. Acknowledge what I did by stating the offense. (“I did ‘it’”)
  2. Admit that I was wrong. (“I was wrong”)
  3. Express regret for my offense. (“I am sorry”)
  4. Ask: “Will you or when you can, will you forgive me?” Wait for their answer.
  5. Ask: “Will you hold me accountable? I give you permission to hold me accountable from now on.”
  6. Ask: “Is there anything else?” (With the intent, “Is there anything else you want to share with me or say to me that I may have done?”)
  7. Ask, “what can I do to make it up to you?” (As much as it is possible, be willing to make restitution.)

Of course, you and I cannot force our national leaders to do this, but we can pray that they will have the moral courage to figure it out. And, when we personally sin, or when we become aware that there is corporate sin within our family, we can and should follow these seven steps to God-honoring relational repentance.

What would happen if we covenanted to live this way, as individuals, in our families, churches, business, and for sure, in our nation? I think we would see a revival of God’s general grace upon us like never before.

Going Deeper With God: Reflect on Jesus’ words—then obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit: “If you’re offering your gift at the altar and remember someone has something against you, leave your gift at the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

It’s Warfare, Not Vacation

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

One victorious battle doesn’t mean the war is over. Defeating the Enemy in a spiritual skirmish does not mean he will suddenly go away with his tail between his legs, never to bother you again. To the contrary, he will usually double down in his attack and come at you again—often right away. That is just who your Enemy is and how he operates. Get used to it. C.S. Lewis described it this way, “The enemy will not see you vanish into God’s company without an effort to reclaim you.” And it will be thus until Almighty God throws Satan and his demonic hordes into the lake of fire at the end of the age—where they will remain forever and ever. So just keep that in mind: this is not a vacation, it is war! But it is a war you can win.

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Samuel 20:1-2

There happened to be a troublemaker there named Sheba son of Bicri, a man from the tribe of Benjamin. Sheba blew a ram’s horn and began to chant: “Down with the dynasty of David! We have no interest in the son of Jesse. Come on, you men of Israel, back to your homes!” So all the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba son of Bicri.

If you haven’t noticed yet, your Christianity is no vacation. Sorry to break it to you this way, but when you signed up to follow Jesus, you entered a battle of cosmic proportions, and you are a foot soldier. By the way, no matter how someone else recruited you to faith, Jesus was pretty clear about following him:

Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)

Now one of the things this means is that one victorious battle doesn’t mean the war is over. Defeating the Enemy in a spiritual skirmish does not mean he will suddenly go away with his tail between his legs, never to bother you again. To the contrary, he will usually double down in his attack and come at you again—often right away. That is just who your Enemy is and how he operates. Get used to it. C.S. Lewis described it this way,

The enemy will not see you vanish into God’s company without an effort to reclaim you.

And it will be thus until Almighty God throws Satan and his demonic hordes into the lake of fire at the end of the age—where they will remain forever and ever. So just keep that in mind: this is not a vacation, it is war!

King David found that out after his troops defeated the rebellion of Absalom. No sooner had the victory cheer ended when another rebel got on the bullhorn and pulled a significant number of troops from the Israelite army to follow him. Immediately, David was faced with yet another challenge to the kingdom, and as a battle-hardened warrior must, he dealt with it—decisively.

Until Satan is finally thrown into the lake of fire, spiritual warfare in the unseen dimension will continue to be a reality of your life and mine. Often, that unseen realm will spill over into the real world of our lives. But the good news is, we know the final outcome. God wins—Satan loses! And all who belong to God will be victorious.

In the meantime, as the battle rages, we would do well to stay alert to it, armor up, as Paul teaches in Ephesians 6:13, and fight the good fight!

Yes, the battle rages—all round you—but you are on God’s side and he is on yours, so get out there today, and go give ‘em heaven!

Going Deeper With God: Join me in this prayer today: Lord, before I begin my day I put on the whole armor of God. I am ready for battle, and I will not be unaware of the devil and his devices. I will fight the good fight and I will walk in the victory that you have already secured for me. I will overcome.

Getting Called Out

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

We need someone to call us out when our thinking, feeling and acting cause us to veer off the path of faith. That person is God’s gift to us, a true friend. But we will not have friends like that unless we invite them in, invest trust in their godly wisdom, and then give them permission to treat us roughly when we need it. One of the unavoidable essentials for healthy living is to have people who will speak the truth in love when we are acting in ways that are contrary to the will of God.

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Samuel 19:5-7

Joab went to the king’s room and said to him, “We saved your life today and the lives of your sons, your daughters, and your wives and concubines. Yet you act like this, making us feel ashamed of ourselves. You seem to love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that your commanders and troops mean nothing to you. It seems that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died, you would be pleased. Now go out there and congratulate your troops, for I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a single one of them will remain here tonight. Then you will be worse off than ever before.”

Do you have a friend who will call you out for inappropriate behavior? I hope so. You and I need at least one person in our lives that will speak the truth in love when we are acting in ways contrary to the will of God. Now those contrary ways might be out-and-out sinful behavior, but it could also be shrinking back in fear, moping in self-pity, or failing to see the hand of God in some difficulty we are experiencing.

Whatever the case may be, we need somebody to call out our thinking, feeling and acting when we are veering off the path of faith and into the ditch of shortsightedness. But we will not have people like that in our lives unless we invite them in, invest trust in their godly wisdom, and then give them permission to treat us roughly when we need it.

