In Need Of A Savior (part 2)

What are some of the things that have been passed down in your family?  Families pass down all kinds of stuff. We pass down our genetics; you might have your grandfather’s hair or your grandmother’s eyes. We pass down possessions; my grandmother handmade quilts and each of the grandkids have one now. We have traditions. We are Auburn football fans. I’m an Auburn football fan because my dad was an Auburn football fan. He’s one because his dad was an Auburn football fan. It goes back generations in my family.

Your family probably looks different, but there are things that are being passed down. It may be something like a desire to serving your country through military service, or it may be a watch from your grandfather, or it may just be your dimples, but you have something that has been passed down to you.

Sometimes what we inherit isn’t always good. My grandfather was an alcoholic. Fortunately, my dad decided he wanted his life to be different and so he avoided alcohol. I on the other hand found out at an early age just how easy it was to become an alcoholic when it’s in your family tree

But what happens if something really important doesn’t get handed down? What happens when something vital never crosses the generational divide? What happens when parents love God, but their children never develop a real relationship with Him? We are forced to look back and ask…Why? What went wrong?

We see exactly that scenario unfold in the book of Judges. The people of Joshua’s generation loved God. It was Joshua who stood up and made a decree to the people of the Land, “choose you this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). It really seemed like Joshua had long term plans for serving God to be a part of his family’s heritage for generations to come.  The book of Judges even tells us that even while there were elders living after Joshua that all the land served the Lord (Judges 2:7).  When the people were taking over the land it was men like Caleb who went through some means to ensure that his daughter would marry a God serving and brave young man (Judges 1:12-13).

Read Judges chapter 2

It’s hard to imagine how there would come a generation that didn’t love and serve the Lord like their parents did. We have plenty of evidence that this was something that was designed to be left in the family legacy. Certainly each person has to make their own decisions to follow the Lord, but it’s not like the parents were negligent about teaching their kids about God.

Continue reading “In Need Of A Savior (part 2)”

In Need of a Savior (Judges 1)

In the book of Judges, the nation of Israel has entered the promise land. They have had two outstanding leaders, Moses and Joshua. Joshua stood in the Land and declared, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). The people of Israel responded with an overwhelming sense of, “We are with you!” It seemed like the young nation’s future was bright.

Judges

They still had one task to finish; they had to push the Canaanites out of the land. Some people read this and they are concerned. It’s important to know that God wanted the Canaanites pushed out, not simply because they were in the territory that He wanted to give Israel, but because their sins had become so great. You see the Canaanites worshiped the false gods of Baal and Ashtoreth, and sometimes Moloch. It can be helpful to know how they worshiped these false gods. If you were sick and wanted to get better you would take a child and place him in the hands of Moloch and offer its life for yours. In essence you were saying, “I want to live a more comfortable and disease free life, take the life of this child so I can have the life I want.” You would then be appeasing the gods by giving the child’s life for your own.[1]

The temples for worship were full of pornographic art in the form of idols and carvings. The way they worshiped was through prostitution and perverse sexual acts that could even involve family members. It’s too gross and ugly to describe in detail here. It’s enough to know that many of the ways that these people would worship is against the law here in America and punishable by serious time in prison. [2]

God had commanded the nation of Israel to push the Canaanites out. First, for justice in the case of those who had been oppressed, injured and even murdered as part of the pagan worship practices.  And second, so that the nation of Israel would not be tempted to worship false gods and follow the Canaanite ways.

That’s the background. Take a moment to read Judges 1:1-2:6. Read the whole thing and then come back and we will look at some important details togetehr. For the sake of brevity I’m just going to reference parts of the this passage as we talk about it and so I want it open before you and in the back of your mind as we discuss everything. So go ahead and take a moment to read. This page will still be here.

It is important for the nation of Israel to obey the Lord and push the Canaanites out of the land. They are in the middle of the task when Joshua dies and a crisis emerges. Joshua was a brilliant military leader who walked with God. Now that he is gone, there is no clear leader and no clear way forward. What do you do when you lose the leadership of someone you love and trust as a godly leade

You may lose a leader, but you won’t lose the Lord.

