Jesus

Making the most of Mentors: Some brief thoughts on how to have a proper mentoring relationship

Mentoring is 20620796_10212740897253354_8047508259673876878_nextremely important in Christian ministry, but it’s worth is not appreciated as it should be. To have a mentor is to be blessed, and any mentoree (what I call someone who is being mentored) should work diligently to make the mentoring relationship viable. It’s important to handle mentoring relationships properly to get the most out of them and to bring glory to God. Here are some things I think will help…

  1. Listen, listen, listen

There is nothing more important in a mentoring relationship than the mentoree simply closing his mouth and opening his ears. Not listening in a mentoring setting is akin to a car with no tires; it’s pretty much useless.  The objective in a mentoring setting is for the mentoree to learn as much as possible from his mentor, and use what you learn for the glory of God in the ministry God has assigned you to.  But if you talk more than listen, you nor the people you will minister to in the future will profit from years of knowledge and experience of your mentor.

Often mentorees want to impress their mentors with their knowledge.  Don’t let that be you! Let your mentor be a mentor; don’t use him as an ego builder for yourself. Remember, this relationship is not about you, it’s about you being equipped better to make much of Jesus and to point people to him.

If your mentor is equipped to be a mentor, let him do the talking; if he’s not, find another one who is and listen.

  1. If you must talk, ask questions

If you can’t resist the urge to talk, then at least let your talk be in the form of questions.  Ask your mentor questions often and listen intently to his answers. Questions are a wonderful way to find out who people are, where they have been, what they have done, and the why to all the former. Questions get people talking and lets the person know you genuinely care about what they think.

In a ministry mentorship you should ask questions in the following areas:

Call to ministry, Family, Gifts, Theology, The Church, Conflict, Burnout, Humbleness, Etc.…

Asking your mentor questions in these areas is like opening a treasure cove of ministry knowledge… don’t allow it to go untapped. Even if you already know what the answers to your questions will be, it’s incredible discipline to ask and simply listen.

  1. Observe

Observing your mentor in everyday ministry is priceless. You must observe him as he interacts with his family, friends, public, and church family. The wealth of knowledge and insight you will gain from these interactions can save you from a plethora of mistakes and missteps, and help you gain trust with the people you minister to.

Observe him as he deals with an irritated or frustrated church member in a business meeting or someone who drops by his office and asks for money. Observe him as he engages a server as you eat lunch together and as he stops to chat with a group of seniors. Observe him as he kneels down to spend time with a little child to show them they are important.

Again, the lessons you can learn from this observation is beyond priceless and simply cannot be learned in seminary. Never overlook the little things that a mentor does; everything he does is a lesson in how to do ministry.

  1. Respect their years of ministry and life

You may be super duper over the top brilliant and the greatest theological mind since the apostle Paul himself, but that is not the end all.  You must know how to use that knowledge in a manner that brings glory to God, not yourself, and doesn’t make much of yourself but points people to Jesus.

Unfortunately I’ve seen young men in ministry abuse their God given intellect by thinking they’ve got it all figured out and the old guys are just, well…old. While that may be true, every old guy has seen a lot, and often forgotten more than you will ever know. DO NOT BE A “KNOW IT ALL”! Be humble, listen, ask questions, observe, and respect the years of experience that God has providentially blessed your mentor with.

You can learn something from everyone, even if they’re not on the same theological level you are on. A good theological mind is a must in ministry, but do not overlook the experience of someone who has loved God and served Him in the trenches for years.

I have seen this scenario many times in ministry; someone is saved as a teenager; goes to Bible college immediately after high school; then directly to seminary, and begins pastoring a church. Oftentimes they have never had a job that required a lot of physical labor or much of what many church members must face on a daily basis. Then they get frustrated at church members because they simply do not understand what people endure. This is where a good, experienced mentor can help. Most have been around and understand what people bear day in and day out, and if you listen, ask, observe, and respect their ministries it will make things much easier for you and keep you from many ministry calamities!

  1. Pray for them/thank God for them

Finally, the greatest thing you can do as a mentoree is to pray for your mentor and thank God for them. I have been immensely blessed with men who have poured  their lives into me and have invested countless hours mentoring me and teaching me about biblical ministry. I am indescribably indebted to them. Anyone who has a mentor is blessed and should show they’re gratefulness by praying for them and thanking God for them.

