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.

 

Some things you should know about Demon Possession

1. In our Evangelical Christian sub-culture several decades ago there were some things that happened that have left a lingering impact on how some of us view Demon Possession. Investigators in a small town called in a psychologist to use hypnosis to discover the details of a reported sexual assault. Ultimately they were lead on a wild goose chase to hunt down a secret gathering of people who were committing Satanic Ritual Abuse. They later discovered that the techniques used in the hypnosis were “suggestive” in that they interviewer filled in the gaps of the story and using those suggestions the person under hypnosis filled in everything, believing that this event had actually happened. Both feeding into this event and flowing from it, evangelical Christians latched on to the idea that Satanic groups had formed everywhere and were sacrificing babies in secret. The hysteria grew to include a vicious rumor that the president of proctor and gamble came out as an avowed Satanist (not true) and Christians began boycotting products produced by the company. Then there came radio hosts who claimed to cast out demons over the air waves. All of this hysteria happened “inside” Christian circles, sweeping up even pastors and lay leaders. It was a modern day witch hunt, but this time we were looking for demons. Instead of burning the victim at the stake we would go through an intense psychological process to “exercise” the demon. Yet somehow the well publicized exorcisms of the 80’s looked more like Hollywood than the ones we read about in the bible. While a ton of truth has come to light over this embarrassing moment for American Christianity there still remains an element of folks who subscribe to this type of demonology. Even creating charts for demonic order and hierarchy (that go well beyond the scripture) seeing and encountering more demons in a week than Jesus did in his entire ministry.

2. Demons are real but visible demonic encounters are rare.  There are a handful of cases of a detailed encounter with a demon in the gospels.  1. Jesus was tempted by Satan (Matt 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:11-13), 2. The blind man (Matt 9:32-33), 3. The blind and mute man (Matt 12:22-23, Luke 11:14), 4. The Canaanite woman’s daughter (Matt 15:22-28, Mark 7:24-30), 5. The Man in the synagogue (Mark 1:23-27, Luke 4:31-37), 6. the Gerasene demoniac (Matt 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-37) 7. The boy with seizures (Matt 17:14-20, Mark 9:14-29, Luke 9:37-43).  and 8. the silencing of demons (Matt 8:16, Mark 1:32-35, Luke 4:40-41). *[I used Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of the Bible here to help me reference all the occurrences of demonic encounters… the writer also notes that there are three other moments where demonic encounter is mentioned in passing as well as references to Peter and Judas.] I think it’s worth mentioning that we have genuinely have less than ten demonic encounters recorded and a few passing comments about demonic encounters recorded by four gospel writers. There are only five references to demonic encounters in the book of Act (which spans a greater length of time than Jesus’ ministry). If you were to look in the Old Testament you would also find a handful of demonic encounters. Given that we are struggling to come up with even twenty biblical demonic encounters over thousands of years, I’d say that visible demonic encounters are very rare and there were more at the time of Jesus specifically be cause he was God in the flesh. I find it hard to believe that a pastor or radio evangelist could face more visible demonic oppression than our Lord.

3. Visible Demonic Encounters are extremely varied. Just read the passages already  listed. Demons in one man cause him to run around tombs naked, another causes convulsions, another causes physical maladies such as blocking speech or sight. There doesn’t seem to be a consistent way in which demons “posses” a person.

4. Demon “Possession” is not a good translation. The Greek word that we translate possession is better understood as a short term hold. One Greek professor of mine said, “the word for demon possession is likened to catching a cold. So one could say of a possessed person that they came down with a bad case of demons.”  Possession implies ownership and when a person is “possessed” they aren’t owned by Satan, but they are severly affected by the demons in their life. Again the manifestation of possession appear to be widely varied.

5. Demon “Possession” is different than mental illness. Hebrew culture had an understanding of mental illness that wasn’t considered demon possession. David while on the run from Saul fakes being insane in order to preserve his life (1 Sam 21:13). Several of the early church fathers recognized mental illnesses as different from demon possession.