I think at this point it is important for us to draw on the fact that all godly leaders always point to the One greater than themselves… they point us to Jesus. In my case I had a great and godly dad but a stroke really changed his personality. Just because I lost my dad’s leadership didn’t mean that the Lord stopped caring about me. I might have lost a leader, but I didn’t lose the Lord. In fact my dad’s mission as a godly father was to point me to the Lord. He was like a shadow. The real leader was Jesus and my dad was evidence of what it looks like when God moves in someone’s life.

A couple of years ago, my son asked why he couldn’t see God. (It’s been a long standing rule in our family that you don’t draw God).  I explained that God is like the wind.[3] You don’t see wind; all you see are its effects.  It fills a sail and moves a boat. It blows a hat off a man. It pushes a windmill. There are lots of ways to see the wind move even though you can’t see it. It’s the same with God; there are lots of ways to see Him move, even though you don’t see him with your naked eye. There are miracles of healing, there are miracles of reconciliation that take place in our families, there are changes in your temperament and attitude as you continue to submit your life to God. Each one of these things are finger prints, evidence of God’s work.

Godly leaders are one of those things that God gives us that point to Him. We see God move in their life and our lives our better because of it. They bring the best out in us. They point us to the scriptures. They challenge us. They help our faith grow. Leaders like this are like shadows. Their substance, their influence, their weight isn’t rooted in who they are, but in who God is. Their whole life, their whole existence is to point us to the greater reality… God. When we lose a godly leader to sickness, death, or even God’s call to go somewhere else it can seem like God has abandoned us, but when this occurs it is important to remember, “we may have lost a leader, but we haven’t lost the Lord.”

It seems like at first the nation of Israel totally gets this. Joshua dies, they seek the Lord, they get directions and they start to finish the job of pushing the Canaanites out.  We get a snapshot of the conquest. They are kicking booty and taking names. All is good in the land of Israel.

Not long into the conquest, the nation starts to make compromises. Instead of looking fiercely different than the people they are kicking out, they start to behave like them. Then they allow them to live in the land. Finally we have a land of Canaanites and Israelites. This mix of people leads to a mix of worship. It isn’t long before the people of Israel are lead into the worship of false gods and a wicked kind of worship which I described earlier.

Today’s Compromise is tomorrow’s Corruption! Put another way. Your children will practice in excess what you do in moderation.

Along the way some unsightly things happen. They torture a guy but cutting of his thumbs and toes before killing him. It’s important to know that they weren’t looking for information! The city had been captured. They were having a little bit of sport at his death. This wasn’t God’s design; it was how the Canaanites did things. Indeed this poor guy understands and thinks it is alright for his captors to do this because he has done the same thing to seventy other kings (Judges 1:6-7).[4]

Then when they see an enemy that has superior battlefield technology known as the iron chariot, they choose not to fight (Judges 1:19). This is actually in direct violation of one of God’s commands to his people as they enter the land. It was spelled out for them in very clear terms by Moses:

“When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 20:1 ESV)

The people in Joshua’s time went up against unbeatable odds and won. They took down the wall of Jericho just by marching around it for a week and yelling at the top of their lungs. The people of the land were afraid of the Israelites because God was giving them amazing victory after victory in the land. Yet here Israel stops and their knees knock together and they pee their tunics because in their heart they think that there is no way they can take on an army with chariots. They have forgotten that the Lord can take care of any challenge that comes their way.

They make further compromises by allowing a guy to live if he just tells them where the secret entrance to his city is (again they are dealing with their own military brilliance rather than relying on God). He tells them and so they let him and his family go. He goes down the road a little way and then sets up shop, builds a homestead and names a town the same name as the one the Israelites have just destroyed (Judges 1:22-26).

Each compromise is worse than the one before until they are finally the nation of Israel is able and powerful enough to kick out the Canaanites, but they decide to make them slaves instead (Judges 1:35). They had the power and dominance to kick these folks out just as God had commanded but instead they make them slave laborers. This is in total defiance to God’s command.

Imagine that you have cancer and the doctor has to go in to operate? He has to remove a tumor from your body and it is very important that he get all of it. In fact they go ahead and set up a chemo or radiation schedule for after the surgery just in case one tiny bit accidentally gets left behind. Cancer is BAD and they are willing to put you through some rough stuff just to nuke it.