May God continue to raise up godly mentors, as well as wise mentorees who will use the mentoring relationship for the glory of God and the good of His church.

One generation shall commend your works to another,

    and shall declare your mighty acts.

Psalm 145:4

Categories: bible, biblical, Christians, cross, God, Gospel, grace, Jesus, mentor pastor preach, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unmet Expectations

“Unmet expectations”. These are not words that we may not voice frequently, but most of us certainly think it.  If you’ve been in a relationship for more than a minute, you have probably experienced unmet expectations. You may have even experienced a severed relationship because of unmet expectations. As a pastor, I’ve seen the nastiness of unmet expectations wreak havoc in many relationships; but it doesn’t have to happen. Here are some thing I ask you to consider…

  1. Many people begin relationships with lofty expectations.

Don’t deny it… You most likely have had lofty expectations of someone when you began a relationship; maybe even before you met the person.  Oftentimes these lofty expectations begin in our minds when we’re young, when the idea of romance initially takes root in your mind. It’s nearly impossible not to let lofty expectations begin, and even more difficult to keep them in check once they take root.  The question arises, “Where do these lofty expectations originate?”

The seeds of Lofty Expectations in relationships have a plethora of origins; such as:

Parental Influence.  You watch, sometimes subconsciously, the way your parents interact. This may cause you to mimic their relationship, expecting the same thing from your future husband or wife that you see in your Father and Mother.  From one perspective, if you’re a female, you may have watched your Dad being very romantic, often buying your Mom flowers, opening the door for her, calling her charming names, doing well financially, taking out the trash, mowing the yard, doing “man stuff”, etc., chances are you will have the same expectations of the male in your relationships. On the other hand, if you’re a male, you may have watched your Mom have great respect for your Dad, working hard, being frugal, preparing meals, making herself look nice, all while having a career, etc. Again, chances are you will have the same expectations of the female in your relationship.  Or you may have experienced things vastly opposite of what I just described and you expect your spouse to be opposite of what you grew up watching.  Regardless, you have expectations from watching your parents.

Societal Influence:

Like with parents, you form presuppositions from society.  We are bombarded by what I call societal agendas.  Every society has a standard, good or bad, and societies will push their standard through television, social media, etc.… People in these settings sometimes don’t’ even realize that these constant influences begin to form lofty expectations that we will impose on our future relationships.  In other words, we will expect our future spouse to act like the characters we’ve seen on our favorite TV shows or in our favorite book.

There are many other influences that help create lofty expectations… the point is, most of us bring lofty expectations into relationships.  But is this ok?  Do problems arise with lofty expectations?  Well, of course.  If not, I wouldn’t be blogging about it.

  1. Lofty expectations become unmet expectations.

Let’s make this as simple as possible; if you go into a relationship with lofty expectations, be prepared for lofty letdowns.  Lofty expectations, sooner or later become unmet expectations, and unmet expectations sooner or later lead to major problems within relationships, especially marriage. Your spouse may do well for a period, meeting your expectations, and you have a sense of accomplishment; “I did well picking this mate”, etc. But as soon as your spouse fails to do what you expect he or she to do, you’re let down. Lofty expectations have become unmet expectations, and the temporary happiness you had from your spouse doing what you expected has disappeared. Now what?!? The slippery slope of unmet expectations begins to do enormous harm.

  1. Unmet expectations become relationship killers.

Once lofty expectations become unmet expectations, and remain unchecked, relationship damage is imminent. You need to understand this; you CANNOT expect unmet expectations to not harm your relationships. This is true in friendships, work relationships, etc., but mostly in marriage. It’s imperative that you know your spouse will let you down, as you will your spouse. It’s not difficult to understand that none of us are without sin; “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23). That includes you… and me… and your co-worker… and your friend… and your spouse… and your pastor… ad infinitum.

When you get upset because someone has not met your expectations, the very core of your relationship begins to crack, and if actions are not taken to repair it, those unmet expectations will cause irreparable damage and ultimately kill your relationship. Make no mistake about it, the more you are disappointed from unmet expectations in your relationship, the more your relationship is doomed.

