Free to Be Friends

29 Jan

The world has some funny ideas about friendships:

  • Never let your friends feel lonely; disturb them all the time.BestFriendsForever_LOLwithGod_freedigitalphotos
  • True friends never get tired of hearing your “drama.”
  • A friend is the one who fetches your “I think I’m going to be sick” bucket. A GREAT friend will hold it for you.
  • “It’s one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
  • We are all mature … until a friend brings out some bubble wrap!
  • We’ll be friends until we are old and senile, and then we’ll be NEW friends.
  • “There is nothing better than a friend – unless it is a friend with chocolate.” (Linda Grayson)

The truth is, God made us for relationships. And friends are a special gift.

I’ve been thinking about friendships for a long time now. I’ve seen “friends come and friends go” (Proverbs 18:24a, The Msg), and I don’t like that so much. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to make lasting friends in my unique circumstances.

To be honest, I was waiting for people at church to want to be good friends with me, to reach out with the connection rather me than seeking them out. I don’t think I’m alone.

Many people in the church struggle with making good, strong friendships. They find it challenging, frustrating, even discouraging. Like me, maybe they don’t want to admit they have that struggle, because they think, “Am I so unlovable?” or “What’s wrong with me?” Maybe it’s because we’re basically selfish. (OK, TOTALLY selfish.)

Others think “making friends” should be simple or easy, just because we’re Christians. Oh, we have so much to learn about creating strong, biblical friendships.

And what is a biblical friendship? 

Book_TheCompanyWeKeep_CruciformPressIn his book The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship, Jonathan Holmes, the Pastor of Counseling at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, says:

“Biblical friendship exists when two or more people, bound together by a common faith in Jesus Christ, pursue Him and His kingdom with intentionality and vulnerability.”

It goes beyond typical “Christian fellowship” to something deeper and more personal. Biblical friendship adds “depth, refinement, and detail through active investment in one another’s lives,” Holmes says.

But it’s even more than that!

“Rather than serving as an end in itself, biblical friendship serves primarily to bring glory to Christ, who brought us into friendship with the Father.”

Wow. That’s going to be a revelation for some Christians who think friendships only exist for our personal enjoyment and comfort!

Our friendships are not intended by God to be just for us. They are primarily for Him! To bring Him glory.

Holmes explains some mistaken ideas for biblical friendship–basically any kind of relationship we pursue to gain personally. These mistaken ideas, he says, are no different from the world’s concept of friendship.

A “personal gain” relationship isn’t necessarily wrong, on one level; but the point is, God made us for so much more!

Holmes then describes the “four marks” of biblical friendship (constancy, candor, carefulness and counsel).

But I’ve got to tell you, it was his basic premise that grabbed my heart.

The scriptures tell us we are to do ALL things to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31b). I’m not sure why I never included “making friends” in that mandate.

Once we get that concept firmly in place in our thinking, the typical scriptures about making friends (or building any close relationship) make even more sense.

But the motivation of biblical friends will be something more. We will do these things in order to bring honor to the One we love most of all.

One thing is for sure, Jesus is the sinner’s closest, dearest friend. He loves us and sacrificed His life for us, calls us into friendship with Himself, and teaches us how to be His friend (John 15:12-15).

“The One in whom the fullness of God dwells calls you and me friends,” Holmes writes. … Jesus, through His death on the cross, be-friends us so we can now go and be friends with others.”

In Him, we are free to be create powerful friendships.

Biblical friendships.

God-glorifying friendships!

Do you struggle making friends? Does knowing God wants us to build friendships that will glorify Him motivate you to seek out a different kind of relationship?

 – Dawn

* Jonathan Holmes, The Company We Keep: In Search of Biblical Friendship, Cruciform Press, 2014.

Graphic: Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Oh, Those Questionable Choices!

15 Jan

I love the Prego® Spaghetti sauce ads. A recent one, “Questionable Choices: Hair Style” made me laugh as the woman in the commercial says, “I wonder what other questionable choices I’ve made” and then she recalls a few outlandish hairdos.