Now imagine that you have had the surgery and the doctor comes in to tell you about the operation. He says that he has tickets to the Alabama game on Saturday and while he could have taken more time to make sure he got the entire tumor it was more convenient for him to be done so he could get on the road.  He’s pretty sure that he got at least half of the tumor but there is a pretty big amount still left… How would you feel?

Cancer isn’t a joke!!!  And neither was the conquest of the land of Canaan. By leaving the Canaanites there in the land, not only have they disobeyed God, but they have also left a dangerous cancer of Baal worship. It is a cancer that spreads and will plague Israel for generations.

      Disobedience in Deadly

So I’m sure the people of the nation of Israel were patting themselves on the back. They had successfully conquered the land… sort of. I mean they did leave a lot behind but it looked pretty good at the moment.

Our old house is for sale and I recently mowed the lawn. Right now the lawn looks amazing. My front yard is made up of mostly weeds and a little bit of grass. The thing I like about mowing is that for a short while the lawn looks semi decent because all the weeds are cut down to the same height as the grass. But give my yard a week and it will look like a jungle again. You see by mowing my weeds down, I haven’t taken the time to really deal with them. I’ve just made them look alright for a while. If you really want to deal with a weed you have to get to its root; either drop in some poison that will kill it down to the root or pull the whole thing out, roots and all. There is no way to effectively deal with weeds without dealing with the root.

It was the same way with the Baal worship in the land of Canaan. They settled for a good mowing back rather than a total removal. Their children would be plagued by the people they failed to remove. The Lord even appears to them again and says that since they didn’t remove the altars to the false gods that they would become a snare to their children (Judges 2:1-5).

You see our sin always affects more than just us. You may think that your private habit of looking at dirty pictures doesn’t affect anyone, but it changes your attitude, it changes how you see other people. Those private moments aren’t so private when they affect the way you treat your spouse, your sister, your mother, your girlfriend, your daughter, your neighbor.

Your gossip goes beyond your friends. It gets back eventually. You can’t be trusted even by your friends anymore because they are afraid you will gossip about them. It’s ruining your friendships. Those lies you tell, they’ll be found out. People will see you as a liar, but what’s worse is they will feel betrayed because they trusted you.

Here is what sin unchecked in your life does! It festers and grows. Anger begets anger, lust begets more lust, a sharp tongue only grows sharper.  You tell yourself that it will get better over time and that you will outgrow it, but the truth is without serious intervention you will repeat the same sins over and over. In fact you will perfect the  sins you dabble in. Unchecked, you will practice them until you don’t even think about what you are doing. Your conscience no longer pricks you when you berate your children, stare at someone elses spouse, or still from your employer.  Sin grows. It doesn’t die unless you rip it out by the root and ripping it out by the root is work.

One of the famous dead guys I like to read goes by the name of John Owen once wrote, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” The point is that apart from some serious intervention and honest reflection before God that the small sins in your life today will be full blown nightmares tomorrow.

So how do you kill sin? The answer is you can’t do it on your own. You must seek the Lord. He’s the only one who can truly take care of your sin for you. The nation of Israel should have trusted God to take on the iron chariots in the valley and you also to need to trust God and take on the sin in your life.  It begins with confession. You agree with God that you have sin in your life that needs dealt with. It progresses toward genuine repentance. Real repentance is turning from your sin and to God. So if you have stolen, you give stuff back. If you are a liar, you start telling the truth. If you look at porn you get accountability, You haven’t repented until you have turned from sin to God.

Don’t get lost here. Don’t start down the path and stop. That’s like mowing the weeds. It will come back. You press into Jesus! You take every thought captive! You know the word of God so when a false guilt or shame arises you can say, “That’s not who I am anymore.”

The amazing thing is that he takes you as you are! He does all the real work! All you do is run to him and never look back. Are you there today? Are you ready to lay aside these things that have been holding you back and press into Jesus?

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[1] I think here it is important to note that we in America practice something similar. There are 1.5 million abortions performed each year. 1 in 6 women have had an abortion. To cause an abortion a provider may injects a baby with poison or  inserts a surgical instrument into the baby and tears it apart, or provides a poison for the mother to ingest which causes the baby to starve and suffocate to death.

