Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why Women Need Fellowship

This is what we doing for our first Women's Bible Stud tomorrow night.  I tried to give credit if I used something that's not mine.  All the scripture is from Bible Gateway.  It's a bit long, but I wanted to include The 8 Qualities of a Good Friend by Jennifer Cotti 

What is fellowship?  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 tells us; "Two are better than one,  because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down,  one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls  and has no one to help them up.  11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.   But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered,  two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Why do women need fellowship?  Everyone needs friends.  Women often times find it difficult  to find time to fellowship with  other Christian women because things like husbands,   jobs and kids.  But sometimes we need to reach out to other Christian women for encouragement.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."

Romans 1:11-13New International Version (NIV) 11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,[a] that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.

8 Qualities of a Good Friend
by Jennifer Cotti
1.  A good friend is faithful.  Fair weather friends are MANY!  A good friend sticks closer than a sister!

-Prov. 14:20 "The poor are despised even by their neighbors, while the rich have many “friends.”

-Prov. 18:24 "There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother."

-Prov 19:4,6,7 "Wealth makes many “friends”; poverty drives them all away.  Many seek favors from a ruler; everyone is the friend of a person who gives gifts!  The relatives of the poor despise them; how much more will their friends avoid them! Though the poor plead with them, their friends are gone."

2.   A good friend will be honest, instead of using flattery.  This is big to me because I’m an encourager or a “replenisher” by nature and it’s often mistaken as flattery.  There is a HUGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FLATTERY AND ENCOURAGEMENT.  Flattery is a lie used to manipulate and it’s selfish in nature for your own benefit.  NOT godly or Christ like behavior!! The enemy is lurking behind that.  Encouragement only uses TRUTH to BUILD UP others, pouring strength, courage, into the other person.  Whatever the need is that God has revealed your friends heart needs.  Encouraging another is selfless with pure motives.   I love 1 Thes. 5:11 “So ENCOURAGE each other and BUILD EACH OTHER UP, just as you are already doing.”

-Prov. 29:5 To flatter friends is to lay a trap for their feet.

-Prov. 26:28 A lying tongue hates its victims, and flattering words cause ruin.

3.  A good friend rebukes when necessary.  This is self explanatory really but when I did this study the Lord put #3 and #4 together.

-Prov. 27:5,6  An open rebuke is better than hidden love. Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.

4.   A good friend is thoughtful and tactful to your heart. I grew up with Pastor Sam branding into us “Be steel wrapped in velvet.”  “It’s not what you say, but HOW you say it!!”  God has a right way to say things and man has a wrong way about speaking and justifying it. We need to examine our hearts.  Examine our motives.  Are you wanting to rebuke, scold, get even, humiliate, embarrass or be the first to tell them off?  Are you angry? Is there unforgiven sin in your own heart?  What would Jesus do?  God’s nature is to be redemptive, restoring if possible.  How much time have you spent in prayer or maybe in tears over this subject or this person?  Have you tried to feel their pain and understand them?  How would YOU want to be treated if you were in their shoes?  Some people look forward to “setting them straight” and giving them a piece of their mind. But God has called us to give them a piece of your heart AND God’s heart!  Let God use you in the right way and at the right time to someone whose heart may need to hear loving words from a gentle heart.

-Prov. 18:21   The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

-Prov. 27:14  A loud and cheerful greeting early in the morning will be taken as a curse.

-Prov 25:20  Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound.

5.    A good friend sharpens us.  Meaning a good friend will bring Jesus “out” in the other so they can have an edge to live victoriously in Christ.  A good friend will challenge your faith and walk to go deeper.  Without that sharpening a person loses their edge and becomes dull in their walk, their faith, and in the kingdom.   A good friend lifts you up “to stand on their shoulders” and propel us to go higher.  This is where a friend’s strength can help the other during their weakness or a down time…providing you are HONEST!!  It does NO GOOD if you aren't honest, aren't real or caught in a cycle of sinning WITH a friend and covering it up together.  That’s not sharpening and that’s not a good “friend”!

-Prov. 27:17  As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.

-Prov. 20:5 Though good advice lies deep within the heart, a person with understanding will draw it out.

-Prov. 13:20 Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.

-Prov. 22:24 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered.

