4 ways to be a fabulous friend

Constancy: Proverbs 17:17; 25:17; 18:24. A friend loves at all times.

Carefulness: Proverbs 26:18-19; 27:14; 25:20. A friend knows you well enough to what what hurts you.

Candour: Proverbs 27:5-6; 29:5. A friend nonetheless knows when to wound. And when they do, it hurts them too.

Counsel: Proverbs 27:9,17. A friend both reassures and challenges you, as the situation calls for it.

As believers in Christ, we have the ultimate friend. He’s there at all times. He received the wounds, not inflicted them. He never lets us down.

– Tim Keller, in Friendship

Here’s the classic hymn… in Chinese!

Inordinate love

“It remains certainly true that all natural loves can be inordinate. Inordinate does not mean ‘insufficiently cautious.’ Nor does it mean ‘too big.’ It is not a quantitative term. It is probably impossible to love any human being simply ‘too much.’ We may love him too much in proportion to our love for God; but it is the smallness of our love for God, not the greatness of our love for the man, that constitutes the inordinacy.”

—C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves

Avoiding heartbreak

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that  casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

—C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves

Friendship is unnecessary

“I have no duty to be anyone’s Friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine. No claims, no shadow of necessity. Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

—C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves

Reflections on May’s readings (3)

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I (try to) post about what I’ve read. Continued from yesterday, and the day before.

1 John: John states that the purpose of his letter is to assure his readers of their salvation (5:13). The distinctives of the child of God (1 John 3:1) that he gives can be summarised in these categories:

  • Right belief (that Jesus is truly the Christ and that He came in the flesh)
  • Obedience to God’s commands
  • Love for fellow Christians

More in detail, here are the “we know” statements found in this letter:

  • We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands (2:3)
  • This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did (2:5-6)
  • This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (3:10)
  • We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. (3:14)
  • This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (3:19-20)
  • And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (3:24)
  • We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. (4:13)
  • This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. (5:2)

In the end, our assurance of salvation should rest on the fact that “our sins have been forgiven on account of his name” (2:12). Only Christ can save, and only He can send His Spirit to testify with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). Continue reading

Reflections on May’s readings (2)

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I (try to) post about what I’ve read. This post is continued from yesterday. Quite unintentionally, this has turned out to be a Numbers-only post. I had no idea I had so much to say about Numbers…

Numbers: I wasn’t looking forward to reading Numbers, as I thought it would be full of well, numbers. I found that there’s more narrative than counting in the book, but that didn’t make it any easier to read. To be honest, I found it to be discouraging: the Israelites complained, wailed, raised their voices, grumbled, wept aloud, mourned bitterly, gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron, spoke against God and against Moses… (all those descriptions are straight from the Bible.) They had seen God’s awesome power at work in deliverance from Egypt, what with the Red Sea parting and all that; they’d eaten manna and seen water gushing from a rock… And all they could think of were the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic of Egypt (11:5). Of them, the Apostle Paul says that these things occurred as examples and warnings for us, that we may not set our hearts on evil things like they did (1 Cor 10:6-11).

I can’t leave it there. The best part is that God persevered with the people. To be sure, none of those who left Egypt— save  Joshua and Caleb—entered the Promised Land. They paid for their sins, Moses included. But God fulfilled His promise to Abraham and brought the new generation into their home. He is a God of mercy.

Right. After that serious beginning, let me add some levity to my observations on Numbers. In chapter 1, the heads of the tribes are mentioned; I was excited to recognise Nahshon son of Amminadab. Who? you ask. He’s the guy in Jesus’ genealogies in Matthew 1:4 and Luke 3:32-33. (I was reading these novellas about the time I was in Numbers 1). I may be wrong, but it’s the first time since Genesis that a progenitor of Jesus turns up in the biblical narrative.

In Numbers 6, God gives the rules regarding Nazirites—I always assumed you had to be born one, like Samson. Good to learn something new.

From Num 8:23-25, it would seem that God is in favour of retirement—or at least as far as it applies to the Levites…

In chapter 9, a provision was made for people who were unable to celebrate the Passover at the appointed time for reasons of ceremonial uncleanness (in this case, a dead body). I wonder if Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea used this provision? How gracious of  God to provide it, too!

In Numbers 11, the Israelites wail and Moses tells God that the burden is too heavy for him to bear alone. God tells him that He’ll take of the Spirit that is on Moses and put it on seventy of Israel’s leaders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied (even the two guys who hadn’t come to the convocation). I see a pattern here: when God’s Spirit comes on someone and they prophesy— Saul did (1 Sam 10:10), as did the believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:11). Continue reading

Reflections on May’s readings (1)

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I (try to) post about what I’ve read.

An unexpected thing happened when I finished reading Genesis a few months ago: I felt a pang of sadness on realising that I wouldn’t be hanging out with the patriarchs any more. Each time I complete one of the longer books in the Bible, I get that sad feeling. I may even cry a little for Moses when I finish the Pentateuch later this month…

In May, I completed Song of Songs, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1 John, Numbers, 2 & 3 John and Jude in that order. Month’s end found me still in Deuteronomy, the Psalms, Isaiah and Revelation.

Song of Songs: My takeaway from reading this book is that interpreting it as an allegory really complicates matters.

Here’s an outline of Song of Solomon, which reveals its chiastic structure, common in Hebrew literature:

•1:1-8 Poetic fragments: falling in love
•1:9-2:7 Love poems (courtship overtones)
•2:8-5:1 Wedding poems
•5:2-7:13 Love poems (marriage overtones)
•8:1-14 Poetic fragments: falling in love

Hebrews: This book could be summed up as: “Jesus is better.” The word ‘better’ appears 12 times. Jesus is better than the angels and Moses; His rest is better than Joshua’s; His priesthood is better than the Levitical priesthood; He offered a better sacrifice; His covenant is better… You get the picture.

Was the author experiencing senior moments when he wrote, “But there is a place where someone has testified…” (2:6) and “For somewhere he has spoken…” (4:4)? What a relief! Even inspired writers forget! At the end of the letter, he describes Hebrews as ‘only a short letter’ (13:22). That’s quite the understatement 🙂 In the same verse, he asks that his readers bear with his word of exhortation. Here are the exhortations given: Continue reading