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Showing posts with label Friendship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Friendship. Show all posts

Monday, July 6, 2020

Jesus’ Power Helps Us Be Good Friends

Today, I'll finish studying the themes and passages from each day of VBS. 
So far, we’ve learned:  
Jesus Power Helps Us Do Hard Things.
Jesus Power Gives Us Hope.
Jesus Power Helps Us Live Forever.  
Today, we learn:  Jesus Power Helps Us Be Good Friends.

John 15:12 says, “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.

Jesus also said that everyone would know we are Christians by our love.  He didn't say they would know we are Christians by the way we dress or how we speak or where we go to church or even by the stances we take on political issues.  He said, they will know we are Christians by the way we love each other.

It is essential that Christians love each other and stick together.  You cannot live out your faith in  People were created to be together.  One of the hardest things during this pandemic is the isolation.  We were not meant to be stuck at home all by ourselves.  We were not meant to be unable to hug or even shake hands. (That's why it is so awkward when we get together and we don't know whether we should or not.  We need some form of social greeting that doesn't require physical contact, but we also need physical contact.)  God designed us to be together.
Jesus all by yourself.

Think about it.  When Jesus came as the Son of God, filled with the power of God, he didn't need any help to fix the problems of the world.  He could have snapped his fingers and fixed them all by himself.  But he didn't.  Instead, he chose 12 disciples to work with him. It would have been easier to do it alone.  Why get 12 people together with all their problems and personality conflicts.  You know, James and John were brothers; you know how siblings can be.  One time I was driving with my two daughters when they were younger and the older one screams, "Dad!  She breathing!"  And I said, "Thank God!  That means she's alive!"  (What she meant was, she's breathing too loud and it's getting on my nerves!")  Don't you know James and John were probably always getting on each others nerves--not to mention the 10 other disciples.  Why would Jesus put himself through all that?  Why not save the world all by himself?  I guess it was essential for the work to be done together as a group effort.

Jesus established the Church to be a family of believers united to support one another with friendship as we tell the world about Jesus.  We see several pictures of the church working and living together in divine unity--especially in the book of Acts.   

Acts 2:42-47
42 All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. 44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— 47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.

Acts 4:32-35
32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.

Light in the Darkness
The early Christians were vastly outnumbered.  Most of the people around them did not believe in Jesus or even care to show love, kindness, or goodness.  This small group of Christians—only about 5,000 people in a city of over 200,000 was a bright light in a dark, dark world.  “This small band of believers needed to stick together and support each other.”[i]

Maybe it was easier for there earliest Christians to stick together than it is for us.  There wasn’t a pandemic on the loose.  Or was there?  COVID-19 isn't the first pandemic the world has faced.  There have been many plagues that have ravaged the world in former times--bubonic plague, the black death, and others that we can't even name.  Many of these were far deadlier to humanity than COVID-19.  I was watching a documentary the other day and they said the black death killed as much as 80-90% of many of the community it struck.  Can you imagine?  That would be horrible!

The early Christians had deal with these devastation.  They stuck together through them.  In fact, many scholars believe that the way they stuck together through the various plagues contributed to the rise of Christianity throughout the world.  It contributed in two ways.  First of all, Christians survived the plagues at higher rates than non-Christians.  Think about it. when everyone around you is dying and people were frightened, they would hide in their homes and abandon their friends and family.  Christians didn't abandon each other.  And because they cared for one another--even being willing to die for each other--they had a better chance of surviving sickness than others who had no on to care for them.  A second reason plagues helped Christianity become more prominent is because non-believers saw how the CHristians love one another, and even how they reached out to care for and love non-Christians.  In the face of death, when everyone was abandoning each other, Christians stuck together and even cared for others who were not Christians.  And this showed non-believers the Christians faith was authentic; and many non-believer began to believe.

