The Value of Lifelong Friendships

a group of your adult friends

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9 ESV) Friendships matter to God.

Women and Men

I may not be politically correct, but from my observations, women seem to be better than men at keeping friendships for a lifetime. I know some men can do this, but I think more women succeed in long-term bonds.

I’ve personally watched this with my sister, my wife, and others. As an example, my sister is older than me (sorry Sis), yet she is still deeply connected to several friends from her high school days, so is my wife. As for me, I have no friends from high school.

Cultivating Lifelong Friendships

Cultivating long-term friendships is a Godly characteristic, and therefore something we all should strive to accomplish. Jesus gave us the promise that “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. (Matthew 18:20) “When you have deep friendships, you can gather together; powerful prayers come from these gatherings.

We have God’s wisdom from Ecclesiastes 4:12: And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Restoring Friendships

Yet how many friendships have been lost over a single event? Perhaps your friend lied to you, chose someone else to go to a concert, failed to show up for dinner. Maybe it was you that let a friend down. “Whoever covers an offense seeks love.” Seek to restore lost friendships.

There’s great value in friendships, and the longer the bond, the higher the value and the greater your reward. However, if your friend changes and becomes unreliable, untrustworthy, worldly, those repeated offenses can break a friendship. This change applies to us as well as others. Priority and transparency are key ingredients to maintaining friendships.

Friendships With Christians

God desires us to have deep, long-lasting friendships with a few Christians, for what do believers have in common with unbelievers? As Paul wrote in Galatians 6:10, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” We should prioritize our brothers and sisters while not neglecting anyone.

I pray that you will strengthen your friendships, especially the ones that have kept on the back burner of your life.

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The Story of the Coffee Droplets

coffee cup sitting on coffee beans

A small array of coffee droplets were pooled upon my desk, forming a rough outline of Lake Michigan. They had arrived from sloshed coffee from my morning coffee cup; I like coffee cups.

The droplets did not land someplace that I could easily ignore, a place where I could clean them up later. Instead, they were positioned directly in front of my keyboard. I was thankful they had dodged my computer, but I was annoyed that I had to deal with them before getting down to business.

Looking around, I discovered that I didn’t have a single napkin, paper towel, old rag, or even a shirttail to remove Lake Michigan from my desk. Bummer. So I made my way back to my home, for you see, my office is separate from my house and I don’t walk well. Retrieving a bit of paper towel, I hobbled back to my office.

Sitting down, paper towel in hand, I looked at the droplets and saw a life lesson. How amazing that four or five drops of coffee, in just the right place, stopped my work, sending me off on an errand, and disrupting my morning plans.

A Few Drops of Coffee

Every day Godless people make plans. Some own lots of stuff and have lots of people at their disposal. But you and I can be their few drops of coffee. 

Psalms 16:1-2 (ESV): The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.

Prayer: God lead us I pray so that our prayers and our actions disrupt the world’s plans of iniquity. Help us to be bold and allow You, our God, to use us like drops of coffee. In the Name of Your beloved Son, Father, we pray.

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King David

View of king from behind

For the director of music. Of David the servant of the LORD. He sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said: I love you, LORD, my strength. (Psalms 18:1)

There is a big lesson in this small introduction to Psalms 18. Even when King Saul was personally trying to murder David (1 Samuel 19:1), notice in Psalm 18:1 that Saul was not listed as his enemy. In fact, King David begins this Psalm by saying, “I love you, Lord, my strength.” David turns his heart to God. How wonderful that is.

King David was pragmatic in his statement that the Lord had delivered him from the hand of Saul. He knew the score with Saul. Still, David didn’t count Saul as an enemy. David was guarded when it came to dealing with Saul because, by God’s command, the prophet Samuel had anointed Saul as the king of Israel and Judah.

Made My Way Blameless

David went on to write in Psalms 18:30-32:

This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?— the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.

David could not have said, truthfully, “and made my way blameless” unless he had treated Saul respectfully, even when God had already determined that Saul would lose his throne. 

What’s the takeaway from the introduction to Psalms 18? It’s that as followers of Jesus, we need to guard our thoughts. Whether it’s about politics, the refs for the Super Bowl or sister so-and-so’s shoes needing polished, we should be pragmatic but also understand where the line is between our business and God’s business.

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Walk With The Wise

Older and younger women walking together

Thankfully, God doesn’t say a lot about our need to be smart, though the Bible does tell us, “Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15) The Bible certainly doesn’t tell us to be witty (whew). However, from the Bible, it’s clear that God desires and expects us to be wise. 

We know that Solomon asked God for wisdom and knowledge (2 Chronicles 1:11). And we know, “ If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5) However, if you look closely at James 1:5, it doesn’t tell us how wisdom will be given to us.

So often, we think God’s answered prayer comes completely immediately, but immediately is not mentioned in James 1:5. Let me rush to say that God may give you wisdom instantly, but if He doesn’t, then practice Proverbs 13:20Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Wisdom is so important that God set aside an entire book of the Bible (i.e., Proverbs) to help us learn wisdom. And from Proverbs 13:20, we know that an effective way to become wise is to spend time with believers that possess wisdom. If we spend time with wise believers and observe and emulate them, then we will grow wise. 