  1. We have no right to have expectations of others.

The question arises, “Don’t I have the right to expect certain things from people in my relationships?” No… no we don’t. You have no more right to have expectations of others in your relationships than they have the right to have expectations of you. Bottom line; only Jesus has that right…He’s earned it, you haven’t, and never will.

When we expect others to act certain ways, do certain things, don’t do certain things, etc., we are acting as if we are the standard bearers; an attitude of, “you must live up to my expectations, and if you do I will reward you with a relationship, but if you don’t, you don’t deserve me.” In other words, arrogance raises its ugly head. This attitude and actions in a relationship stem from a fallen humanity, not from God. This idea is found in Galatians 6:1-5,

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

(Galatians 6:1-5 ESV)

So how do we approach relationships in a godly manner?

  1. Take your emphasis off others and focus on your relationship with Jesus.

There it is… it’s that simple. If you take your focus off the other person in your relationship and, “take the log out of your own eye…” (Matthew 7:5), your relationship will improve radically. In relationships, it is tremendously important to use the energy you’re exerting on others through unmet expectations, and use that energy to, “examine yourself…” (1 Corinthians 11:28). When this is done, relationships improve. Find your fulfillment in Jesus, not the person in your relationship.

Ted Cunningham rightly said,

Remember, people are not your source of life. Jesus is your source. Don’t ask others to take His place and fill you up. Jesus is an unlimited supply. The people in your life are limited supplies.

Yes, it’s healthy to search for a mate that is like mindeddsc_0100 theologically, and other areas, but the more important matter is, does he or she have a desire for God? If they do, they will improve over time, just as you will. You will never find the perfect person to be in a relationship, so don’t try. Seek someone who loves Jesus, someone whose desires are Godward, and encourage them, don’t have expectations of them. A Christ-centered relationship is sanctifying, each person in the relationship is being set apart by the Holy Spirit; this takes time.

Per Scripture, love is an act of the will; it doesn’t depend on how the other person acts. We are told to love…period. You can love the person in your relationship, regardless of how they act… this is what Jesus did. Marriage models the relationship of Jesus and the church; He willingly loved, even while we were sinners, and gave His life for us. We are to do the same in relationships. When we do, God is glorified and we are satisfied. If your relationship hinges on whether a person acts the way you expect them to, you are not modeling Jesus or pointing people to Him. On the other hand, when you love others, even when they don’t meet your expectations, Jesus is modeled and we are content.

I understand this may be a strange concept, it was to me at one time; but if we chew on it and adhere to it, it will radically change our relationships for the better…

Categories: bible, brokenness, Christians, Friend, Friendship, Glory, God, Gospel, Jesus, mercy, Uncategorized, unmet expectations | Leave a comment

Heavenly Affections

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

(Psalm 42:1-2 ESV)

I’ve grown so weary of bad news.  Day after day thousands of news outlets pour all their efforts into reporting tragic happenings; from images of flag-draped caskets to flooded streets and water rescues.  Video footage from drought stricken countries, war-torn nations, community violence, and school shootings have become commonplace and we’re barely even moved by the reports. It seems as if it never ends and certainly never gets better…especially if you’re a pastor.

Pastors often hear the worst things.  In counseling sessions, people pour out their hearts.  I will say this, nothing surprises me any more…nothing.  In nearly 25 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve learned that people endure horrendous and tumultuous events; and many on a regular basis.  I hear of financial failure, ruined relationships, bizarre addictions, and the list goes on… It never ceases.

Then there’s the video I saw today, of the little boy in Syria whose home was destroyed by a bomb.  He sits in the back of an ambulance, dirty, disoriented, and wiping blood off his forehead.  It was such a sad and sickening sight.

