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,

The 100 Book Reading Challenge and How it Has Changed Me

For those of you following along, you know that I took up the challenge to read 100 books this past year.  I made my page number goal and then some but missed my book goal by 18.  Never-the-less I’m confident that I have read more in the past year than I have in any single year prior.

It’s difficult to asses all the changes that attempting such a goal has had on me.  Yet as I reflect on the past year and dream about the future I cannot help but notice that I have changed as a result of becoming a more disciplined reader. I am different than I was a year ago and here is how:

1. I don’t waste as much time (though I still have the ability).  I thought I was busy before and didn’t have enough time to read more, but I found out that by eliminating or reducing a few small pleasures (like late night TV, facebook stalking,  spending time with my wife and children… Ok! I was kidding on that last one.) that I have more time than I thought I did and can spend it in more productive ways like reading.

2. I’m a faster reader now. I didn’t set out to increase the rate at which I read or even comprehend what I read, but as a result of reading more often it just happened. I read faster now and comprehend better than I ever have (but I’m still not a speed reader by any stretch of the imagination).

3. I’m a more discerning reader.  I’ve learned that the quality of the books you read is more important than the quantity of books you read. My goal next year is not to read more books, but to read better books.

4. My Daughter is a better reader. She’s five and she’s advanced from just knowing the sounds that letters make to reading on a first grade level in the past year. (Technically if you count all the books I’ve read to her I’m well over double my 100 book goal.)

5. I’m actively and intentionally encouraging others to read. This past year I volunteered to mentor a couple of kids at our local junior high and have been impressed to see them start reading at and above their grade level. I’m also involved at my daughters elementary school helping her peers learn their sight words.

I’m sure I’ve changed in other ways as well. These are just the 5 that jumped out at me.  I’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks about my goals for next year! And I’ve got some big ones.  How about you? What are you thinking about challenging yourself to next year?

 

Is Church Designed for Sissies?

  Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow is a compelling book about the gender gap that is growing in congregations world-wide.  Women outnumber men in some congregations with the differential ratios as high as 63 to a measly 37 percent.   In his newly revised ground breaking book Murrow attempts to explain the feminization of the church and what pastors and leaders can do to restore the masculine appeal.

The thing that piqued my interest most about Why Men Hate Going to Church is that way that Murrow lines out his argument for masculine church being a Biblical model.  According to Murrow (and he has some interesting stats and historical data on his side), the church (in general) has slowly drifted into a feminized form of Christianity which by nature appeals to women and excludes men.  The most damaging element of the slide into gender favoritism is that Church has historically appealed to men.

I really enjoyed reading this book and give it a full five stars. I can see it being useful to pastors and ministry leaders who are looking to restore some of the biblical and redeemed cultural initiatives that appeal to men.  For women who are interested in helping men find their way back to church, David Murrow has written another book that you may find helpful as well, How Women Help Men Find God.  You can find out more about author David Murrow and the book Why Men Hate Going to Church on his website: churchformen.com

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson as part of the BookSneeze program. 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.”

Is the New Atheism Empty?

  A while back i posted a comment on another blog about science and religion. I took a few minutes to make three solid and well reasoned points as well as to call into question the legitimacy of some of the points made by others who commented (I made no attempt to identify myself with a religion in general or Christianity in particular, but simply made textbook statements about the nature of science).  Because of the nature of the forum I expected a well reasoned defense as a  response… I was mistaken. The response I received was to be called an idiot in a variety of ways, over and over again by a variety of different people. Up to this point my experience with atheist friends of mine was of cordial disagreement and rational argument.

My experience on the blog and a previous comment on my blog where I got lambasted for being a dad piqued my interested in the New Atheist movement. So I decided to investigate Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins and others to see what was at stake. I was surprised to find that most of their material was really baseless work and that a lot of what they were getting by with in debate was disputable historical data, easily refutable analogies, and character assassination on anyone who didn’t agree with them.

I marveled at how such sloppy argument would be accepted and when I saw Why God Won’t Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running on Empty? by Alister McGrath I jumped at the chance to read the perspective of a man who had debated some of these men in the public forum.  I really like the book and especially appreciated Dr. McGrath’s politeness in handling the dogmatic worldview of New Atheism and his candor in pointing out that not all modern day atheists belong to this movement.  Many, indeed wish to distance themselves from this more “fundamentalist” arm of atheism.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson as part of the BookSneeze program. 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.”

Mark 7: keep the main thing the main thing

At the beginning of this chapter, Jesus’ disciples are taken to task by some of the religious leaders for not washing their hands. To be honest, washing your hands is very wise behavior. I was taught to wash my hands before meals as a child and still do on most occasions, even if I have to use hand sanitizer. I wash though to keep germs somewhat at bay and prevent disease. Again… Washing hands is very wise behavior. However, the issue arrises when the religious leaders raised the wise behavior to the level of the law and imposed it on the disciples.