6. Demons seek to deceive us by posing as messengers of good news. Paul writes that, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, what less should we expect of his followers” (1 Cor. 11:12-15).  Demons attempt to remove the focus off of Jesus Christ and on to something else (1 Tim 4:1-3, 1 John 4:1-3, 1 Cor 12:3). Paul wrote against the false doctrine that the church of Galatia had bought and warns them that even if an angel were to preach a different gospel than that which they had received from him that they should reject it (Gal 1:8-9). (Amazing how many world religions have been started by angel’s presenting a false doctrine).

7. We need to be ready every day to battle demonic forces when following Jesus. Every day we encounter challenges to our faith in the Lord. Satan is a liar and his goal is to get us to believe his lies over the promises of God. Everyday the believer faces decisions in a fallen world. We must choose what to believe about relationships, finances, situations, circumstances… will we believe that everything is coming to a resolution in Jesus Christ or will we believe the lies. Will we believe that he is enough, or will we settle for something less? Will we believe that God created us for His glory, or will we rebel against his design?  When it comes to demons, I’m far more worried about the demonic forces I encounter and don’t even recognize. I think more than anything that the last lines of the Lord’s prayer, “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” address this type of demonic encounter.

3 Things To Do When A Pastor Leaves: an Open Letter

Dear Church,

When a pastor answers the call to go to another church there can be lots of thoughts and emotions. I want to address three of those thoughts. Please know that as much as I love you, my biggest desire is still to see you complete in Christ (Philippians 1:6, Colossians 1:28). So here are three things I think you should do in light of one of your pastors answering a call to go to another church.

3 Things to Do When a Pastor Leaves

  1. Remember: God has called you to the local body, not the man (Romans 12).

You were called to be a part of the body of Christ, not to the Pastor (Romans 12). Don’t get me wrong. I love you. But your calling, just like my calling is to a local church. Sometimes when a pastor leaves, we can be tempted to think that maybe we need to leave and explore other churches too. I want to encourage you, that we all play a part in the body of Christ. I’ve been asked a lot lately from those both inside and outside our church about why I was able to stay for nearly a decade as a student pastor at not only one, but two different churches (a rarity). My answer was simple. “I love the church.” I love the church so much so that I would rather suffer than see her suffer and so I stayed during seasons when it cost me personally but was a benefit for the congregation as a whole.  The only reason I’m leaving now is to answer a crystal clear calling. I don’t think it’s healthy to move otherwise.  When you leave a church, you don’t leave a pastor (or lack of a pastor in a certain position) so much as you leave all the other people.  There will be moments where it feels easy to leave, but I want to encourage you to stay with your local church unless you are sure God is calling you somewhere else. We all need to fulfill our calling in the local body.

2. Find your place and serve (1 Corinthians 12:4-27).

To that end, I want to encourage you to find your place and serve. If ever there were a time for you to discover how you benefit the church, today is the day. It is an all hands on deck opportunity. Often when God calls a pastor to another church it is so the church can grow by having individuals step up and fill the void. You have people in your midst who will be able to exercise their gifts and calling in my absence in a way that they would be unable to do if I were present. I rejoice at this! I earnestly desire that the church grow spiritually, numerically, and in influence in the community in my absence! My feelings won’t be hurt if the church does greater things than they did when I was there. I will be first in line to boast in what God is doing in your midst!

3. Trust your next shepherd (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Finally I want to acknowledge that you will call someone to replace me and IDEALLY they will conduct ministry differently than I have while I was with you. This is a VERY GOOD thing! So if you catch yourself thinking negatively, “this isn’t how Pastor Jonathan would have done it.” I want you, for the sake of the glory of God, rebuke that thought and think about this same phrase positively. Give him the benefit of the doubt (Philippians 2:1-11),  even if he were to speak negatively of me and how I did things (Philippians 1:14-17). Consider me his biggest fan.

I hope this helps you understand my heart for the Glory of God in the midst of this transition for both of us. I love you because of Christ. Please pray for me and my family as we transition to answer God’s call in our next church.

Your Partner in the Gospel,

Pastor Jonathan