Photo above: The Hertford Bridge in Oxford, England. Used by Permission. © Tom Ley 01302 782837

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Wounds of a Friend

“The wounds of a friend are trustworthy ..." Proverbs 27:6

     Recently I had a dear friend of mine read a script on which I had just finished a first draft. I knew the script had a few problems, but overall I thought it was pretty good. More than that, I really liked what I had written.
     My friend took a week to look over the script. I had given her the green light to “rip my script to shreds,” not realizing just how much she would take it to heart!
     With pencil and notepad in hand, I eagerly awaited the insights from my friend that would turn my script into a blockbuster hit.
     My friend started by asking why I wrote the script. I thought it was obvious since it was such great story, but I humored her. I told her that I wrote it because I thought it would be fun to write. Strike one. “Where was my conviction? Where was the message I was passionately trying to get across?” she asked. “Beats me,” I replied.
     Next, I was told my characters were hard to connect with and some of them were merely two-dimensional. Ouch!
     I love the characters I created and connect with them easily. I guess others don’t think the way I do and don’t know everything about my characters like I do. So my scribe telepathy seemed to have misfired. Strike two.
     My friend was not finished; there were more revelations to come. The opening is dull. My father/daughter relationship in the story isn’t developed enough. One of my main character’s key motivations isn’t believable. And one of my sub-characters disappears for almost 50 pages.
     After two pages of notes, I was thinking, “Wow. My script stinks.”
     But you know what. My reader friend was dead-on with everything she said. I was blind to so many of my story’s issues. It took someone on the outside, unbiased and unconnected, to peer into my script and immediately see the problems. Wow. Thank you!
     I really do like my script. I like it so much I am going to go back and fix the problems and make it work and it will be a better script for it. Not only will it be fun, it will now be meaningful with a strong message delivered by strong committed three dimensional characters with clear motivations. No one will disappear for 50 pages.
     It seems to me that what my script needed is also needed in life sometimes. We need someone to read the “script” of our life and point out some problems with “our story.” Have you ever had someone do this for you? Maybe they did it without you asking.
     If you can keep pride from getting in the way of hearing AND listening, then you can really grow from finding out that maybe you are a little too short with your kids, or a little condescending with your mate, or tend to be a bit wasteful with your resources.
     Maybe your quality of work has slipped or your recent weight gain just isn’t looking good. We all need to hear these things sometimes. Proverbs 27:6 says, “The wounds of a friend are trustworthy .…”
     Wise is the person who takes the advice of a friend, weighs it truthfully for what it is or isn’t, and initiates real change where change is needed.

J. Darin Wales - Freelance Film/TV Director, Virginia Beach, VA

Monday, June 28, 2010

Are You On Spiritual Cruise Control?

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV

What a great scripture to discuss the importance of community! A thorough reading of this passage highlighted one word for me—that word is “spur.” That doesn’t sound like a comfortable action to me! The very definition of “spur” describes a sharp object that is nudged into the side of a horse to encourage it to go faster. But if we were honest with each other, we’d agree that sometime we need a nudge or two to be encouraged to go faster and further with Christ.

As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to go faster and further but if we are honest, we don’t always want to. It’s too easy to become complacent and settle (even unknowingly) into a sort of spiritual cruise control. One way we can go faster is by surrounding ourselves with others who will love us enough to push and tell us hard things that build us up. The truth is, real spiritual growth involves pushing the accelerator at times, and at other times putting on the brakes. Community gives us me feedback on my “driving.” I have always thought it to be wise to have friends who love me BUT love Jesus more.

As the author of Hebrews tells us, we need to continue meeting and encouraging each other “all the more as you see the Day approaching.” That is to say, as the world breaks down around us, we have ever more reason for Christian community to surround us. Let us receive this charge and not take it lightly. Ask God to bless you with people that will spur you on to become more like Him and to help you keep your hand off the cruise control.

Brett Coates, Dir. of Church Relations

Monday, June 21, 2010


“They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common.” (Acts 2:42-44)

When you think of the phrase “daily devotion,” what comes to mind? A “quiet time,” sitting alone privately with God early in the morning and/or late at night? Is it one of those spiritual disciplines that we know we should be doing, yet most of us don’t? Indeed regular private encounters with God are vital for spiritual nourishment, but should we consider “daily devotion” as merely an individualistic experience with God?