I hope you will take four minutes and listen to Steve Curtis Chapman’s song “Walk with the wise.”

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Instruction of Fools is Folly

sign says, "Think before you speak; read before you think.

I did not have good sense when I was growing up. My inquisitiveness certainly helped up my career. But I am still amazed that my parents survived my childhood.

My sister wisely disowned me and never recognized me in public. During this time, we lived away from relatives, so they were not placed in an untenable position of acknowledging me while feigning ignorance of my foolishness.

Let give you just a small sample from just a couple of months of my 10th year on Earth:

Foolish Ideas

I loved being outside, at least that’s what Mom always told me. So I would spend several hours every day bouncing a tennis ball off the side of the two-story house we rented in town. I assume my mother preferred this continual bong-bong sound to that of me being inside the house.

I found a couple of cast iron molds that Dad made during his college years. Spying those I knew I could do something with them. I rummaged around until I found a large box of paraffin. Brilliant! The thought came to me in a flash.

I took the paraffin to our one-car, detached garage. I found Dad’s propane torch and some matches. I was nearly set. Looking around, I found two concrete blocks. I placed one of the cast-iron molds on the concrete blocks, leaving a gap between the blocks, and filled the mold with slices of paraffin. I lit up the torch, slid it between the concrete blocks, so the flame was blowing against the mold. It worked! The paraffin melted into the shape of the mold. 

I was so proud of myself that I ran into the house and showed it to Mom and Dad. Yep. I never got the chance to try out the State of Indiana mold. It would have been so cool.

Beware of Landmines

Our next-door neighbor wanted the backyard hedge trimmed way back. She said she would pay me if I’d do the work. I said, “yes!” As a man of my word, I cut that hedge so far back it was lower than me.

Unfortunately, Mom got an earful from the landlord. It seemed that there was a longstanding feud between our neighbor and our landlord concerning that hedge. The hedge was on the landlord’s property, but our neighbor hated it. I got paid and sternly warned to never do anything like that without the landlord’s approval.

I’ve got ten more months of stories, but by now you have a good understanding of my lack of common sense. As a kid, I didn’t think things through which leads me to our Scripture for today.

Today’s Scripture

Proverbs 16:22Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.

I pray that God increases your already deep well of good sense and that He guards you against fools.

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On The Road

I’ve been on the road with one of my sons for about a week now (which is why I can’t see well enough to write this letter. It will clear up once I take my pills and get ready for the day,

Anyway, my son blessed me by taking me to Rhode Island; one of the two remaining States which I’d not visited; Hawaii now being the remaining State and one my wife and I hope to visit in the next couple of months.

When I was a young man, I never imagined that I’d visit all 50 States. Slowly, over time, they started racking up. By the time I hit 30 States, I began thinking about visiting all of the States.

My new job at that time involved a lot of travel, which cut my bucket list down quite rapidly. So, I began thinking about making it to all of the States in our Union. And now, my son has started his bucket list for visiting all the States in our Union.

This trip has been a great father/son trip, which has helped us grow closer together and to understand how each of us thinks. For example, I learned that I’m a dinosaur in the eyes of millennials.

Though our politics are miles apart, our love and respect are closer than ever. I wish I could spend time like this with each of my kids, but they all have hectic lives, so it just doesn’t happen.

During this trip, we have seen thousands of people, most demonstrating the worst of humanity. However, there have been a few people that have shown me genuine compassion. And, usually, they were people I wouldn’t have guessed they would be kind to me – guys with dreadlocks, people covered in tattoos, young people that are judged to be too self-absorbed even to notice me, yet these were the folks that went out of their way to be kind and considerate towards me.

The Lord has reminded me again of Isaiah 1:17-18 (ESB), “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

God seeks out people that He can reason with. May we always be those people.

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Good Character

Bart Starr, the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers from 1956 through 1971, passed away today (May 26, 2019). As a kid, I watched Bart Starr, and his team win the first two Super Bowls. However, his most significant impact on me was when I attended a luncheon where he spoke about sportsmanship and good character; and, I got to shake his hand! He was a genuinely fantastic person who “practiced what he preached.” Many people will deeply miss him.

When was the last time you heard a commentator or athlete talk about character? They may briefly venture into sportsmanship but “character” that would be too controversial to touch on since there is no national agreement on what constitutes good character. It hasn’t always been this way.

And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character. “(Ruth 3:11 NIV) Notice in this passage of Scripture that there isn’t a detailed definition of what was “noble character.” Society, at that time, had a very clear understanding of what was “noble character.”

