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,

Teenagers and the Gospel

teenagers and the gospelWelcome to this series on teenagers. The goal of this blog series is to help parents and youth workers to understand the general changes and issues that teenagers are facing. Sometimes a little knowledge can go a long way in helping to develop a proactive game plan for parenting, teaching, and shepherding students.

These are general observations gleaned from over fifteen years experience in youth ministry. Nothing in this series is ground breaking, earth shattering, or even new. Hopefully these basic observations will give you the insight, perspective, and perhaps empathy for the teens in your life. Of course the ultimate goal is to learn how to best take the gospel and apply it to the teenagers in our lives. This series is mostly to help you understand the world of being a teenager. To this end I hope the entire series proves helpful

We’ll be taking everything in bite size chunks. So buckle up and hold on to something, we are about to reenter the teenage world armed with the gospel.

Teenagers are Changing (Literally!)

Teenagers are emerging adults. This isn’t an overnight process. They are in a constant state of transition from childish dependence on others to adult like independence. One moment they may surprise you with their ability to give selflessly to others, the next moment they can throw an emotional tantrum and break down because mom asked them to take out the trash. They really do have a foot in both worlds. It is fair to expect your teen to be more responsible, but don’t assume it will happen without a few setbacks along the way. 

When a set back occurs, take it in stride, gently help refocus your child’s attention on becoming responsible. Be sure to take time to praise the positive strides you see your child making. Genuine praise and encouragement for being responsible will motivate your child to become even more responsible. If we’re not careful we can fall into a pattern of discouragement by only noticing the set backs and it’s easy to deflate your child’s motivation toward responsibility.

Teenage bodies are also growing and developing into adult bodies. Your teenager will most likely hit growth spurts. Not only will they get taller, but thanks to puberty their bodies will take on a more manly or womanly shape. It is important to keep in mind that mature physical appearance doesn’t mean that your teenager is grown up mentally as well. Many teenagers are children in grown up bodies. Just because they look grown up, doesn’t mean that they are.

Your child may be taller than you, but they still take their cues from you on how to handle the various situations life throws their way. They may not be asking for advice because they feel a pressure to figure things out on their own. A wise parent will make the extra effort to be available for their child to talk. Sometimes talking works best in a shoulder-to-shoulder situation or in the midst of an activity rather than an intense face to face sit down. As a parent it might be wise to schedule a regular time with your child each week to participate in an activity you both enjoy. My dad was always great about taking my brother and I to play tennis, fishing, look for fossils or arrowheads, and a host of other activities we enjoyed. Later in life these times fueled great shoulder to shoulder conversations on the ride home that helped both my brother and I process life.

Each of these posts will end with a Challenge. This is a way to take the post beyond just information and allow the information to impact the way you interact with the teenagers in your life. Obviously the applications will be different according to your relationship with teenagers. Much of this is geared towards parents but will have some application with youth workers as well.

Challenge: Write down the name of the teens you have in your life (if you have a bunch then you might want to spread this over a few days). Take time to pray for them. Thank God that he has placed them in your life and ask Him to help you be sensitive to their needs as they mature. Ask God to give you wisdom in your relationship with them.

  • Write down all the ways that you see your teen becoming more responsible. Think of appropriate ways to encourage your teen when you see them following through on this type of behavior
  • Now Write down areas of responsibility that you they still need to work through. Current frustrations, etc. Pray over these issues and have a game plan in place to encourage the snot out of your kid when they step up to the task.
  • Think of ways to challenge your child to be more responsible.
  • Pray that God would protect your child from people who would want to take advantage of them.

If you don’t already have a regularly scheduled time to hang out with your child start working on a plan to get some shoulder to shoulder time in on an activity. Think of something that will be fun for the both of you and work at it until you find something that sticks. You’ll be surprised at how much this regular interaction will open the doors for authentic communication down the road.

In the coming days and weeks we’ll be looking at teenage grumpiness, technology, identity, forgetfulness, and more!

“The Chase” By Jerry Bridges

The Chase: Pursuing Holiness in Your Everyday Life by Jerry Bridges with Jay and Jen Howver is the student version of Jerry Bridges more popular book The Pursuit of HolinessThe Chase is much shorter and many of the illustrations are formatted more for teens (example: playing video games, etc.).  And in most cases where the scriptures are referenced, the Message is quoted.

Overall I was a bit puzzled by the book.  Most teenagers I know who are wanting to dig into this type of study wouldn’t have a problem digging into the Pursuit of Holiness.  Beyond the cover art and title, the  chase isn’t reformatted enough to make it appeal to a broader young adult audience.

