Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘friendship’

Nobody’s Gettin’ Enough

This blog is the ninth in a series on relationship rescue.  We’re looking for the most powerful New Testament principles for healthy relationships. Pastor Tim’s Top Ten:

According to John Maxwell, “Man does not live by bread alone.  Sometimes he needs a little buttering up.”  We’re not talking about flattery here.  We’re talking about encouragement.  Everybody needs it- including your friends and loved ones.

#8: Thou shalt catch others in the act of doing something good. (And tell them!)

Encouragement is so rare that almost no one gets enough.  Not long ago, a rugged male friend of mine lost a lot of weight.  It not only changed his appearance, but it changed the way he felt and acted.  He was even more energetic, more positive.  The first time I mentioned how great he looked, his face broke into a big smile.  “I’ve lost 20 pounds,” he commented.  “You’re the first person who’s noticed!”

My friend has always been healthy, successful and athletic.  I’m guessing nobody bothered to comment because they figured he’s so together that he doesn’t need a good word.  In fact, everybody needs encouragement and we need it a lot.  It’s so important that God’s Word reminds us to be intentional.

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

In our self-centered, therapeutic culture, many of us have assumed that the mark of true friendship is someone’s willingness to listen to all my sorrows, anxieties and frustrations.  Maybe, but most people aren’t really looking for a friend because they enjoy depressing conversations.  Most people want friends because the people we love can add value to our lives.  They hang with us.  They laugh with us.  They understand us.  And if I’m one of those really lucky individuals, they notice when I do things right, and let me know.

Want to build more positive friendships?  Practice this simple trick for two weeks and you’ll be amazed at the results.  Be intentional about listening.  Hone in on some things your friends are doing right.  Or take note of some strengths and personal talents.  Then be deliberate in telling the people you love some of the reasons why you love them.  Encourage them to keep on doing the things they do so well.  You’ll become a more attractive person, and you’ll be handing out a prescription everybody needs.

Lift up the Cross!

Warning: Toxic Waste

This blog is the seventh in a series on healthy relationships.  What would you say are the ten most important teachings about relationships from God’s Word.  This is another installment in Pastor Tim’s effort to define “The Ten Commandments of Relationship.”

Most of us would never want to live near a landfill where toxic chemicals had been dumped.  We would be afraid that they would leech into the soil, contaminate our neighborhood, and poison our children.  But sometimes we’re not that alert about toxic emotional wastes.  In the name of “friendship,” we allow others to bring all their poisonous emotions and dump them into our hearts.  That’s not smart.

In Philippians 4:6-9, Paul explains that we experience God’s peace when we refuse to worry, but insist on giving thanks.  When we express gratitude for all God has done for us, his peace descends and guards our hearts and minds.  But then the Apostle continues, urging us to fix our thoughts on things that are honorable, right, admirable, lovely, excellent, and worthy of praise.  “Then the God of peace will be with you,” he concludes.

#6: Thou shalt season thy speech with Salt and encourage they friends to do the same.  Today a friend of mine confessed he’s just about to boycott news broadcasts and political advertising for a while.  There are so many negative political commercials on the air at the moment that you can hardly turn on the TV or radio without being bombarded with rage.  Why allow gossip, fraudulent charges, half truths and complete untruths to drain all your joy and create doubts and suspicions about someone you hardly know?  It’s crazy!  Don’t let politicians do that to you.  But don’t let friends and acquaintances do it to you either.

Anyone has the right to share a personal frustration with a friend.  Sometimes your friend can give you advice.  On other occasions, he may simply motivate you to keep moving in the right direction.  And there are even occasions when a good friend has the ability to fix something that has troubled you for days or weeks.  That’s called problem solving.

  • That’s not the same thing as Dumping.  It’s dumping when someone regularly comes to you just to unload frustration, anger and unhappiness that have resulted from the course of life.  Dumping is bad for the listener because it brings poison into the listening life.  And it’s bad for the person doing the talking because it creates and reinforces self-destructive behavior that makes you unpleasant to be around.  When friends try to make you a dumping ground, say, “Let’s don’t go there.”  Then change the subject.
  • Problem solving is not the same thing as Gossip either.  Gossip is when someone shares information that criticizes, ridicules or makes you think less of another person.  If you have no authority to help the person being criticized, you should simply change the subject.  It’s easy. Just say, “Let’s don’t go there.”

Everybody knows that healthy attitudes are incredibly important.  A great attitude can enable a less talented football team to defeat a more talented squad.  A good attitude can get you through hard times that could otherwise sink your ship.  When you realize what a positive difference it makes to have a positive attitude, why would you ever allow another person to destroy it?

If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about that.  Teach your friends to do the same.  And lift up the cross!

Don’t be a Diplomat

This blog is the sixth in a series on Relationship Rescue.  Have you ever tried to identify the 10 most important New Testament principles for healthy relationship?  Stay tuned as Pastor Tim tries his hand at the Ten Commandments of Healthy Relationship.