Jesus immediately corrects the situation and calls the leaders on their hardness of heart. They were more concerned with what went in a person than what came out. Jesus declared that the heart was the issue. The disciples could have a right heart and practice some unwise behavior by not washing their hands. However, the religious leaders were in the habit of washing hands, but were far from God in their hearts as they were actually finding ways to dishonor heir parents while still appearing right with God.

The point is that God is most concerned with our actual obedience, not just the appearance of obedience. It’s easy to elevate wise behavior to the level of law and think that we are okay before God because we wash our hands, rinse our vegetables, and put a thermometer in our meat, but the real issue is are we testing God in obedience?

An Open Letter to all My Legalistic Friends

Unfinished Books, Unframed Pictures, and Eternity

This is a guest post by Jesse Campbell.  He is the Student Pastor at Heritage Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida and is the Director of Percussion at Tate High School.

I am a jumbled mess of the right idea and good intentions. This is probably way too much information, but the counter next to my favorite toilet is piled high with open books; each stacked precariously on another so as to keep my places in each of them simultaneously.

One is the memoirs of a Marine Lieutenant, another a dissertation on quantum physics that I don’t really understand, another John Eldridge’s latest attempt to stretch yet another book out of the same idea that spawned Waking the Dead, another Lee Strobel’s incredible The Case for Christ, and the miserably wrinkled bottom of the stack is a registry guide distributed by Wal-Mart to parents to be. How do they know when you’re about to have a baby and do we really need two Pack & Plays? In our foyer hang sepia tone pictures of complete strangers. A few rooms over, in my garage, sit dusty boxes with ready-to-assemble shelving systems and three surfboard racks that have yet to make it onto the walls. My house has quite a few half-finished projects. So did my mind until recently.

Even highly organized people will embark on a project of some sort, only to be diverted by…well, life. The unfinished projects in my head remained so for similar reasons. I never truly nailed down my stance on the whole Calvinism (the philosophy that God predetermines who will be saved) issue until this year. I carried unanswered questions regarding God’s perspective on the dimension of time through three years of vocational ministry. I couldn’t really answer the tough questions about God’s perspective on man’s prayers until I was married (which is funny because marriage is the kind of thing you pray about A LOT). Now, it’s not as though these questions were unimportant to me. Like my partially assembled garage door opener, I knew they were of great significance to my everyday life. But, the resolution of some tough questions was interrupted by my need to compose the music for Tate Drumline’s show or pull together the final details for our ski trip. This may sound extreme, but this kind of distraction is the work of Satan in our lives. It’s not that these distractions are inherently evil in and of themselves. Rather, it’s that they are not as important as the big questions in our lives.

How did the universe come to exist from absolute void? Where do you stand with God? Is Hell a real place? Do the rebuttals to the theory of evolution hold water? If so, what does that mean for you? Why do bad things happen to good people? With all the religions of the world holding claims to the truth, how do you know which one is true? These are examples of unfinished projects that even brilliant and highly educated people will carry around in their minds for decades.

Work out the unfinished projects because your soul may hang in the balance. Take the time to put these questions on the front burner and have the objectivity to follow the evidence wherever it takes you. Letting them slip into the obscurity that life can bring could be catastrophic. One wrong turn nullifies every turn that follows it and we’re not guaranteed tomorrow. So, go back and investigate as if your eternity in Heaven, Hell, or existential void depended on it because it does. Consider the risk you take by never fully resolving these issues or never giving them a fair chance in your heart. Is adherence to atheism (the belief that nothing spiritual exists) worth the risk of being wrong? Don’t take the easy way out and put a quick fix on a paradigmatic life issue. That’s like duct taping the garage door opener to the ceiling, buying the first set of tires you see, or drilling into a wall and just hoping you hit a stud…not that I’ve done one of those things. I’ve spoken with hundreds of atheists who base their beliefs about God on false assumptions or lies about Christianity. They think that science and Christianity are mutually exclusive and some have never even heard of the field of study called “apologetics.” They cite the writings of biased and bitter “former Christians” who do not personally take the very risk they so vehemently endorse. I’ve spoken with many agnostics who, by their own admission, have simply never taken the time to adequately ponder or investigate God’s existence. With these examples in mind, does my theory about Satan’s sabotage sound a little less crazy? If there is an enemy to God, then isn’t it in his best interest to keep people distracted from the big issues like Jesus and what you truly believe about Him?

I know that, if you were to really and truly put these questions on the front burner and commit to objectively follow the evidence to wherever it takes you even if that means dramatically changing your stance on something, you’d investigate your way to Jesus. Jesus said in John 14:6 that He is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one can come to God except through Him.

It all comes down to what you believe about Jesus. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Would you put aside the less important things in your life to make this Jesus guy and your beliefs pertaining to Him a priority? Heaven is a real place. So is Hell. Jesus loves you and that’s eternally more important and worthy of contemplation than is the plot of the aptly titled show “LOST.”