Friendship

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April 4

Monday, April 4th, 2022

As part of my ongoing posts about lessons from Wisdom Hunter I want to leave you with this one this morning:

The local church should be more than just a preaching station where people come and sit front-to-back as spectators, and listen to a one hour lecture before returning home.  It should be a spiritual support group where Christians get into one another’s lives. (p.249)

I realize as a pastor that flies in the face of what I do on a Sunday morning, but I do agree with it. Due to the church culture I work in, it would, or probably could, be detrimental to change things on Sunday morning. To divide into groups of 5-10 and scatter around the auditorium to pray or to talk about what you have heard may sound like a good idea, but there is a time and place for something like that. In our case, Sunday morning is not it. Now…if it is a retreat or a small group then by all means.  Another possibility is if it has been part of the church culture from the very beginning of the church’s birth, that may work.

But I also agree that there does need to be some interaction. Frankly, except for small groups meeting on other nights and using the sermon as a jumping off point, I’m not sure I have an answer. In fact, I know I don’t. Look in my eyes and see a big “L” for Lost on that topic.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any idea how we can change our church culture to be more participation-oriented than spectator-oriented? I would like to hear your ideas.

{NOTE: This will be my last post until Thursday morning this week. Jo and I left for Ohio right after the second worship service was over to spend the evening with our family there. We also plan to visit her sister in a nursing home in Sandusky on Monday, then stay to watch Braden play a game both Monday and Tuesday night (weather permitting). Lord willing, I plan to be back home on Wednesday in plenty of time for my Wednesday night “66” class.  I will post another devotion on Thursday morning. My plan to post ahead of time didn’t work out.  🙂 }

March 1

Tuesday, March 1st, 2022

Have you ever noticed that sometimes simple is best? You go into a restaurant and you are hungry for a cheeseburger. But many restaurants don’t have just a cheeseburger. They have a double cheese with bacon, avocado, onion, BBQ sauce…okay the whole kitchen sink. Its so sloppy you spend more time wiping your hands and mouth and beard (if applicable), or your shirt that you can’t even taste the cheeseburger.

I like wings-boneless- thank you very much. I don’t like them hot. I know one restaurant with so many sauces one can’t make up their mind. And to top it off they have a 3 or 5 alarm sauce. No thank you. I want to enjoy my wings. Carolina Gold with some Ranch on the side sounds really good about now.  Oops its only 5:15 a.m. 🙂

The book of Philemon-which I read this morning- is like that. Simple. To the point. People love Romans and the prison epistles that Paul wrote. I do too. But sometimes a simple message is enough. Philemon had a slave named Onesimus who ran away.  Somewhere along the line he was converted under Paul’s ministry and Paul wanted to honor Philemon by doing what was right-he offered Onesimus back to him. He could have ordered Philemon to take him (v.8), but instead he appealed to him as a friend and a lover of Jesus (v.9). If Philemon didn’t want Onesimus, Paul did!  But he wanted Philemon’s consent (v.14).

Simple. Direct. Loving. Respectful. Paul shows us how it is done. Friendship is worth preserving no matter your lot in life. No matter your likes or dislikes.

“Father, friendship is so important. Thank you for this postcard by Paul to show us how it is done. May I be a friend who is loving and respectful in all things.”

February 15

Tuesday, February 15th, 2022

I was just told last night-the eve of Valentine’s Day-that today is Singles Awareness Day. The moniker-SAD-is not a good one. I know that VD is not the favorite of many, especially those who are single. Whether by a conscious choice of their own volition or a choice they had no control over, it is a day which makes them think they are not valuable. God says differently.  But that is another subject for another time.

After reading the Feb. 15 devotion of New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp, I was left with some thoughts. They give rise to the idea that being single is not a good idea. Hear me out, please, before you want to hunt me down and “shoot me like a duck.” Movie reference there. 🙂

His thoughts first: There are two lies Adam and Eve believed.

