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.

Why Church People Are Sometimes Messy

Proverbs 14:4 ESV Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

In many ways that’s my life verse. I should probably get Proverbs 14:4 engraved on my desk, but if I did you would never see it because I keep my work on my desk. Think about the meaning of the verse for a moment. In the case of an ox and a manger, you have to pick between productive and clean. You can have a clean manger or you can have an ox which is what a manger is for and who helps bring in the crops. You may have a clean manger AND an ox for short periods of times, but not all the time and not without someone shoveling the manure.

It’s kind of the same with small kids. They make messes. You can have a clean house or you can have kids. You may have both a clean house and kids but only for short periods of time and not without someone picking up the toys, cleaning the vomit, changing the diapers, etc… But the beautiful thing about kids is that if you train them, they grow up and eventually pick up after themselves, use the restroom by themselves and feed themselves (with a little pressure from Mom and Dad).

Church isn’t really all that different. You see with church we reach out to people who don’t know Jesus. And when someone comes to church and doesn’t know Jesus, they act like people who don’t know Jesus. And when someone commits their life to Christ, they act just like someone who just committed their life to Christ. While Jesus washes away our sin when we put our trust in him… we still may have a tangled mess of ungodly decisions that we have made in the past that have consequence in our present lives. And let’s be honest there may just be a lot of stuff we just don’t know yet. We’re kind of like new born baby’s in that regard (John 3:3, 1 Peter 2:2, Hebrews 5:12).

We make messes. However, every day we are growing more and more in the likeness of Christ (Ephesians 4:22-32). Our goal is to be presented as mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28). But that takes time and patience from godly teachers and leaders.

Leave room for the immature to become mature at your church. It will involve a little messiness but you will help people grow! You know the barn is a place for oxen and oxen do make messes. The church is a place where both the immature and the mature gather to worship Jesus and the immature do make messes. I’d rather have a messy church that works to raise infants in Christ to maturity in Christ than a clean church without new believers. Because there are those who are weaker in the faith among us perhaps we should challenge them to grow rather than judging them for their weakness (Romans 15:1-6).

A Few Thoughts on Fatherhood

Getting ready for kid number two in a few months has me reminiscing about fatherhood.  So I thought I would take a moment and share about how God prepared me for fatherhood the first go round.

My preparation for fatherhood began when I was a child watching my own father.  I was gifted to have a strong and capable dad.  I learned so much from him, even when he wasn’t looking.  I must have been a really good student of my father, because I catch myself saying things and acting just like him.  And that’s not bad, because I really love my dad and feel blessed to be his son.  I wonder if he knew he was teaching me about being a father?

Rebekah Writing in the Sand

Then there was the day that a friend of mine told me that he and his wife were going to have a baby.  We were memorizing scripture together and so we turned our hearts to Psalm 127.  We discussed the meaning of the Psalm and that day Psalm 127 began teaching me that children are a blessing. Though I was young, unmarried, and a long way from fatherhood, God used that psalm to shape my life.  I longed for the day that I would be a dad.

Along the way my job has afforded me the opportunity to watch parents in action.  I have been blessed to see some great parenting from discipline to discipleship.  I’ve learned a lot through the years by partnering with parents in student ministry.

Yet, nothing could have prepared me for the day when I was told I was going to be a dad.  In our marriage, it was something Avia and I were hoping for, but not exactly planning on quite so soon.  Yet there we were, newly-weds, five-months into marriage and Avia became aware that all was not as it used to be and took a special trip to the doctor.

One Wednesday night I came home to see my wife and in my chair there was a little teddy bear holding a pregnancy test.  Tears filled her eyes and then mine and then I quoted Psalm 127.  We were nervous.  We didn’t know what parenthood would be like, but we knew this was a blessing from God.

Nine months later I held my little girl in my arms for the first time.  I held her up and quoted this same Psalm over her and prayed and thanked the Lord for this blessing in our lives.  Then I dedicated her to the Lord and asked for guidance to be a godly father.