[2] I think at this point it’s worth noting that the false gods/ idols that the people of the land of Canaan served required a lot of gross and immoral things at their hands including the burning children alive, child molestation, incest, sexual acts with animals, homosexuality, and necromancy  (see Leviticus 18:6-30, Deuteronomy 18:9-14). The Canaanites primarily worshiped Baal. Baal was a weather god. To a culture that depended on rain for crops, weather mattered. They believed that when Baal was aroused to make love with Ashtoreth (another Canaanite god) that it rained. To get Baal to do his thing, they would demonstrate perverse sexual acts in hopes that he would get the idea. The Canaanites believed the god’s must be manipulated into compliance. This type of worship of this false god destroyed lives.

[3] Actually I first explained that God is not visible to the human eye because he isn’t made of a material substance and thus not bound by the laws of physics, but the fact that physics exists is a sign of his existence. Then I went with the wind analogy.

[4] More than likely this is a slight exaggeration on his part.

How To Make Good Friends: A True Friend Will Bring Out The Best In You

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. (Proverbs 27:9 ESV)

There is something pleasant about what I like to call, “smell good.” There is cologne, perfume, and body spray all designed to get you smelling good. Then there are air fresheners, scentsy pots, candles, etc. all designed to get a room or a space to smell good. My favorite is coffee. I have an automatic coffee pot that goes off in the morning and part of waking up is noise of the grinder and the smell of Starbucks brewing in the kitchen. Those aromas are welcoming scents. You smile because the room is pleasant to be in, the person next to you smells like flowers or a forest, and you know you are about to get a cup of coffee.

A good friend is like that. You smile when you see them, because you know that you are about to get good advice from them. They know you. They know what your goals in life are. They know what you need. When you are confused and don’t know what to do… they remind you of who you are.  When you are scared because you don’t think you will do well or are good enough, they remind you about what you have already overcome.

advice on friendship

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17 ESV)

You probably don’t know much about ancient metallurgy so I’ll help you out here. You used to use something iron to sharpen iron. By scraping two swords together for example it made both sharper… it didn’t make them duller. That’s how a good friendship works. You bring out the best in each other. You share what you’ve read in your quiet time and it challenges the other one to get serious about their quiet time. They share about an encounter they had at school where they got to share the gospel and you start looking for ways to share at your school.

The coolest thing I ever got to see was there was a youth group who went to about 12 different schools who decided that their first group of friends was going to be each other. This was difficult since they didn’t see each other every day at school.  So one would have a birthday party and they would invite the whole youth group! It was hard to tell what was a birthday party and what was a youth group activity. This group challenged one another to read their bibles and study the word. They raked widow’s yards, they hung out at each other’s houses after church. They went to camp together and mission trips together and then they went their separate ways. Some went to college, some went to work, all but one not only go to church, but are leaders in their church in some way. One is a music minister, a couple are youth ministers, one is a Christian counselor, Several are teachers and coaches, some are on the mission field, some are nurses that do medical mission trips every year…

They’ve all moved on in their life and friendships have changed as is the course of things, but when they run into each other and when they do get together there is so much joy and laughter. There isn’t a bunch of regret.

Recently I ran across a guy I knew several years ago and he couldn’t look me in the eye. He had done something terrible in the past to hurt someone I love. He didn’t know if I knew or not (I knew). As soon as he saw me you could see the shame cover his face. He still lives with the regret today. I bet if he could take back that moment, he would. He made a very clear choice in the 6th grade about what type of friends he would have and as a result he ended up in something worse than a “kitten killing” type situation that really has caused a lot of damage in his own life and in the lives of others.

The question is, what will you do? What type of friends will you put on that first level?

 

How To Make Good Friends: Not Everyone Who Claims to Be Your Friend, Is Actually A Friend

Some people will say they are your friends, when they are not. No one is really immune to this. Even Jesus had a friend like this, “His name was Judas.” If you don’t know about Judas, Judas was one of the twelve disciples and he betrayed Jesus with a kiss (just so you know kissing on the cheek was/ is an eastern greeting much like a handshake is today in the west)

advice on friendship

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (Proverbs 27:5-6 ESV

Sometimes your friends are the ones who tell you what you don’t want to hear. Sometimes the people who tell you what you want to hear are your enemies.