Today, Christians have many more tools to help us stick together.  Even though we have been told to isolate ourselves, we have phones.  We can so easily call one another to check on each other.  We also have text and email.  In a few seconds, we can send a message to someone.  We have programs like Zoom, where we can all gather in a virtual room for a video conference where we can see and hear each other.  And this is not even mention social media and how it can be used to help us stay connected.

Are we using our technology to stay connected?  Is sticking together as the family of Christ a top priority in our lives?  What are you doing to stay connected?  What will you do in the days ahead?

Alone, Christians are vulnerable.  When Christians stick together, we are unbreakable.

Jesus’ Power Helps Us Be Good Friends
Since Jesus wants us to be good friends, His Holy Spirit helps us to be good friends.  If we are willing to follow the Spirit’s guidance, we can make friends, be friends, and bring our friends to Jesus.  Let me give you 5 simple tips about how to make good Christian friends.[ii]

First of all, pray about it.   Pray for God to show you who should be your friends.  Yo never know whom God may place in your path today who needs a friend.  And you never know how that friendship may grow and bless you.  Pray that God would send you people to befriend.  And also pray about the depth of the friendship. Not all friends are created equal.  Some will be more casual and some will be deeper relationships.  And you need to know the difference and know that it's alright to have different kind of friends.  Pray for the wisdom to know what kind of friends you have.  And of course, pray for your friends.  Pray God will bless them and care for them.  And pray that your friendship will grow.

Second, be honest. Don't try to pretend to be someone you are not.  Just be yourself.  Your true friends will accept you for who you are.  Be authentic and have integrity.  And tell your friends the truth, even if it is a hard truth.  They might not like it at first, but--if they are a true friend--they will appreciate your honesty and see that you offer it in love.  My friendship with my best friend began 24 years ago when we worked together in a youth program.  He was the youth director and I was a volunteer in the program.  He asked for feedback from all his volunteers about his job performance.  I thought he was doing a terrific job, but also saw a few things he could do better.  I praised him, but also offered my constructive criticism.  Eddie really appreciated my honesty and told me some time later that it showed him I was a true friend.  That friendship grew from that point on and has lasted through many good times and hard times until we are now more like brothers than friends.  Honesty is the foundation of the best friendships.

Third, be selfless.  It’s not about you. We tend to befriend people we enjoy being around, but it would be self-centered if that were the only thing that made up our friendship.  Ultimately, friendship is about selflessly giving to your friends.  Jesus said, "There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15:13)  Great friendships are build when both friends give selflessly expecting nothing in return.

Tip number four:  be vulnerable.  Vulnerability creates an instant connection. When we open up with our friends, we put ourselves in their hands and a true friend takes that responsibility seriously.  They appreciate that we have trusted them and they will also trust us.  Being vulnerable helps weave your life into your friend's life.  Now, it is important to remember tip number one when you begin to open up to your friends.  Remember, friendships come in different levels.  Friends must earn each other's trust to go to deeper levels of vulnerability.  Pray to know your friendships.  Don't be completely vulnerable with someone who hasn't earned your trust.  That isn't wise.  But then only way to earn trust is to be given a chance. So, start opening up slowly and move to deeper levels as a friend earns your rust.

Lastly, have fun!  Fun is more than entertainment.  We bond with our friends as we have fun together.  It helps to weave the chords of our lives together.  You don't have to be having fun all the time.  But having fund together has to be part of the equation.  It is something that makes friends truly friends.  That's one of the reasons why it is so essential that church members get together regularly for fun and fellowship.  It's not just something extra we do--like being in a social club.  Fun and fellowship weaves together our lives and bonds us as one body--the body of Christ.

Make a Friend.  Be a Friend.  Bring a Friend to Christ.
Now when it comes to making friends,  you must both reach in and reach out.  I suggest that most of your friends should be people who have the same deep core values as you.  Therefore, if you are a Christian, seek strong Christian friends; they will help encourage you to follow Christ and grow in His love (and you will do this for them too).  Your Christian friends will be the people you can count on the most.

