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?

 

Why Your Parents Care About What Kind of Friends You Have

Nobody wants to be rejected. 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 also sold jeans with reinforced knees that were more difficult to rip. Guess which kind of jeans my mom bought?… I had to work extra hard to put holes in the knees of those jeans.

So tearing up a pair of jeans to fit in 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 feel so…. weird.

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 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. 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?

Your friends probably aren’t tempting you to murder kittens. It’s more like gossip. Maybe its drug related or pressure to do sexual things to fit in. It 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 something that you were normally against you would now go and watch, observe, participate in just so you would not feel awkward.

The irony is that even though you feel it so intensely, the moment of social isolation will pass and may even be forgotten, but you will carry the scars left by the destructive things you have done with your friends.

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. Then one night they put a fifth of vodka in my hand and said, “drink this.” I downed it faster than it takes most people to drink a soda at their favorite fast food restaurant. That was probably enough alcohol to kill me. If I had been a smaller person I would have died that night. As it was, I threw up and they threw me in the back of a pickup without my clothes. When I passed out and they couldn’t wake me up, they propped me up against a dirty toilet in a filthy bathroom with a space heater. It’s a miracle that I woke up at all the next day.

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. I didn’t realize it then, but I realize now I was learning Proverbs 13:20 the hard way.

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

Have you ever felt pressure to fit in? There are somethings worse than being socially awkward. Your parent’s care about what kind of friendships you have because they know that your friends have the capacity to pull you up or pull you down. They also know that you most likely won’t keep your friendships, but you will keep the scars (or trophies) from what ever you and your friends did together. If you don’t have good friends now consider praying and asking God to bring some incredible people into your life.

 

Raising Kids Who Don’t Remember Jesus

BibleRead-2They have heard about him. They know his stories. They know what he’s done for us. They sing songs about him. They have asked him to forgive their sins. They have been baptized in his name. They have memorized his words. They have done good works in his name. They have more information about him at their fingertips than any other generation, yet they don’t remember him. How does someone so saturated with Christianity loose the very essence of the one they call Savior? How do you claim a sense of what it is to be Christ-like, but have no memory Christ?

What am I talking about? It’s the Lord’s Supper. The essential part of church life that emphasizes the gospel, what it means to trust Christ, and most of all where we REMEMBER him. It’s a common meal where we all participate by receiving elements that represent the blood and body of Jesus and in doing so we ALL TOGETHER acknowledge his sacrifice and eminent return.

I see lots of believers, especially believers with children skipping out on this thing that Jesus actually said to do in rememberance of him. Is it possible to teach our children about Jesus, but to not remember him? Can we have them sit for a family devotional and prayer, sit in Children’s Church, sit close by as we go and minister, and somehow not teach them to sit for a moment to examine their life and remember Jesus?

I get it. There is a long list of excuses on why not to get the kids our of children’s church or return for a special evening service. They haven’t made a profession of faith yet – (They need to see that they are left out and apart from Christ. This physical illustration of restricting your kids from taking the Lord’s Supper will do more to teach them this reality than you words alone). Kids are really hard to keep still and quiet in church (It’s always been this way, but there are very few things in life they learn from lack of experience and this isn’t one of them).  They are in children’s church, I don’t want to interrupt the lesson.  (Can you make a children’s lesson more profound than the experiential, tangible, visible, and tastable lesson set before us in the elements of the Lord’s Supper? First as an outsider observing everyone else and then prayerfully as a believer who also professes faith in Christ.) Think about it, with the Lord’s Supper you see with your own eyes all your brothers and sisters professing that their hope is in Christ alone for salvation? We see that God provided the ultimate bread from heaven, and that we don’t live by bread alone, but by his very Word! We see that Jesus truly is the vine and we are the branches, that he is the head and we are united as the body! We see that it is only through his brokenness that we can be made whole.

Perhaps a more sober thought is, “What do I implicitly teach my kids by not participating in the Lord’s Supper myself and not bringing them in to join me?” I think the answer is clear. You teach with your actions (which speaks louder than words) that you don’t have to obey every request command of Christ and you teach that they don’t have to shouldn’t remember Jesus in this way because it’s not important.

We do a lot for our kids, everything from organic food to baseball practice. We sit through dance recitals and agonize with them over homework. We do our best to teach them about our faith and to honor God, Why wouldn’t we prioritize the Lord’s Supper?

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  – (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ESV)

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A Must Read for Christian Parents

Rock-Solid KIDS by Larry Fowler is a must read for Christian parents, Children ministry directors, Pastors and even youth pastors.  The book outlines a Biblical premise for ministry to children starting in the home and supplemented by the church.  The book is full of biblical wisdom and key insights.

The author didn’t share anything new or unfamiliar to me as a father, but did reaffirm several things my wife and I have sought to do as parents. That being said, I do highly recommend this book for three reasons:  It is brief, It is well written, and It contains the best chapter on sharing the gospel with children that I have ever read.

The book is only 142 pages, yet it packs punch.  You won’t find any wasted words or long diatribes.  Author Larry Fowler has done an outstanding job of  keeping the message simple and straightforward. The 8th chapter on sharing the gospel with children is one of the clearest and most straightforward I have ever read.  The 8th chapter alone is worth the market price of the book.  As a parent I’m grateful to our Minister to children for putting it in my hands.

I  highly recommend Rock-Solid KIDS to anyone who has influence in the lives of kids.  I can see it being especially helpful and encouraging for parents and ministers to children. The retail price is $17.99 (hardcover), and is available around the web in places like Amazon.com for $14.03.  I gave it five stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Dads, Daughters and Date Days

Right around 5-years ago I became a dad.  The nurse handed me this precious little baby girl and I knew that it would all be different from that day forward.  My life had changed and all the sudden I felt the pressure to not to drop the ball.

