Formed by spiritual friendships.

This week's devotional is from Pastor Jeff Mazzariello.

ENCOUNTER:  Read John 15:13 and Psalm 133:1-3

 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."

The practice of Spiritual Friendship can be defined as "Intentionally committing to walk the journey of life with a friend in such a way that you help each other reflect on and engage with the presence and work of God."  It is more than having some acquaintances who we happen to run into once in a while as we travel in our respective orbits.  It is about responding to God’s providential provision of people in your life and his calling on you to engage with them in an intentionally deep way.  Ask God, even as you read this devotional, “With whom have you called me to go on this journey?”

BE REFLECTIVE:

There are probably as many kinds of friendships as there are people in the world.  They express themselves in our lives in a myriad of ways.  Some are based on unique circumstances of shared space and activities. Some are more intimate that others.  Some have the very specific goal of sharing the fellowship of being “in Christ” together.  As such, these friendships are pretty intentionally focused.  They are friendships with the overt purpose of strengthening one another to walk with God.  Do you have these kinds of friendships? Do they have the characteristics of being:  Intentional? (You are choosing to interact in ways that grow each others spiritual life.) Strategic? (You have committed to certain practices such as studying the word, confession, accountability, and prayer for each other.)  Honest? (You share even the hard stuff.) Grace filled? (Nothing any one does or says will shock the other into judgement or condemnation.)  Encouraging? (You are sold out to finding ways to give them courage to take the next steps with God.)

BE A BLESSING:

Jesus said this kind of friendship would be characterized by laying down our lives.  In other words, it will be about dying to our self-centeredness and to our culture of convenient relationships.  We will have to fight the urge to live isolated lives, safe from the potential pain and shame that we think might come if we were to be vulnerable and engage at the heart level with someone.  But we are called to this, my friends.  And for good reason.  He designed us to be spiritually formed by being in exactly these kinds of relationships.  We read that this kind of depth of fellowship is good and pleasing, for it uncorks God’s presence, and life, and blessing on our brothers or sisters... and on us.  If you do not have these kinds of spiritual friendships, to whom can you reach out this week to simply take the first steps?  Or if you have these friends, decide right now about how you can strategically invest in one of these people this week so that they are encouraged in their spiritual journey.

BE TOGETHER:

I’m certain that is not lost on you that encouraging you to pursue spiritual friendships is a major part of what we are about at MCC.  All those announcements you hear each week, those Friday email blasts, all the tables you see in the lobby taking “sign ups"...  All these things are intended to help you find a context to engage in loving and serving Jesus WITH spiritual friends.  You cannot go this journey alone.   With whom will you travel this road?