Friendship

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September 3

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020

In I Thessalonians 3 several important lessons emerge to me. I want to touch on them briefly in this devotion.

The first lesson is a combination. It is a request and a reply. Paul is concerned about the Thessalonians. Life is not easy for them and Paul is wondering how they are doing. His words were “I could bear it no longer.” His desire to know was so great he sent someone as a messenger to learn about their faith. The response that came back made his heart feel good. Timothy brought good news of their faith and love and told Paul that the Thessalonians wanted to see him. Oh, how that must have been a balm to his weary heart!

The power of a good word, an encouraging word, cannot be underestimated. That good news lifted their spirits. So much so he writes, “In all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith.” Their words enabled Paul to face his situation with strength.

The second lesson is his further response. He chose to pray for them, to be thankful for the joy they gave him. Paul’s most earnest desire was to see them again. While waiting he prayed for them. Want to know what he prayed? Check out I Thessalonians 3: 11-13. This was no mere “Lord, bless them” prayer. No. There was a depth to this prayer that I know is way too often missing in mine. That needs to change.

“Father, thanks for encouraging words. How good it is to hear good words and how someone is doing in their faith. Also, help me to develop a depth to my prayers, one like Paul had.”

August 28

Friday, August 28th, 2020

I read another devotion book that got me thinking. It was on friendship. It began with a quote from Samuel Taylor Coleridge:

Friendship is a sheltering tree

The writer (Chuck Swindoll) gave the example of Elijah and Elisha. Elijah was burnt out and discouraged and just wanted to give up. Elisha stood with him and fortified him. He became Elijah’s sheltering tree.

So I began thinking about my friends-men who have “been there” for me. Like:

  • Doug- my friend since college (that’s early 70s if you wonder). We have laughed so hard our sides have hurt; prayed with each other; consulted for wisdom with each other (I was short on that); told secrets to each other; cried together over the death of his father and son; worked on projects together; driven to each other’s house; attended conferences together; had multiple lunches together. We still get together 3/4 times per year for lunch (we meet 1/2 way). No dearer friend do I have than him.
  • Jim- we started out cycling together after we met in the 90s. His availability changed when his job demanded more time, but we still rode together as often as we could, often on weekends. But our friendship didn’t end with my move from Indiana to Ohio and now back. It continued and still does-over 25+ years later. We get together for lunch when we can. His 2+ year struggle with prostate cancer and even his winter in Colorado working (because it was a bucket list thing for him and he loves to ski) only deepened our friendship.
  • Those are my closest two friends. I’ve had others along the way who were sheltering trees, albeit temporarily. Some are gone-moved into heaven or on to another life. Some, sadly, are no longer in the picture.

But I am grateful for every friend I have had. I’ve even had a few online friends who have encouraged me with their words! And we have never met except via computer or phone. I once told someone: “I’m an extrovert so I know a lot of people-some I talk to; some I call friend. They are rare and few and far between. I take none for granted.”

How about you? Are you a friend? Do you have friends? Don’t take them for granted.

“Father, help me to be a friend as much as I want friends. Help me to be someone’s sheltering tree.”

August 6

Thursday, August 6th, 2020

One of the by-products of the pandemic we are going through has been loneliness. Being cooped up, isolated, sequestered, quarantined, or just plain fearful of being around people has led to many feeling alone. There is a hankering for human interaction, but it is often slow in forthcoming. Already lonely people are even lonelier. Many have become hermits, fearful of their own shadows. Many, sadly, think they need no one else; while in truth, we desperately need other people.

Chuck Swindoll once wrote about meeting a former Marine who was converted after his discharge. This Marine was the picture of a typical Marine-touch, cussed loudly, drank heavily, chased women, and had no need for Christians or the church. When he saw Chuck he said the thing he missed was the times at the tavern when he and his buddies would sit around a pitcher of beer and laugh, joke, and let their hair down (as if a Marine could do that).  🙂  On another occasion he also wrote a quote from someone who said, “The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give His church.” (Dropping Your Guard-p.128)  {Note: please know I am NOT recommending someone go to a local bar or tavern for fellowship}.

What that Marine, of course, was talking about was his need for fellowship. A place he could laugh, cry, and be accepted. And that is why this pandemic has brought about so much loneliness. We have no one. Phones and computers and texting is not enough. We need face-to-face, in person contact.

How about you?  Are you isolated? Are you alone? Get outside. Find someone else who may be alone, or feeling alone. There are safe ways to make that happen if you are concerned about that.  People need people whether we realize it or not.

“Father, you are my refuge, my safe place. But sometimes we just need someone with skin. We are all made for others. Help me to search out those who are lonely and see how I can help.”