There was a little bird that was flying south for the winter. He had a late start and the snow had already started to fall. The snow quickly became ice on his wings and grounded the poor little bird in a barnyard. He was sitting there muttering to himself, “Stupid snow” wondering what he was going to do to get out of this mess.

Just then he saw a big old heifer walk his way. He thought, “Cow’s are nice, this cow will help me.” She lazily walked over to where he was, and then walked just passed him. His wings were frozen to the ground now and he couldn’t move. He craned his head back to see if she had left him behind but as he looked straight up he saw her tail go up and then all of the sudden the sky grew dark and the poor little bird found itself covered in manure (cow poop)… The bird was extremely mad at the cow!

Full of negative self talk the bird thought, “now everything is worse! Life really stinks. Not only am I stuck in a barnyard, but this cow just unloaded on me… what a mean and selfish old cow.But despite the stink, the manure had another effect. The hot steamy pile of poo also served to melt the ice off of the bird’s wings! The bird soon realized this and began to tweet. “I’m free!, Tweet, tweet, I’m free! Tweet, tweet.” Just then a cat was passing by and heard this pile of poo tweeting. The cat dug in as fast as he could. The bird now realizing that someone was there helping him out of the poo tweeted even louder… then soon as the bird was free…. the cat ate it!

There are a few lessons from this story that are clear in this passage as well.

  1. Not everyone who dumps poo on you does it for your bad. Sometimes what you need feels like someone just dumped poo on an already bad situation. A friend will rebuke you to your face.
  2. Not everyone who is eager to help get you out of poo is there for your good. There are people that will say things and it will feel good to hear them, but they are serving themselves by saying them… not you.
  3. Finally, when you are in the middle of what you feel like is poo… don’t tweet about it! The people who respond and tell you what you want to hear… are not your friends. Another Proverb says it like this:

A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet. (Proverbs 29:5 ESV)

True friends are honest. They don’t always take your side. They are willing to tell you when you are wrongBut that’s not what we like to hear, is it? We love putting people around us that tell us what we want to hear. We want to be right in our own convictions and opinions. Solomon also says to take the high road. It is better to speak the truth now and offend someone short term than help them go down a destructive path.

Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue. (Proverbs 28:23 ESV)

One of the things I do as a pastor is that I marry people. Part of that is pre-marriage counseling. I always tell the couple up front, “If I don’t think you will make it, I won’t do your wedding.” I’d rather risk offending them and let them work on whatever issue it is that caused the red flag then flatter them for the moment and see them get hurt later! There have been times where someone else did the wedding, then the couple hit thr roadblock I warned them about and they have come back for marriage counseling and advice because I told them the truth to begin with.

People who care about you will confront you, people who care about what you think of THEM will only tell you what you want to hear. Life is too short to entertain deep level friendships where people only tell you what you want to hear. Look for people who will tell you the truth, even when it hurts to hear it. (By the way,

How To Make Good Friends: To Make A Friend, Be A Friend

Sometimes when we think about finding friends we can put the focus on “others” instead of focusing on us. But that’s not healthy. The kind of friends you are looking for aren’t looking for friends who can just mooch off of them. (If they are, something is wrong). You have to be friend material. You won’t find the right kind of friends, until you can be the right kind of friend.

advice on friendshipDrive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease. He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend. (Proverbs 22:10-11 ESV)

Did you catch that? No one likes a scoffer. No one likes hanging out with the dude that says, “this sucks” all the time. No one likes hanging out with a drama queen. People might endure it, but they aren’t really looking forward to it. It’s the girl who knows how to give a sincere compliment and who isn’t threatened by someone else’s success that everyone wants to have as a friend. You want to be popular?  Try going to school with a positive attitude and talk about everything you like. No meanness about stuff you don’t like. No harsh judging. Just compliment the good. You’ll start attracting the right kind of crowd

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9 ESV)

Then also guard your mouth. No one likes to be around a gossip. Some of you know first-hand what it is like to have your relationship destroyed by someone who shared your secrets. A friend covers over your weakness out of love for you. It’s when you betray secrets that you lose the title of friend.

A friend is the one who will let you know when something is wrong. I remember sitting at a fancy place to eat. We looked up from our table and watched a woman walk by. She looked nervous like she was about to meet someone. She must have just come from the bathroom because she had on these high-heal shoes that had toilet paper wrapped around the heal. Everywhere she walked she was pulling about 4 or 5 squares of quilted northern…. I didn’t know what to do. A friend would have known what to do, a friend would have looked her in the eye and told her. “You’ve got TP on your shoe. Go back to the ladies room and clean it up.”

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Proverbs 17:17 ESV

When the sky falls for someone, be there. You can’t be there for everyone.  And that is what makes a friend a friend, you choose to be there for them. Who will you choose to be there for?

You want to make a good friend? Then be a good friend. Start focusing on serving others and one day you will look up in your moment of need and realize that you are surrounded by incredible friends.

How To Make Good Friends: Who You Pick to Be your Friend Matters

  1. Who You Pick To Be Your Friend Matters

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20 ESV)

I wish someone would have hammered this in to my life when I was your age. It would have helped me walk away from some stupid friendships. I still would have cared for those people, but they wouldn’t have been on my most influential level of friends. So when they said, “Hey, lets go get drunk,” I would have said, “that is stupid” and maybe I would have had enough guts to say, “you are going to ruin your life.” I cringe now to think about what could have happened and I wish I had known to say something then.advice on friendship

I made a different group of friends later and I still had pressure from my new group of friends, but it wasn’t pressure to do bad things. My new friends said stuff like, “Man I was reading my bible the other day and…” or “Hey let’s go look for a new book at the Christian book store.” And “Let’s go to taco bell and then play mini-golf.”

Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare. (Proverbs 22:24-25 ESV)

You need to look around at your first level of friends. If they are losers, then you’re going to be a loser. If they sass their momma, guess what, you’re going to want to sass your momma. You will be like your friends.

We take on the characteristics of those we hang around. If you hang out with a crew that cusses up a storm… you will be cussing up a storm. You hang out with a guy who gets mad and throws stuff, you’re going to throw stuff. The writer of Proverbs says that friendship with angry people is like a snare. Now I realize that we don’t live in a trapping society so I’m going to help explain that you:

To snare an animal you set out a food source (preferably on a path that the animal takes). Then you lay out a stick or two to hold open the hoop and the animal steps in. Once it is caught if fights and fights against the snare, all the while it’s own effort is what causes it to stay trapped. So the writer is saying, don’t trap yourself with bad friends.

Now the reverse of this is also true, if you hang out with a crew that rakes widow’s yards… you will be raking widows yards.

There once was this lady at one of our old churches named Miss M. Everyone thought she was mean. She talked bad about everyone, including the pastor, the youth pastor (that was me), the music minister, she would have talked about you if she had met you. She was a mean and bitter gossip… The only problem is that I didn’t know she was a mean and bitter gossip and I saw her back yard was full of leaves. Some of our youth were looking for something to do and begging for an activity and so I said, “Ok, grab a rake, gloves, and leaf blower if you’ve got one, we’re going to rake leaves in Miss M’s yard.” So we did.

She came home about half way through and it was like a light switch changed in that woman. We saw her smile. She went in and made lemonade for the students and me. The next week at church instead of running her mouth about the pastor or gossiping about folks she was bragging on our students.

That was a decade ago, I was recently back in town and I saw her in a restaurant and she came across the floor and hugged my neck (still all smiles). Those kids have grown and gone different ways but instead of having memories of where they hurt one another, tore others down with their speech, or did stupid stuff, they have a ton of memories about how they encouraged each other and did great things to help others.

Who You Pick to Be Your Friend Matters.

How to Make Good Friends: (Part 1- My Story)

 

Have you ever been in a situation where you are the new kid at school and everyone knows everyone else, but you don’t know anyone? I’ve been there lots of times, I’ve made some mistakes, and I’ve seen some pretty cool stuff happen, so I took some time to write out my thoughts for my kids who are facing a “new school” situation, their friends/ parents who are facing new school situations, and to lots of my young adult friends who are headed to far away places and will be in a place where they need to make new friends. As a father, friend, and pastor I want the best and them and you.  You see the decisions you make now about friendships really matter.