  1. The lie of autonomy. This lie says we are independent beings with the right to live as we wish.
  2. The lie of self-sufficiency. I have everything I need within myself to be what I was created to be and to do what I was designed to do.

My thoughts: the idea of individualism still permeates our thinking today. We still believe the ancient lie that we are enough. Take those lies apart and look at them individually.

  1. The lie of autonomy. I need no one else and you can’t tell me what to do. I make up my own rules and I can believe and do as I want. Can you say our culture as a whole? Can you say progressive Christianity? No rules. I’ll do as I please.
  2. The lie of self-sufficiency. “You have it within yourself.” Sounds like the gobbledygook of Oprah, et al. Sounds like the self-help movement. Sounds like the prosperity gospel.

Both are lies from the pit of hell. It is okay to be single-single in life and single-minded. It is not okay to be autonomous and self-sufficient and think as a Christ-follower you need no one else.

What do you think?

“Father, help me to see and remember I need others. I am not an island devoid of human interaction and relationships. And help me to never think I don’t need You.”

January 13

Thursday, January 13th, 2022

I once had a pastor (a mentor early in my ministry) tell me to never get close to anyone in the church I serve. In other words, don’t have or make friends. Say what?

I can tell you that did not work with me. I am a naturally gregarious person. I laugh a lot. I can be too loud at times. But one thing I need and want is friends. I broke his rule. In just about every church I have served I have gotten close to someone. Sure, there have been occasions where it came back to bite me in the butt, but the friendships I do have and are still ongoing are special to me.

There’s Doug. A college friend who still meets with me 2-3 times/year at a place in between where we live for pizza. For now it requires over a 2 hour drive for me. But it is worth it. A thousand times over.  Granted, he is the exception to the church “rule”.

There’s Jim. I met Jim over a common “like”-he liked to ride bikes. We have pedaled many miles together. His cancer and relocation and his retirement has made it tough but we still try to get together. I’ve known Jim since the 90s.

There’s Ryan. I met him in 2007 after he corresponded with one of our men about the church after seeing us online. They were moving to this area and so we corresponded by email first and I was able to welcome he and his family to OVCF and to the area.  Our first time as families was lunch at Chicago’s pizza buffet in the town they lived in at the time. It became one of many Sunday lunches after church as our friendship was cemented. He had to move about 45 minutes away several years ago but Jo and I still get together with them.

Friendship is amazing! Have you ever looked at Jesus’ friendship with people? He spent time with the strangest people- a tax collector, a prostitute, a leper, an immoral woman (Jn.4).  It didn’t matter because a friendship with Jesus meant a changed life.  There is verse after verse in Proverbs which talks about the value of friendship.  Even Jesus mentioned its importance.  “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

I know my life has been richer and fuller because of my friends. I pray it has been reciprocal. 

“Father, we sing a song about Jesus being the friend of sinners. Help to follow His example, all for the purpose of enriching someone’s life.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

December 9

Thursday, December 9th, 2021

Am I alone? I think not. Here is why I ask that. In fact, I’ll answer that with a question:

Why is it that for many of us, Christmas is a mixed blessing?

I suspect some of you are saying, “What? What in the world is Bill asking that for?” Hang in there with me.

While I will smile and laugh and be jovial, there will be those who are sad, will cry, and feel as thought their heart will break.

While I will receive some gifts (I have, after all, been very good) 🙂  there will be those who will receive nothing.

While I will hopefully spend time with family and friends, there will be those who have no family or friends and will be alone.

While I will be warm and “snug and a bug in a rug” at night, there will be those who will shiver and long for a warm bed or fire.

You get my drift now? Happy. Sad. Laughter. Tears. A mixed bag. I realize life is like that. I’m not telling you anything your don’t already know. But while I am experiencing all the good of the season, there are those who have been forgotten, are forgotten, or long for what maybe once was.

