Friendship

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March 6

Friday, March 6th, 2020

I’m sure you have heard (I know I have) that there are certain people we ought to avoid. Growing up I was warned about hanging around certain people. “Avoid them Bill” they would say. No worries. I wasn’t interested in partying anyway. I was once invited to a Friday night party.

  • Him: Would you like to come to a party Friday night?
  • Me: What you going to do?
  • Him: Drink. Get drunk.
  • Me: Then what?
  • Him: Throw up.
  • Me: Then what?
  • Him: Drink some more. Get drunk some more.
  • Me: Then what?
  • Him: Throw up.
  • Me: This is going to cost me what?
  • Him: $20
  • Me: Sounds like fun. (Read: sarcasm). Nope.

He asked me 3 times.  Each time same convo. I was never asked again. Wonder why?  🙂

The word we use today is “toxic.”  Avoid toxic people. Get rid of toxic people in your life. Proverbs 6 has a description of toxic people: lazy. Worthless. Wicked. Crooked speech. Sneaky.  Perverted heart devises evil. Sow discord (9-15). Toxic people and the actions of toxic people are even listed in verses 16-19 of the 7 things God hates.

Word to the wise: Avoid toxic people. People who do not have your interest in mind. People who bring you down.

“Father, help me to be discerning in my choices of people and to let go of those who are toxic, who do not help me in my daily walk.”

February 27

Thursday, February 27th, 2020

My title for this is Friendship-Valued and Real.

We (Jo & I) spent time last night with some long-time friends, Ryan and Amanda. But before I tell you about that, let me back up a few paces.

The older I get the more “aware” I get. I guess that means I haven’t lost my faculties yet. 🙂 I become more aware of what was, what is, and what very well may be. All in all, I have become more aware of what’s important and what’s not. Don’t get me wrong. I still look at pickups and I still look at Trek bikes. I still look at hills and dream of climbing them. I still want to make improvements on the house. But they don’t hold the luster or the draw they used to.

As I get older though, I realize what’s important-what and who I want around me.  I don’t want negative people.  I don’t have the time or the energy to try to change their minds. I have little patience for whiners and complainers.  I have even less patience for naysayers, doomsday-sayers, and hide-under-a-rock folk. I have no patience for legalists, Pharisees, and judgmental hypocrites.

But I do have time and take pleasure in my friends. Jo tops the list. My girls and grandson stand next. I am supposed to have lunch tomorrow (Topp’t pizza…yum) with my best male friend, a college friend of close to 50 years. And then there was last night. A last minute call asking us to join them and we spent over 2 enjoyable hours with them. His excitement after buying 10 acres of land for their future was evident. It has been a dream. They moved to Owen County in January of 2008; had corresponded with our webmaster (one of our former leaders) and me beforehand; we went out for lunch (pizza, of course) after their first visit to OVCF; and the rest is history.  Sunday lunch was usually with them. We were inseparable until they betrayed us and moved about 45 minutes away. 🙂 I jest. Actually, it was a good family move for them, but the knife in my heart was real. Even now, we try to get together to eat and laugh. They like Texas Roadhouse too! They also like Mexican, which is right up Jo’s alley. I also know Ryan reads and comments so I’ll say out loud: Thanks Ryan and Amanda for a great evening and for an even greater joy: our friendship.

Long story short: friendships are valuable. As I get closer to “the other side,” I realize friendships last. I want to gather my friends around me, reminisce, laugh and tell them how much I love them and their friendship has meant to me. The truck, the toys, the house, the bike can’t hug or speak back. (Although I do have a t-shirt that hints the bike just might). Real friends can’t be replaced.

“Father, thank you for my friends. Thanks for those who have been longtime friends. I value them more than they know. And help me to be a friend. And thank you for Jesus-the friend of sinners. Like me. ‘Greater love has no man than this than a man lay down his life for a friend.’ That’s Jesus.” 

February 5

Wednesday, February 5th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Giver vs Taker.

There are tons of different people in this world. You know that.  We all do.  There are Go-getters and there are lazy people. There are Dreamers and there are “Today-ers.” There are Leaders and there are Followers.

There are Givers and there are Takers.

Now to clarify: I’m not speaking about money. I’m not talking about those who want handouts. I’m not even talking about selfish vs unselfish people.

