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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.

Avoiding the “Bad Boys”

17 Oct

On Pinterest I read some funny descriptions of “Bad Boys.” They’re supposedly guys who:

  • turn right when their GPS says turn left.ReformBadBoy_LOLwithGod
  • don’t look both ways when they cross the street.
  • go to bed two minutes past their regular bedtime.
  • eject their USB without “safely removing.”
  • press the handicapped button that opens doors … and they’re not handicapped.

Now these are not real bad boys. Real bad boys, my grandpa said, “Drink and chew and go with girls who do.”

I know many in the general culture would disagree with me, but:

I believe women want a courageous, adventurous, wise and visionary man with integrity and a kind, generous heart—a good (even godly) man—not a wicked one. 

A possible exception to this is the woman who is foolish, undiscerning or wicked herself!

Just watch a woman who marries a “bad boy.” In time, she’ll try to reform him!

We don’t have to go to the culture to find bad boys. There are plenty of bad boys in the Bible too.

To name only a few: Cain – the first murderer (Genesis 4:1-8); Korah and his company and their sinful rebellion (Numbers 16); Abimelech‘s conspiracy and mass murder (Judges 9:1-5); and King Herod (Mark 6:14-28).

The Bible warns us to stay away from “evil companions”—bad company that corrupts our character (1 Corinthians 15:33). The “companion of fools” will eventually suffer harm (Proverbs 13:20).

Here are descriptions of typical bad boys:

Psalm 1:1-4 – wicked, sinning, mocking God and godly people

Psalm 26:4-5 – liars, hypocrites, evildoers

Proverbs 16:29 – violent

Proverb s 22:24-25 – angry, wrathful

Proverbs 28:7 – a glutton

1 Corinthians 5:11 – sexually immoral, greedy, idolatrous, a reviler, drunkard, swindler

2 Timothy 3:1-5Last Days traits:But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”

Women, do yourself a favor. Avoid the “bad boys” like the plague.

They will only bring you down.

And guys, I’d encourage you to avoid the “bad girls,” no matter how pretty and seductive they seem. (Read: Proverbs 9:13, 5:6, 7:11, 21:9, 19 for some characteristics of the “bad girl.”) Proverbs 6:27 is especially telling regarding a relationship with an immoral woman – “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?”

Christians, we need wisdom in choosing our companions. Remember: the fear of the Lord (an understanding of who He is and what He expects) is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).

Stop equating “bad boy” and “bad girl” with something desirable. Stop seeing “good” as boring and a waste of time. That’s the enemy’s lie!

Instead, understand the consequences of your choices and surround yourself with people who have character, people who love and cherish life and embrace life-building goals.  

Who are your “companions” in life? Are they bringing you down or building you up?

– Dawn

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The Buddy System

1 Aug

As a young mom of two boys, I often wondered why socks were missing. Now I know …

I saw a funny comic by comic artist Lonnie Easterling. Matched sets of socks approached an open washing machine. On the wall behind the machine was a sign that read, “Field Trip Today!”

The first set of socks looked back over the group and said, “Okay! Everyone remember the Buddy System!”

LOL.

When my in-laws and I went on vacation last year, we left our dogs at a kennel … together. They are doggie buddies and loved their time together. BuddiesAt the window_2013

Beau, a chihuahua-terrier mix, and my maltipoo, Roscoe, have been buddies since puppyhood, and they still love to get together for a few days. When Beau stays for a while at the “Wilson Doggie Resort,” these pals are inseparable.

This photo shows them sharing the platform by my desk, peering through the screen, under the blinds, to see who might be passing by.

For better or worse, they lead each other into all sorts of escapades.

Buddies can do that. That’s why the Bible tells us to choose our friends carefully (Proverbs 12:26). Wrong buddies can lead us astray

When I lived in Iceland as a teen, there were days that got “blizzardy,” and we were told not to venture out into the snow alone. “Take a buddy with you,” I heard. “If you fall into a deep drift, your friend can help you get out … or if you fall in together, you can stay warm until help arrives.”

Now I never knew whether to take that “buddy system” advice seriously, but the concept sure did stick.  And later I found out it’s biblical. Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 says,Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?”

We need buddies for the tough times. They can help us, or they can at least comfort us until the tough times pass.

The biblical patriarch Job didn’t have comforting buddies. Oh, they wailed with him over his circumstances, but I don’t remember too many encouraging words. And his wife didn’t help much either. (Of course, I was reminded she went through those trials with Job too — many of the same losses!) I would hope that Job, being the spiritual leader of the family, could counsel her with the same counsel he ended up giving his own heart.

But I know I need “buddies.”

I didn’t always believe that. I was pretty self-sufficient.

I thought I’d only need buddies for hard times. I didn’t have a clue.

I didn’t realize I need buddies for growth, challenge, accountability, encouragement, vision and a whole lot of other positive things.

We were never meant to exist or function alone. God knew Adam needed a partner (Genesis 2:18). And He knows we need buddies (I call them my Sister-Girlfriends); we were created for community. The Bible says the disciples were sent out in twos (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1). Probably for encouragement, but also because they likely had different gifts and skill sets!

I don’t consider God my “Buddy,” as many Christians do. No, he is my Father God – the Sovereign Ruler who loves me. But one of the truths I learned later in life is the concept of the strength of a “threefold cord” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). While this may be talking about a third person coming alongside to help two people, I also like to think that the Lord is the third partner. He is the partner in my marriage – the glue that made my Bob and I stick together in tough times. He is also the partner in many of my other relationships.

Yes, I need people. I don’t want to do life alone. And I don’t have to. My Father God is always with me (Deuteronomy 31:6; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5b; 1 Corinthians 3:16). I have the privilege to live for Him and bring Him glory – to live for His purposes – but it’s wonderful to know He cares about my needs too.

Knowing Him beats the Buddy System any day.

Who is your best earthly buddy? Have you told your buddy lately how thankful you are for her (or him)? Have you thanked the Lord today for His constant presence in your life?

– Dawn

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