6.  A good friend offers WISE COUNSEL.  This is kind of obvious.  I have personally learned over the years it’s best to have more than one close godly friend to share with.  Right now I’m single and feel it’s not wise to have ONLY 1 godly woman speaking into my life.  When I’m married that will change and it will be between Jesus, my husband and I.  But I believe God is a God of balance and from time to time I’ve learned to stop and look at my heart and my friends.  Sadly I had a horrible experience of “friends” who had lied or use their tongue as a knife and I learned what qualities to look for in people who I let close to me.  I am SO fortunate!  God has blessed me with a small handful of INCREDIBLE godly women who are strong in the Lord.  They all desire to please HIM with their friendship and have my heart in mind even when speaking truth in love. They are EXTREMELY emotionally, mentally and spiritually stable.  None of them have any selfish motives and that makes me feel safe.  In turn, I have made a covenant with each of them that I would be honorable and trustworthy with their hearts and friendship, always lifting them up in prayer.  On occasion I might ask a couple of them for thoughts if I get stumped but my rule of thumb, which I learned the hard way is to work things out with the Lord on my knees.  He ALWAYS guides my path, He has never let me down.  He has become my husband and best friend…and He’s NEVER failed me!!

-Prov. 27:9 The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.

7.  A good friend respects you and doesn't mold you to their likeness.  It’s easy to offer advice saying “if I was you” or “if it were me” or “I think”.  And human nature is to listen and act on it believing that’s the road to take, but the truth is God has a plan for YOU.  I've seen lives ruined because people listened to advice of others and ran with it.  Be careful! The same plan for you isn't the same plan as your friends.  God didn't make you a cookie cutter of your friend.  You are uniquely and wonderfully made and there is nobody like you in the entire world.  What may have worked for one may not work for the other.  God doesn't work the same way for every person.  The stirring, the passion, the desire for something in YOUR HEART is for intended for YOU. It’s not meant for everyone to understand and it’s not uncommon if people don’t understand.  We serve an audience of 1 and it’s not man.  In this study the Lord parked me on Noah and Abraham and I came away seeing their CONFIDENCE was in GOD.  They were secure in themselves and in the Lord.  They weren't so insecure they needed the approval of others around them.  They were confident in God.  Noah did what God told him to.  He didn't delay asking his BFF for advice.  I’m sure it sounded insane but he did it and what did he lose?  Can you imagine if he went to his friends and listened to bad advice of “friends” with wrong motives?  I can’t fathom the gossip if he had confided in one of the people what God revealed to him.   Abraham didn't ask anyone’s opinion when God gave him instructions to sacrifice his only son, Isaac.  Gen. 22:3 says early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey and took with him two servants and Isaac.   He didn't ask around for opinions, it was between God and Abraham.  He ACTED in obedience, confident in God, believing He would raise Isaac from the dead.  Wow!  He had faith God would work it out in the end.  He obeyed God and left the consequences to Him.  The Lord spoke to Abraham his instructions, not Sarah. The Lord spoke to Noah His plan, not Noah’s neighbor.  The Lord has a plan for each person and a friend may not understand the choice, or like the choice, but if God has stirred your heart then that is between you and the Lord.  Sometimes it’s not popular choice or the easiest route (just ask the Israelis in the desert roaming for 40 yrs)!  As I typed my notes the Lord reminded me of this example: I’m single and had been praying about my brother moving in with me.  I discussed it with only ONE person and as we talked we concluded it may not be wisest choice.  But God would NOT let it go to the point it was driving me nuts! I went into DEEP prayer and the Lord revealed to me He was going to use it as a time for me to break old patterns, to teach me to take care of myself and learn new kindnesses in order to prepare me for my future husband.  I had things to learn and patterns to break from my prior marriage. God was going to use this time AND He was going to use me, if I let Him, to prepare my brother for his future wife as he had kindnesses to learn.  I finally had PEACE!  I knew what God’s direction, purpose and plan was and didn't discuss it with anyone further because I didn't want to touch the Lord’s final word to me.  I was confident in God and trusting Him to come through.  Here I am 2 yrs later and it’s not been easy to break old patterns but when I get married my future husband will appreciate it SO much. He will reap the benefits of my obedience!  God has done so much AWESOME work in me and my brother.  SO worth it!

-Prov. 16:28  A perverse person stirs up conflict and a gossip separates close friends.

-Prov. 12:26 The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray

8.   The qualities of a good friend should be qualities found in a good mate!    I think this is pretty self explanatory.  Nobody wants to find they married a person they would have considered a horrible friend.  Your spouse is the only relative you get to choose, so chose wisely!  Here are some good introspective questions to check your own heart:  Are you loyal?  Do you stand for what is right or do you look out for yourself first?  Do you listen to rumors about your friends or do you walk away?  Do you participate in gossip about them behind their back?  Do you believe the best in them?  Do you trust them?  Do you even have faith in them? Look out for them?  What kind of character and INTEGRITY do you have…when nobody is around?

-Prov. 27:10 Never abandon a friend—either yours or your father’s.

-Prov. 17:17  A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.

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