#5: Thou shalt not be a coward.  On many occasions, cowardice is spelled d-i-p-l-o-m-a-c-y.  You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?  A friend turns our conversation into a personal attack on a third party.  Maybe I actually realize the charges are untrue.  Or perhaps I simply realize the comments are unfair because the other person isn’t here to defend himself or share a contrasting viewpoint.  But I resolve to be “diplomatic.”  I don’t have to get involved in this sticky wicket.  I can simply sit quietly, pretend I know nothing, and eventually go on with my life.

In Galatians 2:11-14, Paul recalls an incident when Simon Peter somehow got caught up in criticism and hypocrisy.  Peter realized that God was calling Gentiles to become Christians.  As a result, he  used all kinds of social occasions to break bread with non-Jews, dine with them, and look for chances to share the Gospel with them.  But one day when he found himself with some highly respected Jews who were stern and legalistic, Peter decided to be a diplomat for a few days.  He pretended that he agreed with them that Jewish Christians should avoid Gentiles, and should demand that Gentiles must first become Jews before they could become Christians.  This was so phony and so destructive that Paul corrected him for being false and allowing new believers to be injured.

Peter not only knew the truth; he knew this harsh opinion was harmful and destructive to Gentiles who were coming into the Church.  But maybe he wanted to maintain his respectability in the eyes of this out-of-towners, or maybe he just figured he was too busy to get bogged down in this particular controversy.  But Paul wisely concluded that there is something more important than respectability.

Some practical guidelines for dealing with friends:

  • When a friend divulges information about another person that is harmful or destructive, I should reply, “I’m sorry.  Before we continue, let’s clarify: why are you telling me this?”  If there’s nothing I can reasonably do to correct the situation, this is just gossip- even if it happens to be true.
  • When a friend shares a problem he has with another person, I should reply, “Have you spoken to him about this?”  If his answer is no, this is not an effort an reconciliation.  It seems more like an attempt to create interesting conversation.
  • When a Christian friend shares information critical of another person and desires my opinion on how to respond, I should first ask, “Have you prayed about this?”  If the person hasn’t yet spoken to God about these issues, she certainly should not be creating prejudice and suspicion in my mind.  I don’t need to be harsh or rude; just be a Christian adult.

Don’t let people draw you into their sin.  Sometimes silence is golden.  Sometimes it’s just yellow.

Lift up the Cross!

The Playmate of the Month

This blog is second in a series dealing with Relationship Rescue.  What are the most basic biblical principles for healthy rapport with other human beings?

Last week I suggested there’s a lot our lonely, isolated world could learn from the Church about relationships.  I really think most people would like to know more about healthy family ties and friendships, but the saints don’t seem to be teaching anything useful these days.  Too often, our efforts at  building and maintaining bonds of love are just about as unbiblical and ungodly as those of our unbelieving neighbors.

So I’ve set out to identify the Ten Commandments of Relationship.  Maybe you’ve been pondering and flipping pages in the Bible and looking for your top ten principles.  Great!  Feel free to share your own or comment on mine.  Anyway, here goes something…!

#1: Thou shalt love your friends the way Jesus of Nazareth loved his.  Check out John 13:34.  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Jesus loved his friends by spending time with them, by patiently bearing with them when they misunderstood him or disappointed him, and by adding value to their lives.  The original disciples were never just a backdrop for Christ’s passion play.  He included them in the drama, loved them in spite of their failures, forgave them when they behaved stupidly, and equipped them to become leaders in his movement.

It’s painfully obvious that too many church people don’t really want friends.  We want classmates and playmates.  “Classmates” sit in Sunday School with us week after week, talking about esoteric, spiritual factoids without ever saying anything remotely personal.  Then we drive away from church to fraternize with co-workers and relatives.  Likewise,  “playmates” are expected to entertain us but never confront us, challenge us, or differ with us.  When a playmate stops being amusing, it’s time to shaft that lump of coal and find a more attractive gem.  Triva Question: Did Hugh Hefner really dream up the Playmate of the Month, or did the original concept erupt among fully clothed Baptists who couldn’t keep a friend for more than 30 days?

Jesus loved his friends enough to gently challenge them when they were mistaken.  They argued endlessly about who was closest to Jesus.  They insisted he should make personal safety a high priority.  His most powerful ideas eluded them and his most provocative statements sailed right over their heads.  Truly, they were not worthy of him.  But Jesus loved them tirelessly and cultivated good things within them.

We never did take our WWJD bracelets seriously, did we?  When Christian friends flounder and fumble and fail us, we assume the options are extremely limited.  Option A: Change friends.  Option B:  Change churches.  Historically, Jesus always looked for a different option; something more loving and less self-centered.  He seemed to prefer Option C: Love always hopes; always protects.  Love never fails.

Lift up the Cross!

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