There is a fascinating fifty-seven page thesis titled “Defining Character: A Curriculum Analysis of the Boy Scouts of America and the National Kappa League” written by Helen Marie Gerety, Loyola University Chicago, that seeks to analyze both the Boy Scouts of America and the National Kappa Leagues’ character education curriculum. – https://ecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=3889&context=luc_theses

Who knew that defining “character” was so difficult and controversial? Well, I guess the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) knew. “The objectives of the BSA are referred to as the Aims of Scouting: Character, Citizenship, Personal Fitness, Leadership.” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boy_Scouts_of_America

If we turn to 1 Corinthians 15:33, we read, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” The word “character” is the Greek word éthos meaning habit, manner, custom, morals (Strong’s Concordance 2239). Our English term “ethics” is derived from ēthos. I think Bart Starr understood character and I hope all of us strive to build within our lives good ēthos.

Idle Potential

“The vacuum is not empty. It may sound like magic to laypeople, but the problem has preoccupied physicists since the birth of quantum mechanics. The apparent void bubbles incessantly and produces fluctuations of light even at absolute zero temperature. In a sense, these virtual photons are just waiting to be used. They can carry forces and change the properties of matter.” – https://phys.org/news/2018-12-vacuum.html

If we say this another way, “Even in the complete absence of everything there is not only the potential for work to be done but, in fact, work (e.g., the affecting of forces and properties of matter) is continually performed.”

Now, let’s look at Christ’s parable of the “Workers in the Vineyard.”
Matthew 20:1,6-7
1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’
7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’

The landowner saw a potential that no one else saw. These workers had been standing idle all day, but no one hired them; no one saw their worth. But the landowner saw these unemployed workers as valuable. He believed they could do the work that needed to be performed.

Our eyes and our understanding get us in more trouble than anything other than our tongues. God told us to “…lean not on your own understanding;” (Pr. 3:5), yet still we do.

It is so very easy to miss read the value to God’s kingdom when we use our understanding to evaluate people and situations. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

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Wobbly

I remember the first time I had a set of tires installed on the only new car I’d ever owned, or it seems I would ever own. I took the vehicle to a reputable company. When they’d finished installing the tires I got in my beautiful, shiny car and drove away.

About two blocks later I could tell something was terribly wrong. I pulled over, got out and walked around my car, and there it was. I was instantly angry. How could they do that to my new car!

I could have fixed it, but I thought they should. So, I slowly drove back, pulled in the company’s parking lot, and walked over to the supervisor. He looked at my car then he immediately looked at me. He was more concerned about my response to their mistake than their mistake.

I was no longer angry, just frustrated. I wanted the company to make sure no damage had been done and to correct their mistake. What was their mistake? None of the lug nuts had been tightened on my right, front wheel! The wheel was wobbling which made the whole car out of balance.

This memory came to mind recently during a discussion I had with a person I am confident is saved. However, during our chat, we touched on some topical issues, and I quickly became aware that this person was out-of-balance in their understanding of Scripture.

Coincidently, a dear friend reminded me that we have not yet “apprehended,” referring to Philippians 3:13-14, which reads, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it (i.e., apprehended). But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

What is often preached is an “add to” Christianity, not a “die to” Christianity. True Christianity requires repentance and to “put to death the misdeeds of the body” (Romans 8:13).

The idea that we will go to the front of every line in this world if we become a follower of Jesus is misguided. Some preachers still preach “name it and claim it,” we are the “King’s kids,” and we get “100 fold” increases.

Jesus does bless in so many ways, sometimes even with finances. He may even put us in the front of a line, but all that God does in our lives fits into the building of His kingdom, using only the things He supplies and using them for the fulfillment of His will. 

What was out-of-balance with my friend was the understanding of what Jesus taught, and demonstrated to us; each of us must be a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).

As followers of Jesus, we need to be “snugged up,” tightened up, firmed up in our knowledge of the Word of God and in our relationship with Jesus. Otherwise, we will be all wobbly and unable to carry out the job to which He has called us.

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Leading

I’ve worked for many good leaders but I once had the privilege of working for an exceptional leader. He was excellent because he had woven into his leadership style some non-negotiable values. For example, as president of the company, he would regularly go into the factory and work with the temporary “temp” workers for an hour or two, and he required his leadership team to do the same.

He was consistent in his decisions and required anyone that came to him with a problem to also bring with them a recommended solution. He placed a strong emphasis on himself and all his leadership team to continually learn and apply techniques that would be good for everyone. I saw him “tear up” in front of the whole company because we had to lay off a group of people.

Deuteronomy 17:18-20 (NIV) says, “When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests.  It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left.”

God made sure His kings understood their leadership mandate was from God and under the auspices of God. Therefore kings had no reason to think more highly of themselves than they ought (Ro 12:3). This principle also holds for any leadership position right down to those in charge of the men’s fellowship breakfast or the cookie sale.

Leadership is a tough job full of temptations to think of yourself as unique, to exempt yourself from burdens you place on others, to avoid the details and focus on concepts and to compromise instead of working to build a consensus.

The underlying wisdom here reminds us that leaders need to build into their lives accountability, to be committed to managing core principles and to not delegate those to others. Also, leaders need to write down a copy of those core principles (really) and continually reference them, so they are sure they remember them and to communicate that those core principles are non-negotiable.

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