I want to look at it from a different angle. I want to look at it from the standpoint of encouragement, of what you or I do when it comes to the emotional need of another. Paul says encouragement is a spiritual gift (Rom.12:8; I Cor.14:3-4). How cool would it be to have Joseph? No, not that Joseph. Another one. You might know him as Barnabas? (See…we don’t even know him by his real name).  This quality was so evident in his life the apostles gave him the name Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.”

We live in an age when encouragement is needed. My sister-in-law is living in a long-term care facility at this writing. I wonder how many there never see any family or hear a kind word? Remember the old song “Home, Home on the Range?” It has the lyrics: “Where seldom is heard a discouraging word/And the skies are not cloudy all day.” Many people cannot sing that song because they don’t hear an encouraging word at all.

So…are you a giver or taker of encouragement? Do you sit around wanting it and expecting it or do you make an effort to give it? Wouldn’t it be cool to be known as “the son (or daughter) of encouragement?”

“Father, life is hard enough as it is without living in discouragement. When I see someone today who looks lonely or is all by themselves and alone, help me to practice encouragement. Help me to be an encourager to someone today.”

January 28

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Kind vs Malicious.

I was corrected yesterday. Confronted with a concern. One I was unaware of. But I was a better man when it was over. What it was about is not important to you or this devotion. HOW it was done is everything.

You see, we all know there are different ways to approach people who need talked to or even corrected/confronted. There are those who are like a bull in a china ship. They come in all holier-than-thou with both guns blazing. They don’t care who they blow up or how many holes they put in a body. They’ve said their piece and that’s all that matters. Certainly not the feelings of the person they have just blown away. I’ve even seen it where a person comes in, blows someone away, and then turns and leaves before any response can be given.

Then there is the one who lovingly confronts. You can tell it is an uncomfortable situation. There is no pride or arrogance in that person. There is almost a hesitation in doing what needs done.

I’ve been the recipient of both in my years as a pastor. The one I was privy to yesterday was the latter. I knew it was not easy for this person to say something to me. In fact, it was totally out of character. But I respect the man even more for his willingness to do the “dirty deed.” It wasn’t something huge but given time it could have become more.

Proverbs speaks of “faithful are the wounds of a friend.” This man is a friend. A friend who kindly and without malice or a maliciousness bone in his body confronted me.

“Father, thank you for my friend. Thank you for the gentle rebuke that came my way. May I-may we all-be kind if we need to confront and be open and sensitive to You if we need to be confronted.”

January 14

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

My title for this devotion is First vs Second.

I recently purchased a book and a T-shirt through an organization called I Am Second (IAS). I have followed IAS for years-have watched their “White Chair” videos and read their material-and have always come away inspired and moved. Their most familiar presentations are on video and feature the celebrity/individual/couple sitting on a white chair while sharing their story. It is usually a testimony of how God moved in their life. The topics are as diverse as the people but one thing is in common in all videos: they say I Am Second to Jesus.

I realize years ago Gail Sayers, a former football player, wrote about his friendship with a white football player named Brian Piccolo. Brian died of cancer and the book was about how Mr. Sayers put himself 3rd-behind God and Brian. IAS is not in argument with that. Their approach is based on God’s work in their life, how He intervened, and even radically changed them.

I. AM. SECOND.

I once read where Composer Leonard Bernstein was once asked, “What is the hardest instrument to play in the orchestra?” Almost without hesitation he answered, “Second fiddle. Without it there is no harmony.”

I thought about that-about how many times I wanted to be first. I’m currently reading several books on being a Small Church Pastor. I fought that for so long and look back and now realize how much I missed out on because I was always reaching for the next rung, trying out the next big thing, instead of finding contentment in being in a small church. Perhaps that is why I find great contentment where I am right now. I am a Small Church Pastor in a relatively small town (2500-3000) and absolutely love it! I have come to realize that being second is not a bad place to be. It’s not a “bad gig.” 🙂 Hear the words:

Don’t be selfish, don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Phil.2:3-5  (NLT)

“Father, You are first.  You are to be my priority. I am second to You. Only when that is right will my relationship with others be right. Be first.  Let me fall in step behind You.”