However, we should also reach outward to non-believers.  Jesus gave us a mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  We can only do this as we reach out to be friends to non-Christians.  When we have a solid foundation of Christians friends to keep us strong and on the right path, we can be confident to be friends to even those who don't share our same values.  In doing so, we can grow and learn and we can help our new non-believing friend grow and learn too.  And perhaps our friends may see the special faith we have and desire to pursue it as well.  Then they will grow to a deeper level of friendship as they learn to share our faith.

So, make a friend. Be a friend.  And bring a friend to Christ.  How will you be a friend this week?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Proverbs Day 25

Read Proverbs 25
Wise people learn who to trust. Not everyone who claims to be your friend is really your friend. Kind words are sweet to hear and most will offer to help, but you find out who you can count on through experience.

Pastor Chris' Paraphrase of Proverbs 25:4, 14, 18, & 19
4 You have to remove the impurities from silver before it’s ready for the silversmith to make something useful.

14 Someone who makes a big deal about a gift they never really give is like rain clouds that never give any rain.

18 Telling lies about people is like assaulting them with a deadly weapon.

19 Relying on an untrustworthy person when you need them is like chewing with broken tooth or running on a sprained ankle.

Test people with small challenges to see what they're made of. Are they all talk and no action? Are they honest? Can they keep a confidence? If you can't trust someone with something small, you can't trust them with something big. However, if you've found someone who is faithful with small matters, they are more likely to handle something more important. Someone who walks through fiery trials with you is a true friend. Hold on to that friendship. It's worth more than silver or gold.

"Jesus, teach me who to trust. Help me be wise enough to look beyond the kind words and promises and discover who I can really count on. Help me to invest in those relationships. And help me every day to remember You are the one friend who will always be there. And may I be a true friend to You. Amen."

Monday, March 7, 2016

17 Tips About How to be a Good Friend

The following tips are advice about friendship that were shared with me via email, Facebook, and handwritten notes.  Some statements were shared by people from Pleasant Grove UMC; others came from people outside our congregation.  The advice is not in any particular order and PGUMC and our pastor make no claims about the accuracy of these statements.  We simply share them for your consideration.  Pastor Chris would welcome the opportunity to counsel with you privately about how deepen your friendships.  Click here for my blog about 5 traits of deep friendships.

How do you make friends and be a good friend?

1.     Listen, Trust, Forgive, Laugh, Pray.

2.     Be kind and honest.

3.     Always have a helping hand available. Be a good listener.

4.     Always assume that there is something about every situation you're involved in with a friend that you are unaware of. This can affect a relationship and if you have that in mind it is easier to maintain that friendship.

5.     Err on the side of kindness.

6.     Just being there and never having to say a word, just a hug a loving touch.

7.     Knowing when to shut up!

8.     Listening.

9.     Show an interest in them and theirs. Don't bore them by telling them about you.

10.  When you walk into a room, look around at the people there and treat them like you were hoping so much they would be there—even those you don't know. You'll find a lot of friends that way.

11.  To restore a broken friendship: 1) Talk to God before talking to the person. 2) Always take the initiative. 3) Sympathize with their feelings. 4) Confess your part of the conflict. 5) Attack the problem, not the person. 6) Cooperate as much as possible. 7) Emphasize reconciliation, not resolution.

12.  Making Friends – Staying humble and kind will make you more appealing to others who are also looking for a friend. In today's society, we are constantly surrounded with mediums to bring attention to ourselves. Facebook, Instagram, etc. are all methods to enhance our own image and therefore takes away the focus from others. Staying humble and kind will help to reduce this self-promotion/social acceptance mentality and shift the attention to those around us. I believe people find that quality appealing, refreshing, and ultimately... will win you new friends.

Being a good friend – staying humble and kind allows us to listen more than we talk. Good friends exhibit genuine interest and respect towards each other. Humility allows us to be slow to react and therefore promote wise words and actions. You never see a friendship end because one party was too nice and kind. Friendships end due to the lack of humility and kindness.