Sin is everywhere, and like a snail that leaves a slimy trial, or a tornado that leaves utter destruction in its path, sin devastates.  I’m sick of the result of sin.  I’m sick of it in my life, the life of my family, the life of the people I shepherd, and it’s far reaching effect throughout the whole of humanity.  In one sense, sin is the mother of disaster; where sin abounds, disaster thrives.  I am simply tired of it all.  The more suffering I see, the more I can be identified with Romans 8:19…

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

In other words, I long to see Jesus.  I long for the day when creation will be restored.  I long for the day that is described in the book of Revelation,

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
(Revelation 21:4 ESV)

Sure, there’s a lot I want to do, a lot of gospel I want to preach, but the more I see this world, the more I want to see Jesus.  David felt the same many years ago when he wrote,

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

(Psalm 63:1, ESV)

A “dry and weary land” gives you great thirst.  For those who are alive in Christ, he is consistently and perfectly creating a disdain in us for the things of this world and ever increasing our desire for him, to be realized ultimately in his presence.  Come Lord Jesus…

IMG_2040

Categories: bible, biblical, Brother, Christians, cross, Glory, God, Gospel, grace, Jesus, king David, sin, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Mist of Life

IMG_0200I remember it like it was yesterday; sitting in the Band room of Hoggard High School on the last day of school in 1980, talking to Mike B.  Mike was a clarinet player and a senior; I was a lowly sophomore.  He had completed all the requirements to graduate High School and he was simply passing time, waiting for the bell to ring, signifying the last day of school was finally over.  On the Band Room wall hung a clock.  It was one of those classic, large, gold rimmed school clocks that had the second hand which made a distinctive “tick” each time it moved from number to number.  Although in the grand scheme of things the second hand was less important than the hour or minute hand, it seemed to make up for its lack of importance with its persistent, metronome like trek around the face of the clock.  As we sat there I directed Mike’s attention to the second hand and sarcastically said, “Mike… You see those seconds ticking by? Just think about it, those are seconds that you can never get back! Your High School years are over, you will never get them back…and those seconds will just keep on ticking by!  Just listen to them…tick…tick…tick…tick…”  As you can imagine, Mike was not amused with my sophomoric shenanigans, and responded with, “Can you possibly be more depressing?!?”

Thinking back on that moment over 35 years ago, what was meant to be silly teasing on my part, turned out to be a very true testimonial which plays out in everyone’s life! Since that day in 198o, if it had functioned properly, that second hand on that clock in the Band Room would have ticked between 1,103,760,000 and 1,106,764,000 times!  When I think about that fact, I am nothing short of amazed that so much time has gone by in what seems to be the blink of an eye. Over a billion seconds in the blink of an eye?!? As the saying goes, “That’s life!”

Yes, life flies by so quickly.  This is what the biblical writer, James was relaying when he said, “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes”, (James 4:14, ESV).  In the grand scheme of things, our lives are like a mist that appears vibrant for a period, but then, seemingly before we realize it, is over, never to be recaptured. Just like those billions of seconds that seemed like they would last forever…tick…tick…tick…tick…gone.  Far too often we live as if our earthly lives will never end.  James tells us that our lives are very short and that Jesus should be the center of our lives. Let’s not waste even one of those seconds.  Live the precious seconds, those grace seconds, centered in Christ, for His glory and our good.  May that little “dash” between our birth year and death year on our Tombstone represent a life that wasn’t wasted.  May it represent a life that was surrendered to Jesus.

  A short, “mist” of a life surrendered to Christ translates into an eternity in His presence.

Categories: bible, biblical, God, Gospel, grace, Jesus, mercy | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Brokenness

“Brokenness”.  When most hear that word, negative images and thoughts are typically conjured up.  Images and thoughts about things that were once intact but now are cracked, even shattered, lying on the floor, unusable, unattractive, and worthless.  Most of us have accidently knocked a glass, vase, or other fragile object off of a table and watched as it shattered to pieces on the floor.  More times than not our first reaction is to fetch the broom and dust pan and try to sweep up all the broken pieces and dump them in the garbage can, acknowledging it’s complete and utter uselessness.  But on rare occasions we may attempt to pick up the pieces and glue them back together, restoring the object to usefulness.  Of course, the easy thing to do is to simply sweep up the pieces and toss them away, never thinking of the object again. But that’s far too simplistic in many ways, mainly because of the potential worth that still remains in the broken object.

A broken and repaired object can be of infinite usefulness if the break was not too severe and if the repair is completed properly.  This is even true with a broken bone in the human body.  Some say, at least for a period of time, the bone is stronger where it had been broken.  So there’s a sense of restored and even renewed strength after being broken.