January 6

Monday, January 6th, 2020

I have no title for today’s devotion. I gave part of this as my Communion thought yesterday before we observed the Lord’s Supper. I was going to disregard it afterwards but then I felt God saying, “No. Share this.” So here it is (expanded from its original).

When we think of titles for Jesus, we think of names like Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We think of Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star. We might think of the names given to Him in Revelation: Alpha and Omega; Beginning and the End; the First and the Last; the One who was, and is, and is to come. King of kings. Lord of lords. The list seems endless.

But there is one that I seriously doubt comes to our minds or our lips. It is one used in Matthew 11 and Luke 7 by Jesus’ enemies. They call Him the “friend of sinners.” ‘Course they used it in derision because He was the friend of the tax collector, the demoniac, the prostitute, the adulteress, and other less-than-acceptable people. I’m glad. You see, I’m not a member of the intelligentsia. I’m not a great preacher. I’m not well-known. But I can tell you this-I am a sinner. And that I love that title: Jesus-Friend of sinners.

The story in the OT of Hosea and Gomer is a love story for the ages. Hallmark has nothing on that one! Taking a prostitute as a wife; fathering some children; Gomer returns to her former profession; Hosea buying her off the auction block (she was used up). I’d like to suggest reading the book of Hosea for the whole story.

That story shows me many things, two of which are 1) God never gives up on me; and 2) I have no grounds for despair in my daily life.

As the song says, “Jesus, friend of sinners. Jesus, friend of mine.” How soothing. How reinforcing.

“Father, may I never forget this title given to Jesus. Even tough it was given in derision, it is true. He is my friend.”

November 13

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Friends vs “Friends.”

Have you ever met someone of whom it can be said, “He/she assumes a familiarity that is not there?” No? Well, your answer should be “Yes.”  If you know me then you have.  You see, I am an extreme extrovert. According to Jo and my girls I know no stranger. Jo once heard me talking to someone at WM about our oldest, who at the time, was teaching in Knoxville. He was also a teacher and moving to Knoxville so…you know…1 + 1 = 2. When we were alone Jo asked me who that was. I told her I had no clue. We were just talking. 🙂  Yep, extreme extrovert.

That has its drawbacks though. One big one is that earlier statement.  Because I am friendly, I just assume everyone ought to be. Jo has told me to stop being so friendly to little kids in the store at the checkout. She is probably right since the cultural climate is one of suspicion. But I’m that way with adults too. Especially those whom I have spent some time with. Especially especially (added for emphasis) if they are guys who are cyclists. Two of my closest friendships started because of the bike. One I never see since he moved south. The other is now retired and travels a lot with his now-retired wife. (They are in their 50s).  Since he lives about an hour away I see him occasionally. I have one friend from the church here who has moved about 30-45 minutes away whom I would like to see more often but you know how it is with guys who work and have families. Sheesh! 🙂 My best friend of over 40+ years was a college friend; played on the basketball team; helped me get my first full-time gig as a youth pastor with his father; and has since retired after he lost his heart with the death of his son.  I made my way to KY for that funeral and his father’s. That is what friends do. We are like David and Jonathan. We still see each other when we meet halfway for pizza. 

We are friends. Not “friends.” Friends. Real friends. In my mind “friends” are acquaintances. Faux people who are on the outside. Fair-weather “friends.”

I work hard to cultivate friendships because I need them. No I’m not co-dependent. No man is an island. As a pastor, they are rare. I am grateful for each friend God has placed in my path these 67 years. But none is as rich as my friendship with Jesus, the friend of sinners. For that friendship I will not assume anything.  It is too important. I need to go to the well and back to keep it energized and alive.  How about you?

“Father, I do thank you for each and every friend you have placed in my path and blessed me with. But none can take the place of YOU in my life. Help me to continue cultivating that friendship.”

October 30

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

My title for this is Truth vs False.

When I was a kid I remember my parents watching a game show called Truth or Consequences. I don’t remember how it was played but the title itself sort of gives it away.  It gives away a life principle actually: tell the truth or there will be consequences. How well I remember being told, “Tell the truth. While there may be a punishment for your wrong, it will be worse if I find out later you lied.”

That is a great life principle. Period. Proverbs 30:7-9 are interesting verses. He asks 2 things: 1) Help me not to lie; and 2) give me what I need lest I take extreme measures to satisfy my need. It is the first one that I focused on this morning.