13.  Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ.

14.  Forgive, make an effort to keep in touch and up-to-date on each other’s lives, and pray for and with each other.

15.  Be a good listener and thoughtful.

16.  To be a “good” friend, treat that person as you would like for them to treat you.  Show respect, compassion, understanding, and love for your fellow person.

17.  Always be there.  Remember special occasions and celebrate with them.

5 Traits of Deep Friendships

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

God designed us to have deep relationships.  God created us to have a deep relationship with Him--to know Him, to talk to God, to love and admire Him.  However, God created us for more than just a human/God relationship.  God created Adam and Eve so we could have deep relationships with other people too.
A deep relationship is a profound, caring connection of mutual support, cooperation, and trust.  Deep relationships can be with family, friends, someone we date, a spouse, or a co-worker.  However we find them, our souls yearn for deep relationships.  The goal of this blog is to share five traits about strong, faithful, meaningful friendships. 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Types of Friends
As part of our discussion today, I want to share 5 traits of true friends.  But before we get to those traits, it will be important to discuss the different types of friends we find.  As I see it, there are three different kinds of friends and it is vital to understand the differences.  Friends will fall along a spectrum with these general categories.
            First off, some of your friends will be companions.  People who are companions keep company with each other.  Another word for this might be “acquaintance.”  Now, a companion is a sort of friend, but not at a deep level.  You probably aren’t deeply bonded with a companion; your friendship with a companion is often unplanned.  For instance, you may associate with your companions because of a mutual interest—maybe you work or go to school together, you might share a hobby, or maybe you have a mutual friend with whom you both hang out.  Thus, you may spend time with a companion—you may even enjoy each other’s company—but you didn’t deliberately choose your companion, it just sort of happened.  Companions are usually friendly to each other, but they aren’t necessarily deeply committed to each other.  Companions may grow to become your best friend, but at this stage it is only a very casual relationship.  And that’s vital to remember, because trusting a companion like a close friend can get you into real trouble. 
            Another type of friendship is a mentor/mentee relationship.  A mentor is someone who teaches or gives advice to someone less experienced.  A mentee is someone who is being mentored.  Mentors usually have their mentees best interest in mind and give freely to encourage or improve their mentee.  Charlie Green was my pastor when I took my first job as a minister.  Charlie saw potential in me and took me under his wing to teach me how to be a good pastor.  Now, I didn't have a lot to offer Charlie, but he sacrificially helped me become a better minister.  He was a mentor to me and I have always appreciated him for it.  Now, over the years, our friendship has grown deeper than just that of a mentor and mentee.  It is more of a mutual relationship now.
            It’s important to note that mentor/mentee relationships aren’t an equal or mutual friendship.  Knowledge, expertise, or advice is being exchanged.  It’s somewhat like a business or consumer relationship.  It’s important for the mentee to remember this and give their mentor some space and/or be grateful and respectful.            
            Another type of friend is what I call a true friend.  A true friend is a much deeper relationship than what you have with a companion.  And unlike a mentor/mentee relationship, a true friendship is mutual—with both people contributing equally to the friendship.  A true friend is a real blessing.  They are someone you can trust in thick and thin because they have been with you in thick and thin.
            Listen to what the Bible says about friends. Proverbs 17:17 – "A friend loves at all times…"  Proverbs 18:24 – "...there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."  John 15:13 – "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
Let me give you five traits of a true friend.  These five traits will help you recognize a true friend and also teach you how to be a true friend to others.  I hope you will also notice that Jesus demonstrated all five of these traits.  So ultimately, if you want to see what a true friend is—look at Jesus Christ.  If you want to be a true friend, seek to treat people like Jesus treats you. 