Not only is there a sense of restored and renewed strength, but there’s the beauty trait.  There’s something beautiful about scars!  That may sound strange to some, but think about it, how often we look at an old vase, wrought with discoloration, a warped and distorted body, cracks throughout, and think, “What an incredible and lovely piece!”  It’s almost as if the more scars it has, the more attractive it is to us!  If you think as I do when observing a piece like this, you begin to imagine all the things the vase has been exposed to, all the things it has seen, heard, participated in, etc… You think about the changes it has seen and experienced, and how wise it would be if it were an animate being and able to speak aloud of its experiences. 

So brokenness, even in inanimate objects can be a beautiful, strengthening, and all around incredible thing.  If this is true with inanimate objects, it’s much truer with living creatures; more specifically Christians, or those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord.  Brokenness, as difficult as it may be to endure, can have tremendously positive results when understood and tolerated properly.

You see, there’s a need for brokenness as humans.  We all have areas in our lives that are not surrendered to the Lordship of Christ, and that’s not healthy for anyone, especially ourselves.  Any area of our lives that are self-centered and not surrendered to Jesus only brings disappointment, strife, a lack of peace to us, and steals God’s glory.  We all, even as Christians, deal with this because of sin. John said in 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” It is that which causes us to take our eyes off of Jesus and fix our desires and passions on ourselves in one way or the other.  Again, no one benefits from that, and it’s a slippery slope that could ultimately devastate us.  So God will see to it that the things that separate us from Him are severed from us; but please understand that the severing process is indeed a difficult process.  This is more than an assumption on my part, for I have been broken, and it is indeed difficult!

Whether its money, pleasure, power, fame, or relationships that steal God’s rightful place in our lives, they all can be severed.  The fact is, Jesus is everything, and our lives will not be what they should be until we acknowledge and practice that.  When all is said and done, He’s all we need!  Yes, he has created friendship, for His glory, but when we focus on the friendship rather than our relationship with Jesus, He will break us.  I’ve often said God will arrange for even your most trusted friends to let you down, so your dependence will be in Him, not man.

Whether its friends that you depend on more than God, or something else, God will break us of it.  He knows exactly what each of us are bent toward and He knows how to break us of that bend…and He will break us of that bend. And that’s a good thing.  There’s nothing greater than for God, in Christ to be our sufficiency!  That’s the greatest joy known to man, and God will see fit that we ultimately find our joy in Him.  John Piper puts it this way, “God Is Most Glorified in Us When We Are Most Satisfied in Him”.  So all of this is for God’s glory and our good.

When the breaking process has been done, God graciously puts us back together.  He gently glues the pieces back together through the blood of Christ and the power of His Holy Spirit.  He restores us to a right relationship with Him, and the result is more than amazing.  Just like the vase that has fallen, shattered, and put back together, we will have scars; but those scars are constant reminders of God’s grace toward us and His love for us.  People see the scars and know that we have been through something significant, something that has helped make us who we are.  It’s a beautiful thing to see.  And just like the broken bone in the human body, once we are properly put back together, we are stronger than ever!

There’s much more to say regarding the issue of brokenness and I have only scratched the surface, but know this, when you are in the breaking process, God is working in your life to make you into something that is strong and beautiful; and while it is extremely difficult in the midst of it, when it’s over you will most certainly look back at it and rejoice, and say with David in Psalm 51:17,“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”


soli deo gloria
Categories: bible, brokenness, grace, Jesus, king David, Psalm 51, surrender | Leave a comment

Biblical Friendship

Biblical Friendship

I seriously believe that if people, especially men, understood biblical friendship, you would see a marked difference in our churches.  I believe the benefits of men understanding and practicing biblical friendship would manifest itself in the church in several ways, including:

·         Koinonia (κοινωνία) Fellowship.  Of course koinonia fellowship can be described as, “fellowship, sharing in common, communion.” The first occurrence of koinonia is Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”  In other words, koinonia fellowship is Christ centered fellowship.  This is priceless to the church!

·         Stability:  Along with the koinonia fellowship produced by biblical friendship, comes stability in the church.  When Jesus is the heart of a local body of believers, stability is a natural outflow.  In other words, there’s no “backbiting”, gossip, etc., rather love, concern, and the like…

·         Ministry:  When Christ is the center of our friendships, ministry will be the norm.

So, to say the least, biblical friendship has tremendous benefits, not only to the church but to us as individuals…for these same benefits apply to us individually!