Ah yes,  I remember some of the over-the-top hair styles from the past! (I had so many good hair role models!)Poodle_CollegeHairdo_LOLwithGod

  • Remember “big hair”?
  • Remember the “beehive”?
  • Remember the “hair flip”?
  • Remember the “Farrah”?

My personal favorite was the “Split-level.” I wore a sad, curly version of that in college. It was a short, poofed-up bob in the front with long hair cascading over my shoulders. (No, I will not post a photo of me … but I looked a lot like this French Poodle to the right!)

Yes, I made lots of questionable hair choices.

And some questionable money choices.

And questionable food choices, like:

  • Taking a perfectly good bowl of simple Greek yogurt and “confusing” it with honey, chopped walnuts and 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips!
  • And eating half a bag of potato chips. Not a mini bag … a big family-sized bag.
  • And eating half a carton of raspberry sherbet, because I wanted to clear out the freezer for a diet. (HUH?)

I discovered recently an important concept: I might have waited far too long to eat healthy. Now, with an itsy-bit of hope left, I’m beginning to eat green, lean and clean—trying to regain my health. The jury’s still out on whether I’ll be successful.

I am living out that convicting Dutch proverb, “We grow too soon old and too late smart.”

The decisions that bother me most are my past questionable spiritual choices.

Most of my ministry days I’ve promoted good, wise, godly choices. But that doesn’t mean I’ve always lived them. The sorry truth is:

We can uphold and promote truth to others while failing to live purely by truth ourselves, but sooner or later our fleshly hypocrisy will catch up with us.

I think it’s sad that:

  • I’ve promoted peace while living with anxiety;
  • I’ve promoted rest while working unreasonable hours;
  • I’ve promoted joy while struggling with depression; and
  • I’ve promoted love while protecting my own agenda.

Before you judge me too harshly, what have you promoted while … doing something else?

I understand I’ll never be perfect this side of heaven, but I know there are four things I can do to live a more authentic life.

1. I Can Keep It Real.

I can make an intentional effort to tell the truth about my own life. I can be honest, not telling people I’m living one way while living another.

God never lies, and He expects me to be truthful too. I’m not to deceive others about my spiritual state.

I can honestly say I am pure, holy, loving, wise, etc. . . . in Christ. But left to myself, I’m a mess. Authentic people do not excuse their sin; they confess it (1 John 1:8-9).

The process of personal sanctification (progressively becoming like Jesus) is the work of God in us that begins at the moment we trust in His Son.

But we don’t sit around like a lump on a pickle. All our doctrines can be right, but people need to see the changes – the practical side of Christianity.

Consider these words:

“People who equate orthodoxy with authenticity find it hard to even consider the possibility that, despite the correctness of all their doctrinal positions, they may have missed the deepest reality of the authentic Christian life. But we must never forget that true Christianity is more than teaching—it is a way of life.” ~ Ray C. Stedman

We will make progress in becoming more like Christ as we rest in and obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of the Word of God, and as we become Jesus’ disciple (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:14-16; 2 Peter 3:17-18; Luke 9:23-24). Basically, the Lord must increase and we must decrease (John 3:30). “We are now children of God,” John said, “and what we will be has not yet appeared” (1 John 3:2).

I will be totally changed, but I have not “arrived” yet. Neither have you.

2. I Can Live a More Others-Focused Life.

My authenticity must, at its roots, include a desire to help others who are caught in the the miserable muck and mire of sin. It’s not only “there but for the grace of God go I,” but a more brokenhearted, “Let me share how the grace of God is rescuing me … and He can rescue you too!”

In my testimony of grace, I can explain how I am realizing the consequences of my questionable choices, and how choosing God’s ways is a far better way to live.