Based on Acts 2:42-44, a community’s “daily devotion” can be observed by the following four key elements: 1) hearing the Word of God, 2) having fellowship with other Christians, 3) sharing meals in remembrance of Jesus (that is, the sacrament of “Communion”), and 4) praying together with other believers. Our private “daily devotion” cannot rise above the level of our corporate “daily devotion”—and the opposite is true as well. Daily devotions are both an individual and a group endeavor.

What happens among a community where “daily devotion” is happening? The Bible tells us that everyone feels a “sense of awe” (v43), “many wonders and signs take place” (v43), and the members have “all things in common” (v44). Signs and wonders cannot be legislated into existence any more than sharing material possessions can be forced. These Spirit-produced miracles occur as the result of “daily devotion” to the Word of God, fellowship with the body of Christ, communion, and prayer.

What does Regent University need in order for “daily devotion” to occur among our beloved community? Have you devoted yourself both individually and corporately today?

Submitted by Darren Shearer, M.A. Candidate, School of Divinity

Monday, June 7, 2010

Community - A Gospel Reality

“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.” – Acts 4.32-35 ESV

In the midst of the world we live in, we are all looking for some sort of place of connection. Whether we realize it or not, we center our lives around connecting. We believe if we can find the right people, then we will be able to create an environment in which we will thrive beyond our wildest imagination. Just consider this: We join gyms & athletic leagues, pledge fraternity/sorority, attend church, frequent book clubs, sculpt our Facebook pages. We just want a place to belong. However, we rarely think that these things will work out. We quit the gym, pull our hamstring, graduate college, church hop - all because we rarely believe that community is a reality. It is just some idealistic human goal.

We might try to find some sort of assistance in Scripture to discover community and we get descriptions such as Acts 2.42-47, where this glorious community is founded upon the teaching of Christ and is roofed by the coming of the Holy Spirit. Did I mention that everyone shared in everything? That community is the “ideal” house we want, where “your stuff” that I covet becomes mine through the miracle of Christian generosity. But in the end, perhaps we are still reticent to believe this is really possible? Was it only possible for them and not us? And yet, this idealistic picture is in our Bible, causing us to wonder….

In Acts 4.32-35, we hear an echo of Acts 2.42-47, where “all the believers” were: unified in heart and mind, sharing everything, testifying of Jesus’ resurrection, God’s grace upon them, and no one was needy in any way. I easily tend to write off this passage as I did with Acts 2, however, I found something that encouraged me greatly within it. There was a different point of centricity for this community that I failed to realize before. Verse 33 highlighted that this community found its core in Christ and his ability to connect lives, not our attempts to formulate life together.

One can find many cultural insights here, whether the writer of Acts is highlighting the Greek ideal of friendship where friends are “one soul dwelling in two bodies” (Aristotle). Or perhaps the Hebrew ideal of how true shalom (fullness) is occurring due to obedience to God, there would be none in need (Deut. 15.4f). But as I read this passage, the transcendent idea is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as it says, “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all” (v.33). That power makes the impossible possible!

I know that we live in a world that seems to be full of negativity and criticism, often thwarting things we see in Scripture as rosy religious idealism. But what I see in this passage is that community “is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 30). Skepticism melts in the face of the apostles’ life of generous, gracious living created not by our ability to hold people together but by the gospel of Christ alone. When we face an ideal in Scripture that seems unattainable, begin to testify of Jesus Christ and watch how grace via His Spirit will take an ideal and create a reality. “For by Him, all things were created…and in Him all things hold together” (Col.1.15-17).

Submitted by Jason Peaks, M.Div. student, School of Divinity.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Run to God

"I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done. I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain." Psalm 143:5-6

David, the writer of this Psalm, understood the power of running to God for thirst-quenching, soul-refreshing, mind-renewing nourishment. But it's somehow more relatable knowing that just before his epiphany, he confesses a grave state of being: he's been knocked to the ground, is living in darkness, is losing all hope and is paralyzed with fear. Sounds like the perfect opportunity to pull the blankets over his head and call it a day, doesn't it? Even at the risk of sinking deeper into the pit of despair. Or, he could always try working a plan of attack with Me, Myself and I leading the charge.

But, David does just the opposite. Perhaps with eyes squinched, hair--and spirits-- disheveled, and feeble arms waving a flag of surrender, he positions himself for ultimate victory under the covering of the King of kings.

