Friends of Jesus

This morning I am introducing a new Thursday feature to the Praise2worship blog called the Sunshine Newsletter. As some of my followers know I have had the privilege to be involved in nursing home ministry for about thirty years. About three years ago I began printing out a devotional newsletter for the residents to give them something to read between weekly visits. When Covid-19 shut down all the communities I visited, I began to include a bit more in the newsletter and was able to get it to the residents by sending it to the activities directors of the various facilities. Fast forwarding a year – two wonderful friends, Pastor Janice Burnett and Rob Keller came on board and helped with the writing and editing of Sunshine Newsletter replete with new formatting and images. Sadly I have not yet found a way to directly upload our format to WordPress but you will be seeing the content of our publication along with the best photos I can find each Thursday. What you may find surprising in a Nursing Home Devotional newsletter is that, while now and then there is some news or a brief mention of nursing homes, its focus is rather to encourage the residents. They face many of the same issues we all do, so after receiving permission to use their material I present to you today a recent installment. Have a blessed day all!

I Call You Friends by Pastor Janice Burnett

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15 NIV

Did you ever have a job where you didn’t know much about the business? Perhaps it was your very first job as a gas station attendant or a waitress. If you were pumping gas, you might have known just enough about which gas to put into the car or the truck, then take the money and make sure it got into the cash register. It might have been the same if you were working in a restaurant – you waited on the customer, served them the food, took their money and handed it over to the cashier. Maybe over time you stayed working there long enough to know more about how the business was run. In fact, you might have ended up managing or even owning it! But, that didn’t happen overnight did it?

One of my first jobs was behind the counter at a snack bar at a W.T. Grants Department Store – remember them? I knew just enough to do my job, but I didn’t know my manager’s responsibilities, and I certainly didn’t know anything about running the entire store! Jesus knew something about this and talked about it and our relationship to Him in John Chapter 15 when he called us “Friends” – Wow! When you think about a relationship with Jesus, do YOU usually think of HIM as a friend? Many times in our lives, we have been rightly taught to respect and obey Him. I want to do that, don’t you? But Jesus is telling His disciples – and us – that He calls us friends. We are not just servants who get ordered around and from whom He keeps secrets. As a parent how many times did you reassure your child or grandchild of your love even though you told them what to do? Did you only say it once? No! You repeated it time after time just like Jesus! He tells us to remain in His love and so love each other, and then He calls us friends! He is so loving, patient and kind! Just as the song says, “Oh – What A Friend we Have in Jesus” Have you made friends with Jesus by opening your heart to Him? It is never too late to begin that friendship. He is waiting to hear from you today!

Photo by Helena Lopes on
Circle of His Friends 
by Peter Caligiuri

No need to knock on Jesus’ door
It’s open all the time
But He will always knock on ours
When He is passing by

He looks in through our windowpane
To see the empty spot
That at our kitchen table sits
With our dinner fresh and hot

Won’t you ask for Him to enter in
And forgive your sins and more?
 We join the circle of His friends
Once He’s come in our door!

When Joseph Scriven wrote the words of his now famous hymn, they were actually a poem he sent to comfort his mother who was very sick and missing him terribly back in Ireland. Several years previously, Scriven had lost the love of his life just week’s before they were to be married and in his time of grief he dedicated his life to God and there found great joy and peace. Hearing word of his mother’s ill health he sent these words of the hope he had found. Today they are still sung on job sites by brick layers and in corn fields by farmers. People lying in hospital rooms as well as standing in the largest cathedrals have been encouraged to know that no matter how important others think we are or how much money we have in the bank, there is nothing we could ever have that compare to the riches and power of a life lived as one of the friends of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!    
Joseph Scriven 1855

Prayer is nothing else than being on terms of friendship with God – Teresa of Avila

Friendship With Jesus

If I had to choose one book out of the entire Bible as my favorite it would be the book of John. Of course every book in the Bible is unique. For example, most of the Old Testament tells us about God’s covenant and holiness; while in the New the other Gospels tell us what Jesus did. When we get to Acts we learn how the church came to be and later the Apostle Paul shows us what it means to live as a Christian. But John, from its very first verses tells us about Jesus.

In Chapter One He is the Word of God
In Chapter Six the Bread of life
Chapter Eight He tells us He is the Light of the world
And In Chapter Ten He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life
By Chapter Eleven He tells Martha He is the Resurrection and the Life
Chapter Thirteen reveals Jesus as Lord and Master
Chapter Fourteen the Way the Truth and Life
Chapter Fifteen He is the Vine and we are His branches
And finally to Thomas in Twenty He reveals He is Lord and God

But of all these amazing titles, I find the most amazing is Friend.

No longer do I call you servants,[a] for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15

When our oldest son was just a baby we lived in a tiny third floor apartment. The two features we loved most about it were that it was cheap and that it was furnished. But it was so small that you could walk through its three rooms in less than ten steps. Three for the kitchen, three more for the living room and a bit less for the bedroom which over looked the street. One hot summer afternoon our one year old son Chris woke from his nap while my wife was working in the kitchen. The window was open just a crack to let in whatever breeze might be stirring to let in some air. For some reason Chris decided that it was much more interesting watching the cars below on the street than in going to see his mom. As he climbed out, Nancy heard the sound and turned and saw our son out on the roof toddling back and forth unafraid and unaware of the danger. Being the cool headed woman that she is Nancy, looked out and smiled at Chris, then spread her arms wide and called gently. “Hi honey! Come give mommy a hug!’ Chris lit up when he heard his mother’s voice and walked back to the window and embraced his mother. As our friend, God is exactly like that. He clearly sees the danger we are in teetering on the edge of eternity because of our sin. We have all climbed out the window of His will to try and get a better look at the world. But our almighty Creator does not panic. He does not shout orders or demand instant obedience. He knows we cannot obey in fear and that in fact we will be even more likely to fall off our tiny ledge of safety. Instead the Master of the universe spread His arms open wide to us on the cross and called. “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Now that’s some amazing kind of friend! Won’t you rush to Heaven’s window and reach out for His everlasting arms!

Oh what a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

I hope you like our good friend Matt Maher’s version of What a Friend. It is one of my favorites!

Beware the Oppressor

Going up the dirt road to the farm this week I met a snapping turtle. He(or she) was crossing when i stopped to get a closer look. At first he did his best to continue on ignoring me, then as I came closer he turned to prepare for an attack that never came. For some reason I remembered the scene from  Voyage of the Dawn Treader,  “Beware the oppressor, He’s very oppressive!”  The Dufflepuds warn Lucy.

To the turtle I seemed a very likely oppressor, but just as in CS Lewis’ book, I KIMG1045was in fact not at all interested in harming him.  In the Bible there is a story that in some ways conveys the picture of a servant with the same kind of thinking.

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ Matthew 25:24-25

In the turtle I saw a reflection of my own short-sightedness, defensiveness and fear in my relationship with God. I look fearfully about in those moments when I feel Him coming closer and sometimes try to take refuge in my own shell. When I am cornered I sometimes snap out at people around me. But in place of being safe in my shell, instead I thrash about like Peter when he got his eyes off of Jesus and he began to sink beneath the waves. Thank God that in the same way Jesus reached out immediately when Peter called for help, so also He hears my cry and comes to my rescue. Just like Peter, God’s grace reaches me and together he brings me safely back to His boat.

What a friend we have in Jesus

Al our sins and griefs to bear

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer  

Joseph Scriven