You see, I have to go to court today to testify on behalf of a friend. While I love and support my friend, my ideal plan is to stay out of the spotlight-even anonymous.  Not that I fear for me. I don’t.  But a subpoena is a subpoena and I am REQUIRED to be there. Jo and I have talked and she put it well: “This is (name of a past situation) all over again. Tell the truth. That’s all you can do.” She’s right. I have nothing to hide and any question asked of me will get one answer: the truth.  So the words of Proverbs 7 stay with me today.

“Father, not just today in a courtroom is truth to be told. All the time. All situations. Let me remember that while telling the truth at all times my hurt, the consequences of a lie are much greater.”

October 17

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Telling the Truth vs Blowing Doors Off.

No matter what men may say; no matter how blustery they get; no matter how often a person might say, “Tell me the truth;” there are times hearing the truth is hard to take…especially when it is delivered by the wrong person or mean-spiritedly. I have met people who take pride in “telling it like it is” and I honestly don’t mind that. But sometimes that person just doesn’t know how to say it.

Receiving it is often not any easier to take. No matter how vocal the person is-“Tell me straight out”- important words are often accepted like fingernails on a chalkboard (you do remember what those are don’t you?).  Proverbs 17:10 says, “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.” Truth delivered in the right spirit to a person’s heart that is receptive to that truth is a good thing. The man of understanding- as Proverbs describes him- accepts the truth. It may be a bitter pill to swallow but the man of understanding grasps its intent. I’ve been on the receiving end of some much-needed reproof. Someone being honest with me, confronting me about something I’ve said or done. Hearing it is not fun, but essential.

Sometimes the truth is hard to hear and even harder to accept. But if it is from God, then I need to hear it. I can be obstinate and stubborn (the rest of 17:10 call that being a fool), or accepting and grateful someone loved me enough to tell the truth.

“Father, this all depends on the state of my heart also. Will I accept the reproof/rebuke or reject it? Help me not to be obstinate or too proud to hear what you are saying to me.”

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Today is Braden’s 13th birthday. Jo and I wouldn’t miss that for anything in the world. Interesting I should read this today from Proverbs 17: “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.” (v.6a).  Not too thrilled about the aged part, 🙂 but absolutely excited and thrilled by the grandson/grandfather part. “Lord, you know the prayer I began praying the moment I heard Janna was pregnant. Please hear my heart and bring it to fruit.”

The being said, I will not be posting tomorrow morning as we will be spending the night in Ohio; I will not have a computer; and we are bringing him back for the weekend so Tami can see him. Prayers for safe travel are appreciated.

October 15

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

I’m less than a day removed from cataract surgery in one eye (the other comes next Monday). I go back today for an exam and they will pop out the right lens of my glasses. I’m guessing that will help with the blurred vision.  So, that’s my excuse for errors in my typing today.  🙂

My  title for today’s devotion is Encouragement vs Discouragement.

“And seldom is heard and discouraging word/And the skies are not cloudy all day.” That’s a refrain from a cowboy song of yesteryear: Home, Home on the Range. It is, of course, sort of a Pollyanna song and view of life. It’s simply not possible to go through life without some discouragement.

But…I can go a long way toward not being part of that discouragement simply by watching what I say. Today’s devotion is a bit of a piggyback of yesterday’s on speaking too quickly (losing our temper) vs allowing time between what happens and our words. Today’s has more to do with what I say. Are the words I say encouraging someone or discouraging someone?

Proverbs 15:26b says, “…but gracious words are pure.”  Verse 30 adds, “The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones.”  Those verses tell me my reaction to others and events and their response, is largely determined by the way it is presented. That also reminds me that what I say is important but the way  I say it is equally important. Some questions flood my mind. Do I pass along good words? Kind words? Gracious words? Or do I pass along words that sting and hurt and are like barbs to a person’s soul? Are my words encouraging or discouraging someone? Do they rejoice someone’s heart and refresh someone’s bones?

Some people seem to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Do my words ease that burden or do they add to it and make it heavier? There is no doubt in my mind what and which words the Father would have me use and share.

“Father, may my words be those which lift other’s up. May they be words which echo Proverbs 15:30 and lift a heart and refresh the bones. Let my words today be words of encouragement and not discouragement. To put it another way: let them be words of life.”