In the midst of this choosing, I must remember I can choose nothing apart from God’s Spirit working in my life. He says, “… apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:4-6). (I have nothing but praise that He is always working in my life!)

3. I Can Seek and Embrace God’s Wisdom.

“The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10). I must seek God and “fear” (honor, revere, worship) Him. Again, I cannot hope to live the “Christian life” apart from having a proper relationship to God.

And neither can you.

God’s wisdom will keep us from foolish pride and all the questionable choices that come from fearing man—wanting to impress people more than living for the Lord and His Kingdom (Proverbs 29:25).

When we hide God’s Word in our hearts (memorization, meditation) we will have greater resources and “light” to make wise decisions (Psalm 119:105) and not sin (119:11). It’s an intentional choice!

Bible study will help us recognize godly wisdom as we “rightly divide” the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Knowing and obeying God’s truth can bring us freedom (John 8:31-32). We are to take every thought “captive” to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)—not entertaining foolish thinking—and control our thoughts and behaviors (Colossians 3:1-6; Philippians 4:8-9) because of who we are in Christ.

4. I Can Remember the End Game.

In the words of an old songwriter, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through.” It’s true! I’m headed for eternity with my Father God.

As a biblical Christian, knowing that this life is a journey to my heavenly home and that I will someday stand to account for my life (Romans 14:12; 2 Corinthians 5:10), I understand my future reality should dictate the choices of my present reality.

If we remember this is not all there is, we will be motivated to examine and consider our ways and turn to the Lord (Lamentations 3:402 Corinthians 13:5).

As we seek and rely on the Lord, He can enable us to make less questionable choices and more God-honoring ones!

Which of these four points would help you make better choices today?

Dawn

 

 

 

 

Not What I Thought You Said

9 Jan

Sometimes it’s better to just smile and nod your head… especially when your hearing starts to fade.

One place you’ll always be a captive audience? In the dentist’s chair.  

CaptiveAudience_LOLwithGod_pixabayWith my mouth wide open, I couldn’t reply to anything my dentist said. But then, I don’t know if he was asking me questions or just making small talk.

So I just grunted “uh-uh” and hoped he wasn’t talking about my bill.

(It’s hard enough when a person speaks quietly, but he was wearing a mask too, and it muffled the sound!)

To be honest, I’ve never been known for hearing right.  (Just ask my brother-in-law who repeatedly asks, “Whose feet stink at 10,000 feet?” It’s something I apparently said a long, long time ago.)

But I’m not sure I want to get a hearing aid. Then people might actually expect me to listen.

I’ve been in many, “Oh, that’s not what I thought you said” situations over my lifetime. But seldom when God was talking.

God is clear when He speaks. Oh, I may not completely understand, in my humanness, what the Lord means. But I hear Him!

Although there are many things that might be disputed in scripture when it comes to the “how to” of God’s words, but the “what”? Seldom. God says what He means.

I mean, how many ways can we interpret these?

“…“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

Love God completely and out of that, love others unselfishly!

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:10).

Ditch the pride; it’s for God to lift us up.

“…Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13b).

We’re responsible to honor/respect/worship God and obey our Maker.

“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

Pretty clear, isn’t it? God tells us exactly how to be “saved” … how to become His children. 

And when Jesus is Lord—meaning “master”—He will always have the right to tell us what to do.

The problem, most times, is not that we don’t understand what God is saying. The hitch is, we don’t want to do it. We don’t want to obey.

When we get to heaven, we won’t be able to say, “Oh, that’s not what I thought you said.”

God says, if we seek Him, He will be found (Jeremiah 29:13), and if we ask for wisdom to understand the scriptures, He will supply it (James 1:5).

God told Isaiah,

“I am the Lord, and there is no other. I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right” (Isaiah 45:18b-19).

Yes, the God who desires to be known can give us a heart to know Him and understand what He expects (Jeremiah 24:7).

Are you willing to ask? And when He speaks, are you willing to obey?

– Dawn

Graphic of dentist from pixabay

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