June 22

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Yesterday was Father’s Day. It turned out to be a right fine day. There was the worship that started it off right. It was good to see some more folks venture out. Each week a new group of people is venturing out.  I came home to a home-grilled meal of salmon, asparagus, baked potatoes, and corn-on-the-cob. Some friends stopped by with ice cream (I am their surrogate father/grandfather). I went to the Y then came home and read a novel the rest of the evening. A nice relaxing day. I am grateful.

Gratitude seems to be a dying art these days. We run around so much trying to meet our own agenda that to take the time to be thankful is lost on us. With inspiration from Chuck Swindoll, I’d like to take a few moments to consider how we often take things for granted.

  • There is a light over my head. Thanks Tom
  • There is electricity pulsing through my house. Thanks again Tom.
  • There is an instrument that allows me to talk to someone miles away. Thanks Alexander.
  • I will soon get in my truck to drive to work. Thanks Henry.
  • On my face are glasses which help me to read. Thanks Ben.
  • We will soon celebrate the 4th of July with a waving flag. Thanks Betsy.
  • My life is given over to Jesus. Thanks mom and grandad.
  • I come home each day to a place of warmth, welcome and love. Thanks Jo.
  • I am called father by two beautiful and special young ladies. Thanks Tami and Janna.
  • I am called “grandpa.” Thanks Braden.
  • I serve a group of people who love me, call me pastor and friend. Thanks OVCF.

I could go on but it would take pages and still not be exhausted. Instead of complaining, let’s be thankful.

“Father, thank you for so much, for so many gifts. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to You for it all.”

April 23

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

One of the by-products of this virus has been what I will call “forced isolation.” People, like me, who are very social creatures have been “forced” (or is that highly advised?) to not be around others. So-called social distancing has led to no hugs, no handshakes (and he’s crazy if he thinks handshakes will disappear from my greeting others when we are able to see each other again), no whispering in an ear, no physical demonstration of affection, etc. You get the point. And I get that…I really do.

But I know, and you know, there are those whose whole life is one of isolation.-through their own choosing or through no fault of their own. Sadly, soldiers with PTSD or those who have mental challenges find themselves alone. Others choose to be.

But consider this: Aloneness often leads to vulnerability. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one…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!” I can’t help but think of the Gadarene demoniac mentioned in the first 3 Gospels. Mark (5) and Luke (8) mention only one while Matthew (8) mentions two. It sounds like he might as well have been by himself. In any case, no one wanted anything to do with him. He was uncontrollable; uncontainable; unruly; loud; and alone. Isolated.  Outcast. Except for One Person-Jesus. He may have had another comrade,  but this guy was still alone, except for the Legion of demons which controlled him. Jesus knew this man wanted free. I think some of the most compelling words are found in these: “Then they came to meet Jesus, and found the man who had been demon-possessed and had the Legion, from who the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind.” (Emphasis mine) Night and day.  NO. LONGER. ALONE.

So ask yourself this question: who can I reach out to today-virtually, of course- so they are not alone? Can you call someone? Can you text someone? Can you stand outside a window and wave? No one should be alone.

“Father, thank You for seeing my need and drawing me to You. Now help me to keep my eyes open to the needs of others. No one should be alone.”

April 15

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Did you know on this date in 1912 Titanic sunk?  108 years ago. Okay…on to other things.

As I write this-April 15, 2020- our lives are being “determined” by the COVID-19 virus. I use the word determined in quotes because while some people see it that way, I don’t.  I still see God in control of this whole scene and firmly believe my steps-all steps- are determined by the Lord.

One of the safety steps we are told to take is social distancing. At home it is called self-quarantine. Do not expose yourself to anyone nor allow anyone to expose themselves to you. It, for many, has become a lonely existence, a lonely time. Sure, there is social media if you use it. There is texting and phones. But interpersonal interaction in minimal, at best. I was reminded of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy. He is in prison with his life soon to  be snuffed out when he writes this letter to Timothy. He asks Timothy to come to him soon (v.9). He’s alone, deserted (v.10). Bring Mark with you and join me and Luke (v.11). Oh yeah, bring my cloak with you also and my parchments (v.13). Is Paul feeling sorry for himself? No, I don’t think so. He is simply gathering his friends around him for one last hoorah. How do I know that? Several reasons:

  1. “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure has come. I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…” (4:6-8)
  2. “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (4:18)

Paul may have been in isolation in a dingy prison cell. But the last thing on his mind was defeat. On the contrary, his lips were filled with praise (v.17). In spite of our circumstances, we are not alone. Not by a long shot. God knows and provides all we need. If you are feeling alone, isolated, or just plain fearful, reach out to Him and also reach out to people as Paul did. In this age of social distancing and isolation and self-quarantine, you are never alone and you don’t have to be isolated.

“Father, help me to find ways to reach out while respecting others’ need for space. If I’m lonely or feeling isolated, please bring someone into my life whom I can help.”

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.”