“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (Psalms 127:1-5 ESV)

The Danger of Missing it by a Mile

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”
(Proverbs 14:12, 16:25 ESV)

Wrong Way

So I found some of my old writings on a zip disk leftover from my college days.  I took time to read them and took a quick trip down memory lane to see how I might have changed.   As I was reading I couldn’t help but notice a subtle but profound difference that has taken place.  Somewhere in my writing I transitioned from knowing about God to being a quest to know God.  As the son of a pastor and a student minister studying religion I was living in a world where everyday I was brought face to face with the Word of God and gleaning doctrine divorced from personal relationship.  I was a faithful student of God’s stats, but not his friend.  I could have told you the important nuances of a Bible passage and had a great grasp on how to use all the study tools, but it didn’t do me any good.  I didn’t grow closer to God, I loved his word, but I didn’t love Him. I look back and I thank God for his kindness toward me in leading me to repentance and real faith in Him.

Just knowing about God caused me to act in such away as if winning a theological argument with another religion student or science major was what it was all about.  I studied God’s word to bring me more personal glory.  I would risk relationships to show others how superior in Bible trivia I was.  Yet when I came to know God, I left it all, and fully embraced the embarrassment of confessing that I had known God’s stats, but missed out on knowing him.

I have seen several pastors hit grand slam sermons out of the pulpit and strike out at home with their own children because their children understood their dad was a phony.  I have seen kids walk away from their parents religion because dad and mom were more concerned about what people would think rather than what God thinks.  Pride is a dangerous thing.  It can keep you in church and out of heaven.

God, I thank you for your grace in reminding me that I need to offer my pride to you again today.  It is a dangerous thing to learn about you and not know you.  Thank you for interrupting my life with your grace so I wouldn’t be content to study your word without the hope of knowing you.  Give me strength to cast down any idol that would stand in the way of knowing you.

My Story: A Godly Heritage (part 1)

flickrcom-photos-hamed-258971456Richard and Barbara Hill had suffered two miscarriages between my sister’s birth and mine. My birth was anticipated with much fear and joy.  I was born on April 27st, 1979.  My mother named me Jonathan meaning “gift of God.” Though I do not remember them ever saying it, it was evident in the way we were raised that my parents believed that all children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127).

My Father

My father was a gentle but strong man.  Most of my childhood he was a church planter in Montana.  He would pastor a small existing church, lead a bible study that would develop into another church and work a full time job.  Montana was not known for its job market and often my dad would take seasonal low paying jobs just to help our family make ends meet.

Despite the overwhelming drain and stress of being overworked and underpaid my father was the priest in our home.  He lead us with a family devotional in the morning and family prayer time at night.   He was the first to discipline us, but always with love…I never saw my father lose his temper (Ephesians 6:4, Proverbs 22:6 & 15).

My Mother

In my denomination women are encouraged to take seriously the highest office of influence over a man (motherhood).  My mother has influenced my walk with Christ more than any other individual.  She did it by being a Godly mom (I Timothy2:12-15, Proverbs 31).  Often I would rise early to use the bathroom in early hour of the morning and catch my mom in our living room with her bible open having a daily quiet time.

More than just the habits my parents exhibited I saw their faithfulness in the small things.  I remember having a desire as a young man to be so like my mom and dad that I asked how I could memorize scripture.   My parents loved God and they loved to be with the people of God.  Every time we were gone on a Sunday we would be in a church service at another location on our way to where ever we were going (I John 1:7).   To this day I can count on one hand how many Sundays I have not attended worship service in my life.  Not because I am trying for perfect attendance but because we so loved God that we couldn’t help but want to be with His people.

Trials

I saw my parents face trials with a patient endurance.  There were times that the ends would not be meeting and we would see God provide for us in miraculous ways (like a giant bag of pinto beans or a check in the mail).  My parent’s faith was unwavering and I learned by observation what it looks like to face difficult and dark days with an eye to see Jesus Glorified (James 1:2-4, Hebrews 12:1-2 )

I was off to a great start, but later around the age of 14 I would face a trial of my own that would expose my complete lack of faith in God.  I was trying to live in the world of my parent’s faith, but came up short when the pressure was on.  It was time I learned just where I stood in the world apart from God and without hope.  Check back tomorrow as the story continues with…

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