The tragedy is that I’m not really sure what to do about it. I don’t live in a big town that has a homeless population or even a home for those on the street. So let me turn it to you: what do you suggest? Do you have this same dilemma? What is your solution? I’m open for suggestions.

“Father, help me not to close my eyes to the plight of others. Give me wisdom to see with Your eyes what others need.”

November 9

Tuesday, November 9th, 2021

Today is a random day, a day of collection of random thoughts. I hope one of them knocks on your day today and says, “This is for you.”

Reading from Acts 18 this morning made me see more and more how much of a lightning rod the Apostle Paul was. But very valuable lessons emerge from that chapter:

  • Paul was committed to preaching about Jesus. He set up shop as a tent maker, serving his way in Corinth. But when Silas and Timothy showed up, he let them handle that side of things and he “devoted himself completely to the word.” (verse 5). Even in the midst of our long day, our faith should take precedence.
  • Even Paul realized there are times when ears will be closed and hearts will be hard. (verse 6).  When that happened, he shook off the dust of the Jews and committed to telling the Gospel to the Gentiles. As hard as it is at the time, we too must realize words are no longer heard. We are done. Not done praying, but done prodding and pleading. 

Psalm 141:3 ought to be the life verse for some people, especially me. Speaking first and thinking later is all too common. I need a gatekeeper.

Finally, I spent last night with a friend. Jo and I made a short 30-45 minute jaunt to a friend’s house. We laughed. Ate Mexican. Visited. Worked on a new banner for my 2022 sermon theme. And got home past my bedtime. But some  things are worth it! Spending time with a friend is one of those. Thanks Ryan, Amanda, and Aleah (their 20 y/o daughter whom we have known since she was about 6).  Yeah, time flies when you are having fun. 🙂  Oh, I forgot Findlay, their dog, who was there to greet us. The Bible speaks of the gift of friendship. I can only say, “Amen.”

“Father, somewhere, somehow my day will be touched by one of these. May I be able to recognize it.”

{NOTE: Along with three other men from OVCF, I will be attending a one-day conference sponsored by 95 Network, a network dedicated to helping and encouraging pastors and leaders of small churches.  I will respond to any comments as soon as I am able}.

November 1

Monday, November 1st, 2021

The past week or two (or is that year or two?) has brought about the endless parade…wait for it…Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. Tragically, I’m caught up in that cycle as well, because if I want to spend time with Jo when I get home, I am forced to sit in my recliner and watch them with her.

Whatever can be said of those movies-and a lot could be said (good and bad)-one word stands out: P.R.E.D.I.C.T.A.B.L.E. I have learned though that the best thing I can do is keep my mouth shut. Don’t comment. Don’t predict. Due to a heart issue, Tami has had to stay with us and even she has gotten into the act (of predicting).

November begins the approach to two of the favorite holidays-Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m not telling you anything new with that revelation. 🙂 They say that thanks to inflation this will be the most expensive dinner on record. And due to the supply chain crisis, this may be the most empty-shelved Christmas on record.

I could say all sorts of things politically but I won’t. Instead, let me say this: rather than bemoan those facts, why not pivot? Why not take a different approach? I’m not advocating doing away with with either of the holidays, but why not redirect them? Why not fix the Thanksgiving dinner but go easier? (I’m fine without pumpkin pie and anything cinnamon by the way). How about inviting others to share it with you? Why not have a pitch-in capped off with a time of gratitude? As for Christmas, why not go a little easy on the expensive gifts and stick to a more personal offering? A coupon book of monthly outings. A monthly commitment to send a gift to a ministry in someone’s honor? And here is something novel! Why not truly focus on the gift of Jesus?

Let’s use today as an on-ramp to new joy, new focus, new direction, and a new relationship with Jesus?

“Father, focus me on You. May these next two months be truly remarkable in my walk with You and the depth that is developed.”

My blogging friend, Martha, is having some serious and painful gum surgery today. Would you please say a prayer for her when you read this? Thanks.

