Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
“When we consider the blessings of God — the gifts that add beauty and joy to our lives, that enable us to keep going through stretches of boredom and even suffering — friendship is very near the top.” Donald W. McCullough
One of the ministries I have supported for a long time holds an annual prophecy conference in the United States. Each year the numbers grow, with many traveling from overseas to attend. The most recent gathering, a few weeks ago, had several thousand participants. Hundreds had to view the proceedings in an overflow area or online.
The same lectures might be gleaned elsewhere, of course, but it seems fewer and fewer churches are doing so. It has become harder to find fellowship, spiritual kinship, you might say, around prophecy, but also on other classic Christian teachings*.
Attendees say that besides the prophecy information, the fellowship of like-minded believers is another reason they sign up–and travel.
This got me to thinking of that Friend, in season and out, there for us “until the end of the age,” and through whom all of the constant, trustworthy, dependable, parts of life exist; our true and ever-present leader, guide, comforter, in Whom “there is no shadow of turning,” He Who gave His life (and of His life) so that we might have forgiveness for sin and access to the throne room–the One Who reaches us no matter where or how “remote” we may be from other humans of like mind and spirit. That Friend is, of course, God in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The trouble with a “spirit friend,” so to speak, however, is that sometimes, like the little boy said to his father who came in his room to comfort him during a midnight thunder storm by telling his son God was always with him, “But I need (God) with skin on,” we, too, need friends “with skin on.” So we travel for conferences, fellowship, and comraderie, literally and virtually.
Thinking about all this on a weekend getaway at the Oregon coast prompted a quiet but memorable meditation on the power of God’s friendship that took shape on a walk on the beach, where the warmth of the sun filtered through a light, misty breeze in the briny air and the ebb and flow of the powerful tide turned my thoughts to that same God Who, by the power of His Spirit through rebirth, resides in me. A presence and Presence (the archetypal friend, you might say) I don’t always appreciate as distracting as life can be.
In these days of polarization in many areas, we need what fellowship God provides, particularly as the prophetic days darken.
“Skin on friends,” as it were, may not always be present, but He Who promised to “never leave nor forsake us,” is.
And for believers, He dwells within.
Like the eye of a storm, His light and presence shine clear, calm, and comforting when we focus our gaze there.
Just as Jesus prioritized getting away to spend time with His Father in fellowship, we can be refreshed there, too. Here are a few starter prompts, no matter where you are.
Consider that Friend Who…
…though He may be difficult to imagine “skin on,” think about this: He formed the skin on you that performs multiple life-preserving, as well as comforting, functions. Really. Take a minute.
…wants your fellowship too!
And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, NASB, emphasis added)
…paid the greatest price for your friendship:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)…
Jesus elaborated on His role:
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)
(Only the disciples had not yet “learned” the full significance of the cross, their eyes and understanding not yet opened to the prophecies about it and its central role in enabling us to enjoy this friendship with God. But they soon would. We can now.)
It might be hard at times to escape the cacophony of the world and “get away” to spend some one-on-one with God, but like those who planned, saved, traveled, and got away to the prophecy conference (or like one who enjoyed a memorable walk on a gorgeous Oregon beach), it is well worth the effort for the benefits thereof.
And it is worth the effort for the lingering joy and encouragement of being in the presence of the One Who knows us best but still leads, guides, comforts, and inspires us. Our, you might say, God Friend Forever.
*Many believe the introduction (in some cases takeover) of the modern Christian church by one or more of the following: New Age (and old contemplative) practices, the business model of church growth, and/or the “seeker-friendly” and “emergent church” movements have been instrumental in the lack of teaching on classic Christianity.
Image of Oregon Coast from Wikimedia Commons