We Need Friendship


“Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find.”
― William Shakespeare

Today friendship has fallen on hard times. Few men have good friends, much less deep friendships. Individualism, autonomy, privatization, and isolation are culturally cachet, but deep, devoted, vulnerable friendship is not. This is a great tragedy for self, family, and the Church, because it is in relationships that we develop into what God wants us to be… Friendships…are there to be made if we value them as we ought – and if we practice some simple disciplines of friendship.
 (Kent Hughes)

Not only these benefits, but more…especially as men.  Men treat friendship differently than women. If we ever speak about the new shoes we got it’s normally something like,

“Dude…got new boots…steel toes…yeah.”  “Cool…”

But fact is we need friendship as much as women…it simply manifests itself differently.  Most of us just want someone to be friend enough to understand what’s going on in our life.  We don’t necessarily need someone to share long conversations, just to know that someone genuinely understands our plight and shows concern.  If you deny this, you’re just dumb…
But that’s a difficult thing to find in our narcissistic society.  Just knowing that someone understands our plight, even if they do nothing about but understand, will often give us the energy to continue on… 

It was C. S. Lewis who said,

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

Again, there are huge benefits to true friendship… –But the greatest benefit of biblical friendship is that it glorifies God!  You remember, I’m sure, the answer to the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism which is,

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”.

This is what we are to be about!  This is the reason we exist and the reason we are given life…to glorify God and enjoy Him forever!  It’s what I call the spiritual circle of life…we glorify God, He is exalted, we rest in Him, He is glorified, etc…what a glorious picture!  This is true in true friendship as well. Hear this statement, Biblical friendship is a God created thing, created and given to bring glory to God. God is glorified in the things He has created, things such as marriage, the church, even friendship.  Marriage is indeed a picture of the godhead and is intended to point people to the godhead, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  Think of it this way, in marriage you have two individual persons, both equal to each other, yet one willingly submits to the other for the glory of God.

The church likewise…  The people that make up the church are equal with those who are called to shepherd the church, its leaders, but they willingly submit to their servant leadership.
These two God created institutions were not designed and created by accident…no, not at all!  They were designed and created to point people to God!  By the way, that’s another reason both should be practiced properly/biblically.  That’s why we go to Scripture to understand marriage and church…so we can do them properly and point people to God through Jesus! I believe everything was created to point to a holy, awesome God! 

The same holds true for biblical friendship!  It has a unique design and creation in order for people to see Jesus in the midst of it!  So it’s clear that we should want to understand and practice biblical friendship, because it glories God and benefits us. So how do we do that? By examining passages regarding Christ-centered friendship…

What is Biblical Friendship?

So, we have to ask ourselves…What is friendship?  What does the Bible says about friendship?  I believe the best definition is found in the Bible…and it’s found in Proverbs 18:24…you know it well…
A man of many companions may come to ruin,
but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
(Proverbs 18:24 ESV)
What do we have in this verse? 

1.  Masses of acquaintances don’t equate to friends…
-We have so many ideas of what makes a “friend”.  But this is for sure…lots of people around you do not friends make.  Facebook cracks me up at times; people brag when they have 1000 “friends”; chances are they are only genuine friends with a handful, if even that!  I really think we need to clarify by calling them “Facebook friends”… Truth is, you may have many people surrounding you and have no friends at all…

Here’s the second truth in this verse…
2.  One who sticks closer than a brother…
-Herein lies the biblical definition for true friendship… I think you can define it just as the verse does,
“…a friend that sticks closer than a brother.”

This is indeed the Old Testament (OT), but unlike what many believe, the OT is not a Jesus-less volume.  The OT is but a trajectory toward Jesus and the cross, and Jesus is all over this proverb!! It was Spurgeon who, when speaking of preaching said,

I take my text and make a bee-line to the cross…

That included the OT.  The same thought is true in this OT proverb; Jesus is all over it!  So we can also say that Jesus is the subject of this verse…and of friendship!  Here’s my declaration, there is no true friendship without Jesus!  Now if we had more time I could share with you what a Jesus-less friendship looks like.  But I will say that God’s grace rains on the just and the unjust and even those outside of Christ can experience and even enjoy bits of true friendship, but not nearly the full benefits of a truly Christ-centered friendship.