How? He remembers, ponders, lifts his hands in prayer. He's not banking on who he is and what he can do. He's runs at full thrust to his tried-and-true Redeemer, knowing that His faithful love will hide and guide him. David's words later in the Psalm more tenaciously reveal his passionate resolve: I am trusting You. I give myself to You. You are my God.

His firm footing is based on God's gracious Spirit leading him forward.

When you're tempted to hover in darkness, fear and hopelessness, resist. Remember. Thirst. Lean. Trust. Raise your hands! God's gracious Spirit will lift you to Him alone. Run into His strong and capable arms where you will always find nourishment.

Submitted by Brook Chalfant, Regent University Marketing

Friday, April 16, 2010

A New Commandment

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34

The last hours of a person’s life bring clarity, focus, and poignancy. Deathbed confessions receive special consideration in a court of law, and “last words” often ring for generations because of their pithy power. In his last week on earth, Jesus the Nazarene chose to spend time with his closest friends. In the intimate setting of a meal, reclining together at the table as was the custom in the Near East, some of his final words clearly focused on friendship, and the signature stamp it gives his followers. One of His final statements was elevated to the status of a command, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Recently, I saw this bold challenge lived out in the lives of students right here at Regent University. A group of students gathered together on Maundy Thursday, the day during Holy Week that Christian churches celebrate Jesus’ giving of this new commandment. There, they took Jesus’ words literally, and “loved one another” as Jesus loved his friends. They washed one another’s feet! As an expression of love, friendship and service, they physically removed the shoes and socks of their friends, and bathed feet and toes in cleansing wash.

The moment that challenged me, however, was when one Caucasian student from the Deep South and one African-American brother from the “North” washed one another’s feet. I saw in that simple basin some of the hatred and prejudice that has so long clouded ethnic relationships in our country washing away. I knew that this was no “for the cameras” moment, but reflected a deep respect and friendship built on prayer, listening, and honesty. Truly, these two young men bore the signature stamp of Christian love and friendship, proving to be followers of Jesus.

It made me wonder, “How can I overcome barriers to love others around me more fully?” What keeps me from being a friend to others? What hinders me from taking Jesus at his word, and loving those around me in the simple, servant fashion that He did? When I look at my life in hindsight, as Jesus was able to do in that Upper Room, will it be filled with selfless service to others in demonstration of true love and friendship? Only if I challenge my own failure to love can we become the community envisioned by Jesus, the Nazarene…the one who died that I might be called “friend.”

Monday, December 21, 2009

Good News for ALL

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:8-11

I worked retail for several Christmas seasons. It’s a thankless task, and anyone who’s had that experience can feel forgotten. Can you imagine if God Himself suddenly showed up at your workplace? No doubt the poor sheep herders working the night shift that first Christmas wondered if anyone cared for them. They discovered the truth that Good News isn’t just for the church place, but the marketplace as well.

The good news of Christmas, said the angel, is for “all the people.” Not just the church people, or the people that make a lot of money, or even the people who are on Santa’s “good list.” The Christmas angel could have appeared to a priest in the temple, or a holy man deep in meditation on Mt. Sinai. But he didn't; He showed up in the middle of the night, to a bunch of working stiffs far from God.

Whether you find yourself in the mall or the church hall this Christmas, there’s good news. God can show up right where you are! The surprise of Christmas is that God makes house calls. Our university community exists to place leaders in every sphere of influence; from the courtroom to the board room to the living room with this message of peace…God has arrived in the person of Jesus, right where you are.

Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests. Submitted by Dr. Richard Kidd, Director of Campus Ministries

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Proverbs 27:17 As Iron Sharpens Iron...

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.

This "proverbial" truth reminds me of my Eagle Scout days out in the woods. There we faced crucial tasks of cutting firewood with an ax and carving campsite necessities with a knife. It didn't take long to realize, axes and knives get DULL through use. The proverb reminds us the same is true with people.

The truth is we all need one another for spiritual sharpening, don't we? Whether its the grind of routine that dulls us, or the acid of discouraging circumstance, or even the hard-hearted rebellion of sensuality, our souls get dull--just like knives. We lose the keen edge of spiritual interest whetted in us through constant contact with Christ.

I know as a long-time "dullard" the friction of fellowship often restores my spiritual edge. Others notice gaps in my spiritual armor, "blind spots" that I might miss. They challenge rationalizations that I cherish. Sparks fly when iron sharpens iron. Just ask the Regent Students who started, "The Sharpening." Every week they practice just this type of full-contact discipleship, not with knives or axes; but with sharp souls that seek to help shape one another for service to Christ.

Jesus said it plainly, "Are you still so dull?" (Matt. 15:16) Perhaps you need the friction of fellowship to sharpen up your soul. God bless you as you seek others to share your spiritual journey. Submitted by Dr. Richard Kidd, Director of Campus Ministries

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Brother is Born for Adversity

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17)

A number of years ago, I served as the primary care-giver for my grandfather. He exemplified the adage, “Some are better by nature than others are by grace.” Although he did not have a personal relationship with Jesus until just before his passing, my grandfather’s gentle nature and integrity were unquestionable. As his personal challenges increased because of aging, so did mine as his caregiver. It was during these difficult few years that a couple in my church surrounded me with support and care. They understood my situation, sensitively uplifted me in tangible ways, and seemed to know just the right time to call or stop by our home for a visit. They became friends who stood by me during a challenging life season and have continued to love me despite life’s ups and downs, as a living reminder that God would see me through.

The writer of Proverbs 17:17, presumably King Solomon, addresses the quality of relationship with both a friend and a brother. There are two probable meanings to this proverb based on the parallelism of friend and brother. First, if both parts are synonymous, then a friend who comes along side of us in a difficult situation becomes like a brother, metaphorically speaking. Thus, the friend is always available but especially during adversity. Second, if both parts are contrasting, then a brother offers more certainty than a friend when crises occur, providing a sense of safety and protection. Regardless of which of these two views the writer intended, the message is clear. True friends lighten our load, provide support and protection, and are unflinchingly dedicated especially during times of anguish or suffering, similar to the couple who supported me during my life challenge.

Several biblical illustrations of this kind of friendship and commitment quickly come to mind ~ Jonathan’s undaunted friendship with David and Ruth’s self-sacrificial commitment to Naomi. However, friends not only align with us in adversity, they likewise call out the best in us in vocation, as colleagues J. R. R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis exemplified. Meeting three times weekly, they called forth each other’s literary giftedness and creativity within a mutually supportive small group. Tolkien wrote of Lewis, “Friendship with Lewis compensates for much, and besides giving constant pleasure and comfort has done me much good from the contact with a man at once honest, brave, intellectual - a scholar, a poet, and a philosopher - and a lover, at least after a long pilgrimage, of Our Lord.”

How does Proverbs 17:17 relate to us today at Regent? What would it look like if we called forth each other’s giftedness in a spirit of genuine collegiality and friendship and stood by each other during times of personal adversity? As my friends were to me, Jonathan was to David, Ruth was to Naomi, and as Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were to each other, may we be found faithful to uplift each other’s arms in genuine love and caring. And in so doing, might not we become Jesus’ heart, hands, and feet one to another?

Submitted by Dr. Diane Chandler

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Are you a Friend like Jonathan?

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. 1 Samuel 18:1

This verse appears in Scripture just after David killed Goliath and just before his rather meteoric rise to prominence in Israel. It also marks the point from which Jonathan enjoyed a deep friendship with David, while Saul entertained jealousy and paranoia that opened him up to fits of madness, increased his vulnerability to being politically manipulated, and distracted him from being the godly leader he was anointed to be. Why the difference? David’s spirit tended to put God’s interests before his own, as did Jonathan’s, so they were “one in spirit” while Saul definitely was not.

Gore Vidal once wrote, “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.” That sounds shocking, but is it really so foreign to us? It’s so easy to measure our success or our worth against another’s, but this is Saul-thinking, not Jonathan-thinking. Jonathan could have viewed every success of David’s as a threat to his family, himself, and his future. Instead, he was free to rejoice when God worked blessing through his friend instead of himself because his spirit put God’s interests ahead of his own. Saul-thinking lacks security in the Father’s love, so it competes with others to find an alternative security. When I hear it in me, it’s time to find out why my spirit is out of whack and why I’m not “one in spirit” with others.

There is a great model of friendship that looks like a stone doorway. God is the threshold. The uprights of the doorway are time spent together and effort invested in the friendship. Finally, the arch of the doorway is formed from love, loyalty, encouragement, sharing, sacrifice, fun, and challenge. David and Jonathan are a wonderful illustration of this kind of friendship. Let’s become a community marked by deep friendships built solidly on this model. Can we build relationships that are “one in spirit” because we put God above our own interests? Can we invest in those relationships with the same level of love with which we love ourselves?

Submitted by Joel Ladd, Director of Student Development