June 24

Thursday, June 24th, 2021

“No man is an island” we often hear and say.

True statement.

I have a friend who has told me that if his wife ever dies before him, he will pack his things and move to TN or some place where he could be a hermit living in his cabin away from everyone. Would he really? I hope not to find out.

Not me. While I enjoy a short respite from time to time of being alone and away from people, I know I do need (I refrained from saying, “Craved”) other people. While some people are introverts, I am not.

Last night I spent some much appreciated and much needed time with a friend. Since my schedule is far more flexible than his, I drove to his town and met him for supper. Mexican. (It was actually pretty good). But even better was the 2 hours or so we spent eating chips and salsa, our main course, and talking. Laughing. Emotional. Opening up some. It was one of those A-a-a-a-h times for me.  I didn’t have to put up a wall with which to guard myself. The opposite. A “de-walling” process took place. We even texted each other later and said, “Let’s do this again soon. Like once a month.” So I suspect we will make the time to do that.

Proverbs talks a lot about the importance of friendship. I’m grateful for mine. But remember: to have friends you must also be one. People don’t come crawling saying, “Oh please! Be my friend!”  Least that has not been my experience. No. Friendships develop over time. One step at a time. I have one friend I have had since college (that was many, many moons ago…trust me). This current friendship started when he and his family moved from Florida in 2007 (if my calculations are correct) and began attending the church I pastor. My life has been richer since.

“Thank you Father for friendship. Earthly. One with skin. And thank you for that heavenly friendship with You. One who will always be my friend.”

Note: I wrote this yesterday (Wednesday-6/23/21) and posted it for today. Jo, Tami and I are leaving for Ohio for a couple of days to watch our amazingly, fantastic grandson/nephew play some baseball.  No prejudice there. 🙂

June 15

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

I was thinking this morning (Yeah, dangerous thought). We often hear about avoiding people who are bad influences. I even spoke this past Sunday about toxic people. We will even go to I Cor. 15:33 where it says, “Bad company corrupts good morals” to make our case. With that admonition in mind, we will say something along the lines of

“CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS WISELY.”

Or some variation of that.

We are usually thinking that the people we hang around with can have a negative influence on our lives.

And that is true.

But let’s look at in a more positive light. The people we hang around with, the friends we choose, can also influence us for the good. They can encourage us to keep going. They can be the “wind beneath our wings,” so to speak. They will support us, love us, move us, rebuke us, hold us accountable, give insight to us, and a whole host of other positives.

So I suggest we begin choosing and surrounding ourselves with people who can enrich our lives.

Who are you surrounding yourself with these days? What kind of influence are they having on you?

“Father, show me who to choose as my friends and whom I should choose to hang around. May I also be a friend and a confidant and someone who builds others up.”

April 19

Monday, April 19th, 2021

Reading Proverbs is always enlightening. During 2020 I broke a long-standing tradition I had. From January 1-December 31, I would constantly read and reread Psalms. Every other month I would read Proverbs-one chapter a day. I’m not sure why I broke that tradition. But recently I picked it back up. I started reading the NT in the New Living Translation on January 1. I started reading Psalms on February 1. And through the month of April I have been reading Proverbs. It has been a rich experience again.

On the 17th (chapter 17) I read this verse:

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.

That reminded me of a saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

It is better to keep your mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

Wise words. From both.

How many time have I opened my mouth and it would have been better to have kept it shut? More than I care to admit. How it would have been better to speak less and listen more! And how it would have been better to not have spoken at all!! It pains me to think of the lives I have hurt by speaking first and thinking last.

I go to another verse in Proverbs 17 that stood out to me:

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. (v.9)

I’ve needed that forgiveness more than I can say. It is starts with keeping my mouth shut and thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. And I follow it up with this: “A truly wise person uses few words.” (v.27a)

“Father, help me to watch my words and to speak wisely.”