Friendship is the grace of God, centered in Jesus Christ.  Many will tell you that family is as close as anyone could get, but to be close to someone in Christ is an entirely different realm; it transcends earthly or natural family…it is indeed supernatural! 

Many think of John 15 when friendship is discussed. There are some key truths in this passage about friendship:

 1.   Biblical Friendship for the Believer is Imperative.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2)

If indeed friendship is a God created thing, created and given in order to bring glory to God, then it can be considered Christian fruit.  If we are dwelling in Christ, if you are alive in Christ, if you are a Christian, then you will produce fruit.  If you don’t produce fruit, as the passage says, there are severe consequences!  So friendship is a God created thing that is created and given to bring glory to God…therefore we should produce friendship…YOU ARE NOT AN ISLAND!

2.  Biblical Friendship for the Believer can only be done through Christ!

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5)


Trying to be a true or biblical friend on your own strength is impossible!!  It simply cannot be done the way God intended it to be done.  It’s just like anything else a Christian strives to do, whether it’s pray, minister, give, encourage, read and understand the Bible, so forth and so on… If Christ is not the power behind it, it will fail!!  Some of us have made a mess of our friendships because we’ve struggled under our own power to be a friend.  You will do well tonight to understand this very elementary Christian truth; you can do nothing without Christ!!  
If any good work is done in me, it is not I Lord but Thee…

Think again about the quote from the Westminster Catechism,

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”.

If man could do anything under our own power, then we would get the glory…but God will not share His glory with any man!!  But man cannot do anything in his own strength, including friendship, because Jesus is the Vine. We are but the branch that the Vine supports and sustains!

3.  Biblical Friendship for the Believer has Major Consequences. 

 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:6-11)

To sum Biblical Friendship up:
A.      Not abiding in Christ (for friendship or anything else) results in rubbish.
B.      Abiding in Christ (for friendship or anything else) has fruitful results.
C.      Abiding in Christ (for friendship or anything else) glorifies God and accomplishes our purpose for existing.
D.     Jesus is the Perfect Model of True Friendship

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Wanting true, biblical friendship?  LOOK UNTO JESUS!!

Categories: bible, Brother, Friend, Friendship, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Jesus, John, John 15, Wilmington | Leave a comment

Five Reminders of Biblical Evangelsim

I’ve been thinking in recent days about modern evangelism and how we, at least in my estimation have erred in the contemporary church.  The following are five reminders (I’m sure there are many more) that will

help us be more biblical in sharing the gospel.

1.  Trust the power of the gospel, not your ability.
This should really be a no-brainer, but unfortunately it tends to be the norm for many within the local church; more times than not we strive to practice sharing the gospel in our own power and ability.  It is vital that we go forth relying on God, resting in his strength, and allowing His Holy Spirit to work in and through us.  We are totally dependent on God for all that we do, including evangelism, so “Cease striving and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10)

2.  Evangelism is about God’s glory, not yours.
Again, this should be a no-brainer…  Far too often I have heard individuals and even churches as a whole boasting about the great number of converts they have won and baptisms they have performed, all while seemingly assuming it was accomplished by their own strength, techniques, and overall charm.  If this was true, and it’s not, then the glory would rest upon those who share, not God.  Never, never, never seek to steal God’s glory!  “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” (Isaiah 42:8)

3.  Evangelism is more than simply inviting someone to church.
It’s been my experience throughout my approximately forty five years of church experience that many, maybe even the majority of church members think that evangelism equates to inviting people to their church.  At that point it’s up to the preacher to work his magic from the pulpit and convince the person to be saved!  Regrettably this mindset has alarming consequences in the local church setting.  It can ultimately result in a Pope like mentality where the pastor/preacher is the only one that can reach God and share the gospel.  It also relegates preaching to evangelism alone, in turn causing the church to be biblically ignorant and vulnerable to “every wind of doctrine…” Also, it causes people to miss out on one of the greatest personal privileges, pointing someone to Jesus!

4.  Evangelism should be driven by joy, not guilt.
Sharing the amazing gospel should be one of the greatest joys we have as Christians; yet too often it is “performed” out of guilt.  How many times have we been brow beaten with statistic after statistic about how few people share their faith, and then sent out to “share the love of Jesus”?  Sharing the gospel should be joyful, not a chore!  Yes, there is a sense of duty involved, but that duty should be fueled by joy.  Think of it this way, you have the greatest news of hope that the world is in desperate need to hear, and you have the privilege of sharing that good news with them!