There are different levels of friendships. First level friends are the individuals and groups of friends that we are the closest to and whose opinion matters the most. Second level friends have the ability to become first level friends. They are cool, but they aren’t our first choice of people to hang out with. You will still go to their house or have them over at your house, but not all the time. Third level friends are more like good acquaintances. They tend to be our friends in certain situations such as “math class and lunch” but we really don’t seek them out much besides that. These are the folks we know, get along with, and even respect, but there isn’t a strong bond there. You would wave, say hey to them in the hall at school but you probably don’t have a clue about their real life.advice on friendship.png

 

Making a true friend can be difficult. When you were just a child, your parents opinion was the only opinion that really mattered. Now that you are emerging into your pre-teen and teenage years, you really care about what other people your age think. Nobody wants to be rejected. You can feel intense pressure to fit in.

When I was in middle school it was cool to have jeans with holes in the knees. You could actually buy jeans with holes already in the knees! Some manufacturers obviously did not get the memo because they also sold jeans with reinforced knees that were more difficult to rip. It was like they were against fashion! Guess which kind of jeans my mom bought me?…  I had to work extra hard to put holes in the knees because I wanted to fit in and be accepted.

So tearing up a pair of jeans and making your mom mad is one thing, but what if something larger is at stake. What if in the process of looking for the acceptance by others, you lose a part of yourself? What if you give up more than you gain? What if next year you don’t know those people anymore but you still carry scars from the stuff you’ve done?

You see I’ve lived through that. I’ve been the new guy at school desperate to make new friends. I’ve felt isolated like everyone was staring at me and been in social situations where I was just praying for someone to rescue me from my isolation.  Just someone to talk to so I didn’t look so weird… then you hear the girl in the corner laugh and you think they are laughing at you and your isolation, your insecurities are just feeding on one another until finally someone walks over and asks you a few questions. Part of you is relieved that you are at least talking, another part of you wonders if this too isn’t part of some cruel joke. Then they say something you know you should disagree with like “let’s all go murder a bunch of helpless kittens.” And the one thing you swore you would always be against you find yourself invited into and you have a choice to make. Do you violate your conscience and join them in murdering kittens or do you risk another hour of social awkwardness?

So to be honest, people probably aren’t tempting you to murder cats. It’s more like gossip. Maybe its drug related or pressure to do sexual things to fit in. I could be looking at dirty pictures or watching movies that you know you’re not supposed to watch. Hanging out in places your parents told you not to go.

Some of you “feel” this need to be accepted so deeply that you would do stuff that you know is wrong just for a total stranger’s approval. Something that you were normally against you would now go and watch, observe, participate in just so you would not feel alone.

The irony is that even though you feel it so intensely in the moment, social isolation will pass and may even be forgotten, but you will carry the scars.

That’s how it happened for me. It wasn’t murdering kittens, it was underage drinking. I knew my grandfather was an alcoholic. But when a “friend” said let’s go get drunk. I caved under the pressure. One night they put a fifth of vodka in my hand and said drink this and I drank enough vodka in just a few minutes to kill me. If I had been a smaller person I probably would have died. As it was I displayed all the symptoms of alcohol poisoning (except for death) but wasn’t taken to a hospital. I was thrown in the back of a pickup without my shirt (it had vomit all over it) in the middle of winter. When I passed out and they couldn’t wake me up, they propped me up against a dirty nasty toilet in some guys bathroom with a space heater.

I don’t have those “friends” anymore, but I do carry the scars around from what did while I was with them. That day I realized I needed to make a change in my life, I needed better “friends.”

Have you ever felt pressure to make friends? Maybe you are a new kid a school, or maybe for whatever reason you’ve had a falling out with your old friends, or you realize that maybe your friends aren’t a good influence but you wonder how to make good friends.  Over the next few days I will blog about how to make good friends.

The Bible says a lot about friendship. We are going to focus on the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is about the only book in the bible that you can just pick a verse at random, read, and walk away with a healthy sense of what the author meant. Most of the other books of the bible you need to read like a real book (from start to finish) in order to get context. Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings (mostly written by Solomon). Over the next four days we will look at four truths.

  1. It Matters Who You Pick To Be Your Friend.
  2. To Make A Friend, You Have to Be A Friend
  3. Not Everyone Who Claims to be Your Friend, Is Your Friend
  4. A True Friend Will Bring Out The Best In You

I’m looking forward to discussing this together.