That being said, I still really like the book and wish a discussion guide had been posted in the back.  I can see a great value to leading a group of young adults through this book.  It still stands as a fantastic study on God’s holiness and our sanctification.  I highly recommend it to student pastors and college pastors all around as a fantastic study worth putting in the hands of some of your students who are seeking to grow in Christ.  The retail price is $9.99 (Paperback), and is available around the web in places like  Amazon.com . I gave it FOUR stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress as part of their Blogger Review 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.”

Do They Run When They See You Coming (Book Review)

I had a chance to read Do They Run When They See You Coming?: Reaching Out to Unchurched Teenagers (affiliate link) by Jonathan McKee this weekend. It was a great read full of practical insights and wisdom on reaching out to unchurched teens. Its well written, easy to read on non-threatening to people who struggle to read.

The first half of the book is great and you can tell that McKee is writing about his passion (reaching unchurched teenagers). It is full of pithy one-liners that are pregnant with meaning and carry the message of the chapter well beyond the initial reading. In the chapter entitled, “Youth Ministry in one word,” McKee states, “We don’t need to bring people to Christ; we need to bring Christ to them.” In the chapter with the same title as the book, he sums up Jesus’ message to the woman at the well, “I don’t care where you have been, I care where you are going.”

The later half of the book is more technical and will seem very familiar to those who have been around the student ministry world for any length of time. Though the second half is technical, it is practical and will serve as a great refresher for veteran youth pastors as well as a primer for volunteer workers and those who are new to the world of student ministry.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is seriously looking to reach out to unchurched teenagers in today’s culture. The book is both passionate and practical, I just wish it had been around in the late 90’s when I began working with students. I would have learned quicker some of the lessons I have had to learn through experience.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Do They Run When They See You Coming?: Reaching Out to Unchurched Teenagers (affiliate link) the retail price is $9.99 (paperback), and is worth every penny. I purchased my copy at Amazon.com (affiliate link) in the used section for about $5.00. I gave it five stars.

All the Disciple Now Posts in One Spot

3 Keys to a Good Disciple Now Weekend

Disciple Now Themes

Reflections on Disciple Now 2009

Student Ministry in General

Review: “Smart Faith” by J.P. Moreland & Mark Matlock

Smart Faith: Loving God With All Your Mind by J.P. Moreland and Mark Matlock is a great book geared towards students.  I really wish the book had been around when I was a teenager.  The aim of the book is to challenge young men and women to think about the Christian Faith and not just live off their parents faith or emotion.  The book is full of keen insights and practical challenges to help teens grow deeper in their capacity to think about the things of God.

The book is a great blend of Philosophy, Theology, and application.  The later chapters in the book are especially relevent as the authors move the reader from the realm of deliberate thought to the realm of living a fully integrated life.  This book is a great read for any teenager with a desire to grow or for adults with teenagers in their life.  I just wish it had been around when I was fifteen.

This is a very well written book that challenges the reader to dig deeper every step of the way. The retail price is $12.99 (Paperback). It is also available at places like Amazon.com for $10.39. I give it 5 stars.

Disclaimer: This book was provided for review by NavPress. There was no requirement to give it a positive review, just for me to call it like I see it.

3 Things I Learned From My Mentor

Early on in my ministry I had the privilege of being mentored.  It all started when I told my old youth pastor that I was going to college to become a student pastor.  He told me to find someone doing student ministry that I could sit in with and learn the ropes.  I quickly found an old friend who had been a counselor at camp and started helping him do student ministry.  At the time I didn’t realize that I was being mentored.  I would stop in his office for about 4 hours each Monday afternoon and talk to him (like he didn’t have anything better to do).  He graciously poured into me and helped me grow in my walk with God and as a pastor.  Here are 3 things I learned from having a mentor and I hope to pass on to those I mentor…

1. The Importance of Shepherding and Not Just Planning Events.

Lots of times young student pastors will fall in the rut of planning events with no real end game in sight.  It’s easy to plan what is cool or what will get kids motivated, but difficult to sit through strategy and scrap cool ideas for ones that will help you bring kids closer to God.  I was given pretty free rein, but the questions that came out of those mentoring sessions really helped me gain a shepherding perspective early.

2. To Remember that  Parents are Still the Number One Influence in a Students Life

I had several great ideas that would have made most parents sweat.  Lots of young student pastors make mistakes with parents early on.  They either take the kids off and forget to tell parents, talk bad about parents, or simply forget to include parents in the information process.  Parents are a vital part of genuine students ministry.  At the end of the day the students in my ministry aren’t coming home to my house for a Thanksgiving feast, they are coming their home.  Parents for good or for bad are primary disciplers in a students life.

3. Doctrine is Important

I was 18 when I started as a student pastor and while my doctrine was sounder than most 18 year-olds I knew, it wasn’t always completely sound.  It was important to have a mentor who could easily spot holes in my teaching method or in my thoughts about God.  I was often confronted gently with scripture and reminded that true thoughts about God have their origin in the Scriptures.