Five Traits of True Friends
Number one – sacrifice.  True friends sacrifice for each other.  Jesus was the ultimate example of a true friend—he laid down his life for us.  Not all friends will sacrifice to that extent (though some might), but a true friend will sacrifice.  A true friend will give up his time for you, will sacrifice his comfort for you, will go to great lengths for you.  And the deeper the friendship, the farther friends will go to sacrifice for each other. 
My best friend is Eddie Bradford.  We have been friends for 21 years.  Eddie is the kind of friend I can call at 3:00 AM if I have a real problem (and yes, I have called him at 3:00 AM before).  The same goes for Eddie.  He has called me at times when there was no one else he could talk to.  Eddie and I would do almost anything for each other.  That’s a true friend. 
Number two – unconditional love.  Christ died for us while we were still sinners.  He didn’t die for us because we deserved it.  He did it because we didn’t deserve it, but needed it.  That’s true friendship.  A true friend loves us unconditionally.  They are our friend—not because we deserve it—but purely as a gift of love.  This is a deep level of friendship.  That is why a true friend will often stick with you when times are terrible—when you are at your lowest point and have nothing useful to offer.  That kind of friendship can make all the difference in the world.  Wouldn’t you like to have that kind of friend?  Maybe you should seek to be that kind of friend to someone else.
Number three – trust.  A true friend is someone you can trust.  They won’t go around town telling everyone what you said when you told them something confidentially.  You know a true friend always has your best interest in mind.  You can count on them.  They will be there for you when you need it.
People often get into trouble with their “friends” when they misunderstand how trust and friendship work.  Proverbs 18:24 says, A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  Remember, companions are not true friends.  They are just casual acquaintances.  But when you trust an acquaintance like a true friend, you can get in real trouble.  Trust must be earned.  Have your friends earned your trust or are they more like companions?  Furthermore, what kind of friend have you been?  Are you trust worthy or are you acting more like a mere companion?
Number four – healthy boundaries.  True friends develop healthy personal boundaries.  In her blog about Christian Friendship, Mary Fairchild writes:  If you feel smothered in a friendship, something is wrong. Likewise, if you feel used or abused, something is amiss. Recognizing what's best for someone and giving that person space are signs of a healthy relationship.”  Do your friendships have healthy personal boundaries? 
Number five – truth.  True friends tell the truth.  Do you want to know how my best friend and became friends?  Eddie was the new youth pastor at East Cobb UMC in Marietta.  I was a volunteer working with the youth group when he started.  After a few months on the job, Eddie called all the volunteers and asked our opinion about how he was doing.  I told Eddie what I really liked about his teaching style (he really was doing a good job).  However, I also told Eddie a few things he wasn’t doing well.  Now, some people would have gotten upset, but Eddie recognized I wasn’t trying to complain or be mean.  I genuinely wanted to help him do his very best.  Eddie told me a few years later—after we’d become good friends—how much he appreciated my honesty that day on the phone.  Not only had it helped him be a better youth minister, it revealed to him that I would be honest with him—and that’s the kind of friend he wanted.
Proverbs 27:6 shares God’s great wisdom about this when it says, “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.”  A true friend will be honest with you.  Are you being honest with your friends?  Now, to be sure, you have to have some tact.  You don’t always want to be complaining to your friends about their every flaw.  Think about it.  If you have a booger hanging from your nose, would you rather your friend tell you or just let you walk around all day like that?  What if it was something more important than a booger?  You'd want your friend to be honest with you even if it was hard or embarrassing or upsetting.

The Truest Friend
The truest friend you will ever have is Jesus Christ.  John 15:13 – “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  And John 15:15 says, "Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me."
It’s amazing that Jesus calls us his friends.  He has already done everything to earn your trust.  He always has your best interest in mind.  He loves you unconditionally.  He tells you the truth even when it’s hard.  But he won’t force you to be his friend.  You have to decide.
Until you let Jesus be your friend, all your other friendships and relationships will struggle.  But when you get your heart right with Jesus, everything else will start to fall into place—your family, your friends, your romantic life... everything.  Why don’t you turn to Jesus today—let him be your True Friend, your Lord, and your Savior?