Now She is almost 5-years-old and smarter than I ever imagined a 5-year-old being.  She knows me well.  To be honest, sometimes its uncomfortable.  She doesn’t come with a filter.  In fact that’s what a lot of parenting is… introducing a filter.

Just being gut level honest… It’s not easy to introduce a filter and help your kids process life.  Most of the time the easy thing to do is to go cut the grass (because its over due and you wonder what your neighbors are thinking about your un-kept yard), or read a book (because you need some quiet time after they have tugged on our arm and said, “Dad” a million times in a row just to get you to look at their newest drawing and act like its the best thing since Michael Angelo), or Watch TV while your kid takes an hour long bath and shrivels up like a prune (because you’ve had a long day dealing with other peoples problems… not to mention your own).  Its actually quite easy to just show up, give out a hug, maybe play a token game or two with your kid, talk to your wife, go to bed and do it all over again tomorrow without ever really parenting.

To be completely honest.  I don’t always succeed at taking advantage of all the “dad” moments that I could.  But I know I need to.  I know that I love my kids (no matter how many times they say “dad” in a row while I’m trying to figure out the algebra problems I’ve created  in the check book). I know that they need me.  I know that I don’t want to wake up 20 years from now living with regrets on how I wasted these formable years because someone else said, “that’s normal” or “that really never messed up my kid.” (After all they aren’t accountable for how I raise my kids).

So we have set some things in place in my family in order to capitalize on these younger years with my daughter.  I tuck her in bed most nights and read 1 or 2 stories to her from her Jesus Story Book Bible .  We also pray together.

On some Sunday afternoons we are more intentional.  We have this 105 picture set of pictures describing events in the Bible.  She picks out several pictures and I walk her through the story and how it relates to Jesus and obedience to God.  She looks forward to our time on Sundays and its often in this context that we process how the stories tell us about who God is and how we can relate to Him through our decisions.

My favorite part of the week is taking her out for breakfast once a week before school, we call it a Father-Daughter date.  The regular scheduled time gives me a solid hour of quality time with her.  We do everything from eating pancakes, talking about our her week, sharing ideas on how to color a picture, reading books, to picking up a small gift or surprise for my wife and her mom.  Its often in the context of this date that I get opportunities to share about Jesus with folks we meet there.

Its the date days that I really think my daughter gets to see the fullest picture of her dad.  There is no topic off limits and she often brings up some great questions.  We process life together and I intentionally help unmask the world around her through the lens of scripture. Sometimes we talk to people, sometimes we pray with people, and sometimes we just enjoy pancakes and a good story.

You see, here is what I know.  My daughter reads my actions better than my intentions. So it makes sense that I would be intentional about my actions.  I say that church is a family event, yet when we get there I am pulled a million different places (as I should be) because I’m on staff at the church.  So we arrive together and leave together on purpose (even though it would be more convenient not to).  I say I love her, so I am intentional about spending quality and quantity one-on-one time despite having a hectic and busy schedule.  I say I love Jesus, so I intentionally help her process her world through the lens of scripture.

I want her to know me.  I want her to know that I love her.  I want her to know that I am proud of her.  I want her to know that as a father I will do what is best for her.  Its really not about my good intentions, its about intentionally being a dad. I hope one day she looks back on her childhood and treasures the times we talked over pancakes as much as I do.

What about you?  What are some of the things that you are intentional about with your children?

 

The Jesus Storybook Bible (Review)

I really like the Jesus Storybook Bible Deluxe Edition.  I’ve been reading it to my4 year old daughter on a pretty regular basis.  Most storybook bibles we have come across grossly leave out important details, this one however, remains truer to the text than any I have ever seen while at the same time driving home the story of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation.  This storybook Bible presents a clear and accurate Biblical theology on a child’s level.

Since our children are younger we’ve started using it for family devotions in the evening before bath and bed.  My daughter loves it and begs for me to read the next story.  We have the deluxe edition which comes with CD’s of David Suchet reading the stories (like in the video’s below).  If you have kids or grand-kids I would highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of the Jesus Storybook Bible.  The retail price is $25, but I got mine from amazon.com for $16.49.  I gave it 5 Stars.

Zondervan has put out a few video’s where you can get a glimpse of how the stories read.  I have included them below for your viewing pleasure.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wandering in the Dessert (Review)

Wanderin’ in the Desert (3rd Disc from What’s in the Bible with Buck Denver) is a fascinating yet educating program.  I watched it with my four year old daughter and we talked about the program.  I was really impressed with the material on two levels.  On one level I was impressed with how much content was packed into the two 30 minute shows.  It is clear that the creators were intent on presenting a conservative view of scripture (for which I am deeply appreciative).  They also took great care to answer relevant questions on kid friendly level. On a second level , I was impressed with how the writers took care to draw the information to a simple point of real application.  Not only was there information about the reliability of scripture, but there was a subtle yet evident plea to trust the God of the Scripture.

My daughter, though she was able to retain a lot of information from the program, was impressed on a different level.  The program was fast paced enough to keep her attention all the way through.  She really enjoyed the songs making me play them over and over for her.  After the program I asked her several questions and she responded pretty well.

Overall I was highly impressed with the 3rd disc as I have been with the whole series to date.  The only draw back was that in between segments it shows a little boy (puppet) talking a little disrespectfully to his mother who is silent and off camera.  I discussed this with my daughter as an example of behavior that I expect her not to emulate. Beyond that the whole production is pretty amazing.  I would highly recommend it to parents and grandparents to watch and review with their children.  I can see it being a great resource for bible lessons!  I give it four stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a DVD of this program free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of their Tyndale Blog Network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”