Joab was that kind of friend to King David. The king had just lost his son Absalom in battle. Absalom had usurped the throne and led a rebellion against David that had resulted in the loss of many Israelite lives. The troops loyal to David had rescued the king and saved the nation from civil war, but in the process, the king’s son, his favorite son, had been killed. And now David was mourning the loss of Absalom to the point that the hard-fought victory seemed like a defeat to those who had put their own lives on the line for the king and the kingdom.

Joab risked his reputation, job and life to call out the king for his shortsighted behavior. To make this brave act all the more impressive, keep in mind that King David had a history of not responding too well to this kind of bad news. (cf. 2 Samuel 1:1-15, 4:1-12) But Joab had the heart of a lion, and he knew that if he didn’t shock the weeping king into more kingly behavior the kingdom would be lost. So he called out the king, the king responded, and the kingdom was saved.

Who is your Joab? Have you invited a trustworthy friend to speak hard truth into your life whenever they see the need? I would not advise that you give too many people this privilege, and for sure, do not invite the first on your friend list into this role. You will regret it if you do. But find someone who is wise, experienced, godly, and who loves the vision God has for your life more than they care about being popular with you 24/7.

Prayerfully select someone like that, and then give them the keys to the front door of your heart. Believe me, they will steer you out of the ditch of short-sight thinking, harmful emotions and sinful actions at some point in your life.

When God gives you your Joab, thank God, and thank your Joab, early and often. They are a gift!

Going Deeper With God: If you have a “Joab” in your life, make contact with them today and reaffirm their role in your life. If you don’t, begin to ask God to show you a wise, godly, and bold person who could fill the Joab role.

With Friends Like That…

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

The temptation we all face is to surround ourselves with people who make us feel good but don’t advance the will of God in our lives. We’ll never grow past character flaws and personality weaknesses if we don’t have people speaking truth into our lives. Proverbs 15:31 says, “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.” There’s an old Jewish proverb that says, “A friend is one who warns you.” As uncomfortable as they may make us at times, thank God for people like that.

Going Deep // Focus: 2 Samuel 18:14-16

“Enough of this nonsense,” Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree. Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him. Then Joab blew the ram’s horn, and his men returned from chasing the army of Israel.

You have heard it said, “With friends like that, who need enemies?” That was Joab, the ruthless general of King David’s army, a loyal associate and a relative. But did I mention he was ruthless?

Joab served David well in the king’s rise to power. He was with him from the beginning, had slept many a night in cold, dank caves when David was on the lam from Saul and had fought fiercely in battle to protect David’s very life. Though he was a general, in reality, his was a “loyal lieutenant.” He was an effective chief of staff that carried out the commands of the king that the king himself would not have the stomach to do.

Which meant at times, Joab disobeyed public orders to ensure the personal well-being of the king and the kingdom were advanced. That is what he did in this chapter when he disobeyed a direct order from King David and killed the king’s rebellious son, Absalom. Why did Joab do that? The Quest Study Bible sums it up this way,

As David’s general, Joab was to safeguard the interests of the kingdom. David, motivated by a father’s love for his son, was more concerned about Absalom. Joab saw Absalom as a dangerous rebel who would continue to threaten the kingdom as long as he lived. David saw Absalom as a reckless young man who had made a foolish mistake. David hoped his son would change as he grew and matured. Joab’s single-minded determination to preserve David’s throne led him to disobey a direct order.

Was Joab a righteous man? Will we see him in heaven some day? I don’t know—that one is above my pay grade. But I do know that at times we all need “friends” that will help us do the right thing—as uncomfortable as that is. We all need people who will speak hard truth into our lives, who will be willing to risk difficult conversations to tell us we have spinach in our teeth.

The temptation we all face is to surround ourselves with people who make us feel good but don’t help us to become righteous. We’ll never grow past character flaws and personality weaknesses if we don’t have people speaking truth into our lives. Proverbs 15:31 says, “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.” There’s an old Jewish proverb that says, “A friend is one who warns you.” As uncomfortable as that is, thank God for people like that.

You don’t just need a lot of friendly people in your life, although having friendly people around is a good thing. What you most need are godly people who’ll come alongside you and call out God’s best in you. Proverbs 27:17 says of these kinds of friendships, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

You and I need friends like that —friends who are unconditionally loving yet absolutely committed to growth in our character through loving honesty. I like how the Good News Bible translates Proverbs 27:5-6, “Better to correct someone openly than to let him think you don’t care for him at all. Friends mean well, even when they hurt you. But when an enemy puts his arm around your shoulder—watch out!”

That’s not a declaration of open season for brutal honesty, but it does speak of the vital connection between the health of our whole being and the difficult conversations needed to get us there—and God’s gift of true friendships that makes it possible.

Going Deeper With God: Much of Proverbs up to this point has called us to accountable relationships—to develop friends and partners who will call out God’s best in us and hold our feet to the fire in terms of our personal and spiritual growth. Instead of challenging you yet again to get friends like that, let me challenge you to be a friend like that. Think about what it will take to become that kind of friend (which doesn’t happen overnight—it takes a track record of love, faithfulness and encouragement) and who it is that really needs you to be that kind of friend (believe me, God has at least one candidate for your friendship). Be a friend!