5.  Evangelism should be practiced with respect to others.
The best way to share the gospel is after you have earned the respect of the one you want to share it with.  Those with who we witness to should not feel like they have been at a used car lot after we have talked with them, rather they should feel as if they have been talking with a friend who truly loves them. If we love people with the love that Christ loves us we will treat people like the priceless souls they are and not like a number.  Be a good friend, co-worker, neighbor, etc., and earn the right to tell them about Jesus.  More times than not, when we are a true friend, they will ask us about the hope that is within us!
“Declare his glory among the nations,

    his marvelous works among all the peoples!”
(Psalm 96:3, ESV)
Categories: biblical, Evangelism, Glory, God, Gospel, Jesus, Share, Witness | Leave a comment

Looking beyond the physical crucifixion

Once again we approach the day designated to celebrate the sacrificial death of Jesus on a cross.  Obviously, and with great reason there is much anticipation, joy, sorrow, and a plethora of other emotions around the thought of the crucifixion of the Christ.  These emotions run the gamut, from disgust at the thought of the bloodshed and carnage of the actual process of crucifixion and the assertion that God the Father not only allowed this to happen, but willed it and took pleasure/delight in it, to feelings of glorious and overwhelming heights of humbleness that the King of glory would take the wrath of His Father in our place.
My purpose today is not focused on debating my way into the hearts and minds of non-believers, that’s God’s place; rather I simply desire to cause believers to delve into the crucifixion of Jesus a bit further, beyond the physical into the spiritual.

Many pastors, including myself have spent many pulpit hours striving to describe the horror of the crucifixion, at least from a physical standpoint.  Most of us do that so our hearers will better understand the suffering that our Lord endured to please His Father and redeem his church.  I certainly do not regret those many hours proclaiming the great physical price of Christ’s suffering, but my desire is that the church will look even further into His death.  What really happened during those six hours?  Was the suffering physical alone and was the physical aspect of His death the crux of the sacrifice?

Everything about crucifixion was designed for maximum pain and each step leading up to the cross was designed to build on the previous steps.  It was so gruesome the Bible says it was difficult to recognize Jesus as a human,
As many were astonished at you—
chis appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
(Isaiah 52:14, ESV)

Could there be anything worse than this?  What, if anything could trump his physical suffering?  I believe the “spiritual” suffering of Jesus, leading up to and while on the cross was even grimmer than his physical suffering.  Consider these two things, while on the cross Jesus endured the weight of the sin of the world, and in some super-natural fashion God the Son and God the Father were separated.
First, strive to imagine the weight of the sin of the world,
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:6, ESV)

I can’t even bear the weight of my own individual sin!  One sin weighs upon me in unspeakable ways!  That’s ONE sin at ONE time!  Try to conceive all of your sin, the guilt and shame from it being placed upon you at one time!  As difficult as that is, think about Jesus on the cross…He bore the sins of us all…at one time, those before us, those living now, and those in the future.  This is mind-boggling!  How could He do it?  We cannot fathom this, for it is indeed super-natural.   Yes, it is super-natural but it is real!  But it gets even more mind-boggling!

Scripture quotes Jesus from the cross,

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
(Matthew 27:46, ESV)

What on Earth, or should I say in Heaven is going on here?  How could the Father “forsake” the Son?  There’s never been and there never will be a more intimate relationship than the one between God the Father and God the Son.  That relationship is on display throughout Scripture, but I think especially in John 17.  So how/why would the Father “forsake” His Son?  I believe it’s because of our sin which was placed upon him,

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
(2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV)

This had to happen in order for those who would believe to be justified and made righteous, for the Father cannot entertain sin.  So when Jesus “became sin” his Father had to, in some way that is beyond us, turn His back on His Son!  This is nothing short of astonishing!   What could cause more suffering to God the Son than God the Father turning His back on him?!?!?  
Ponder on these things as we once again mourn and celebrate this most startling day…Good Friday!  Soli Deo Gloria!

Categories: bible, crucifixion, good friday, http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post, Jesus | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: