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Some Thoughts on FRIENDSHIP — From an INTROVERT! (Part 4) THE OLD TESTAMENT ON FRIENDSHIPS! (Part 1)

We are using these posts to begin our work on two books on friendship.  This is good for me.  I’m a card-carrying introvert (there’s not really a card; it’s more like a name tag). People wear me out. But I need to know others — and I need to work at relationships with both God’s people and those who are not yet in the Family.

Let’s survey the Old Testament a bit on the topic of friendship.  What do we learn? (Our study is quite selective, as you will see).

The Law/The Pentateuch (Torah): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are in this section. Here in Genesis we get the story of creation, including the fascinating section on a lonely Adam (before sin entered God’s world and before the creation of Eve)! We also are told the stories of Abraham the friend of God and of Moses, the one with whom God spoke “face to face as to a friend” (Ex 33:11).

In Exodus we learn a terrible truth about friendship. The context is of the people of Israel worshiping a golden calf even as Moses is receiving the Ten Commandments from the Lord. The people were “running wild” and becoming “a laughingstock to their enemies” (Ex. 32:25). God acts in judgment and has Moses rally the Levites to whom he says, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.” There are limits to human friendship.

Our next reference to friends comes in the book of Deuteronomy and also deals with the issue of idolatry. There we read the words “If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’ (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known) . . .” The text goes on to say that you must be the first one to execute that person by stoning! Friends that seek to lead you into idolatry, at least in the book of Deuteronomy, should be executed! Friendship is an important value, but not more important than worshiping the true God!

Israel is forbidden to enter into a treaty with the nations that did not help them when they escaped Egypt: “Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them as long as you live.” (Dt. 23:6).

The History Books:  The Historical Books are comprised of 12 books. Joshua, Judges, and Ruth tell the earliest history of the Jews; 1 and 2 Samuel with 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles cover about five hundred years reporting the fall of Judah to Babylon. The next three books, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther are about their life in captivity, release from it, and the restoration of Jerusalem. In I Samuel we have the beautiful story of the friendship of Jonathan and David, a story sadly — and wrongly — sexualized by today’s homosexual agenda. We read in I Samuel 20 – “After the boy had gone, David got up from the south side of the stone and bowed down before Jonathan three times, with his face to the ground. Then they kissed each other and wept together—but David wept the most. Jonathan said to David, ‘Go in peace, for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.’’ Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.” After the sad death of Jonathan, David says, “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.” (2 Sam. 1:26).

In this of the Old Testament we also learn of the practice of new monarchies. In the ancient world whenever a new king would ascend to the throne, the relatives of the former king would often be in grave danger. This practice was followed by some of Israel’s kings. For example, Zimri began his reign by killing off Baasha’s whole family. We read that “He did not spare a single male, whether relative or friend.” (I Ki. 16:11). The same is said of Jehu who “killed everyone in Jezreel who remained of the house of Ahab, as well as all his chief men, his close friends and his priests, leaving him no survivor.” (2 Ki. 10:11).

We also get the amazing statement about Abraham in 2 Chronicles 20:7 – “Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?”

In our next post, we will look at the Wisdom (or Poetry) literature and learn several principles about godly friendships.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2019 in friendship

 

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Some Thoughts on FRIENDSHIP — From an INTROVERT! (Part 3) A LONELY ADAM!

ADAM WAS AN EXTROVERT! The Bible doesn’t say that specifically, but, as an INTROVERT, I think he was.

Let me back up a bit.  This year it looks like I’ll be writing two books on friendship.  One will be on being a friend of sinners like Jesus was (Mt. 11:19); the other on friendship in general. But what do I care about friendships?  I’m an introvert.  I’m perfectly happy by myself and my laptop and my dog and occasional visits by my wife.

And that’s what’s funny.  God calling me to study and write about relationships. But I need to.  And I’ll do my best.

In these posts we’ve noticed that the human being is not the creator of relationships, but our Trinitarian God who has always been in a love relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And the Christian gospel is that because of Christ we can enter into that connection, that friendship, with God Himself!

Why did God create Adam?  Not for any lack in God, but for His glory. God creates Adam, sees that His creation is “good” (Gen. 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25), and then declares that what He had made was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). After His rest on the seventh day, the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and placed him in the Garden to take care of it. God gave Adam work to do in the Garden and a simple command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:15ff).

God assigns Adam the work of naming all the animals after declaring, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen. 2:17). Don’t skip over those words too quickly. “It is not good . . .” Something in God’s good creation was not good. And it was that Adam had no human counterpart.

One of my seminary colleagues laughs at me when I suggest that Adam’s naming of the animals was the means by which God convinced Adam that he needed a human counterpart. “Let’s see,” Adam might have said. “Let’s name you Mr. and Mrs. Giraffe. And you two we’ll name Mr. and Mrs. Hippopotamus . . .” It is as if Adam needed to see that for him “no suitable helper [was] found” (Gen. 2:20). So God creates Eve from one of Adam’s ribs.

But Adam had been in perfect fellowship with God! Just Adam and his Creator. However, God saw that Adam was lonely. He needed a human counterpart. We need other human beings in our lives.

Sin, of course, marred everything. After Adam and Eve’s rebellion is confronted by the Lord, Adam actually blames God for bringing Eve into existence (and leading him into sin)!

But let’s not miss the critical point that Adam, in the perfect environment of the Garden, before sin, is lonely.  He needs a human counterpart. And God provides Eve. I sometimes catch myself humming the words to the old praise chorus “Just Jesus and Me” (obviously written by an introvert).  We were made for relationships — and not just with our Creator!

May I ask you a favor? Would you pray for me and these two writing projects at least once a week over the next few months? If you agree to do this, you may let me know privately through my email (theoprof@bellsouth.net) or publicly in the comment section below. THANKS!

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2019 in friendship

 

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Some Thoughts on FRIENDSHIP — From an INTROVERT! (Part 1) WRITING PROJECTS!

Some people are surprised when they learn that I test out as an introvert.  An “expressive” introvert.  But an introvert nonetheless. I’ve taken the Myers/Briggs, the Briggs and Stratton, and the Disc Personality tests.  And I come out as an introvert.

My daughter Amy is the same. Being around people too much exhausts us. She says she wants to buy me that T-shirt that says, “INTROVERTS UNITE!  IN YOUR OWN HOMES!  BY YOURSELVES!”  (I’d wear that T-shirt).

All of that to say that the Lord has a tremendous sense of humor.  He is working on me this year to stretch me. It looks like I’ll be writing two books on . . . friendship!  I’ve been working on the issue of friendship evangelism as I’m processing the idea of the Lord Jesus being “a friend of sinners” (Mt. 11:19).  That work is tentatively entitled Unlike Jesus:  One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel.  I don’t know if that will be the final title (it’s kind of negative), but I’m convinced that Satan has won and continues to win a great victory by convincing believers that the fewer non-Christian friends they have the godlier they are. We confuse the command in James 4:4 not to be friends of the world with the idea that that must mean we can’t be friends of sinners.

It also looks likely that I will be writing a book on friendship in general. The working title for that second work is With Friends Like These . . . Biblical Friendships from Job to Jesus.  This project will allow me to survey friendship in both the Old and New Testaments (I’m presently working on Abraham, “the friend of God”), consider Job and his friends (who theologically “mug” him for thirty chapters), think about how Jesus was a friend to His disciples (taking particular notice of His response to His sick friend Lazarus in John 11), and include some material on believers’ being friends of sinners.

I’m going to ask you, the reader, for something very specific.  Would you pray for me and these two writing projects at least once a week over the next few months?  If you agree to do this, you may let me know privately through my email (theoprof@bellsouth.net) or publicly in the comment section below.  THANKS!

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2019 in friendship

 

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“Unlike Jesus” – A Theology Matters Retreat for Dayspring Camp – Part 6 (Conclusion)

Friends:  Thank you for staying with me through this six-part study of being a friend of Jesus.  I get to do a “Theology Matters” conference with a group of young people at Dayspring Bible Camp in Missouri from August 3-5 on this critical topic.

We have already seen in our study that we need a theology which undergirds our efforts to reach lost people. We need a theology of lostness, a theology of friendship, a theology of worldliness, a theology of evangelism, and a theology of repentance!

Let’s notice this morning a sixth theology which we need to rightfully be a friend of sinners like Jesus was and that is —

VI. A Theology of INTENTIONAL LIVING!

Granted, if you were to survey a systematic textbook on various theologies, you wouldn’t find this one among them!  What we mean is, if I want to be a friend of sinners, a great deal of intentionality will be required of me.  I will see myself as “on mission.”  I will wake up in the morning — after my requisite coffee — and ask, “Lord, is there someone today that I might befriend for Your sake?  Where can I make strategic decisions to spend time with the lost and to listen to their stories?”

For me the challenge in Philippians 3 helps me here.  There we read: 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

What’s the “all this” in verse 12? In the previous section Paul spoke about “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (v. 8). He speaks of his desire to “gain Christ” (v. 8). He longs to “be found in [Christ]” (v. 9). He want to “know Christ” (v. 10). And he wants to attain “to the resurrection from the dead” (v. 11).

In summary, Paul wants to please the Lord, to glorify Him, to count everything loss in comparison to honoring and serving Him!  And that just makes sense IF the Lord Jesus is who we believe He is — the Lord of glory, the One for Whom we should live each moment, the friend of sinners!

Here are several practical steps you and I can take in becoming much more intentional in following our Lord’s example in loving the lost:

1. Repent of your past of not purposely developing relationships with lost people.

2.  Begin to pray strategically for a few unsaved acquaintances who can become close friends.

3.  Determine to work hard at nurturing and advancing those relationships.

4.  Commit yourself to listening to the stories of your not-yet-born-again friends.

5.  Ask others to pray for you — and for them!

6.  Don’t hesitate to ask other Christians about their unsaved friends.  And if they say they have none, go over Matthew 11:16-19 with them.

7.  Gently and respectfully ask the leaders in your church about their unsaved friends.  And if they say they have none, ask them if they would be willing to look at Matthew 11:16-19 with you.

8.  Make friendship evangelism a priority in your prayer meetings.  Don’t allow those meetings to degenerate into mere “organ recitals” (= praying for each other’s health).  Pray strategic, personal involvement prayers.  Don’t pray, “Lord, save my friend John.”  No!  Pray, “Lord, give me an opportunity this week to have coffee with John and to ask him about his teenaged son who is on drugs.”

9.  Celebrate breakthroughs in relationships!  Rejoice when good conversations take place.  Praise the Lord with other believers when your lost friends ask good questions.

10.  Do your homework.  Developing serious relationships with sinners will require digging for answers to their questions.  One of my friends had me over to his house for coffee and, somehow, within a few minutes he had asked me what Buddhists believe, what about those who have never heard the gospel, is there really a hell?, etc.

Choose not to be unlike Jesus.  Be a “friend of sinners.”

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2018 in friendship

 

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“Unlike Jesus” – A Theology Matters Retreat for Dayspring Camp – Part 2

Why be a “friend of sinners” if people aren’t LOST?  I’m looking forward to leading a group of young people at Dayspring Camp in Ironton, Mo., through a study of friendship evangelism. We’ve noticed in our first session that we need a theology of lostness so we understand and act on our mission of being a friend of sinners, like Jesus was (Mt. 11:19).  But we also need —

Session #2- A Theology of FRIENDSHIP!

Can we talk?  Most of us don’t have a clue about real friendship!  The late humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “I read the book How to Be Your Own Best Friend, went out and gained thirty pounds, and haven’t trusted myself since!”

The Christian environment often encourages new believers (either overtly or covertly) not to be friends of sinners.  We surround ourselves with Christian music, Christian wallpaper, and eat only Christian cookies — and we wonder why fewer and fewer lost people are coming to Christ!

The Bible says, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Prov. 18:24).  Other translations have quite a different take on this verse, such as the NIV which says, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

At any rate, to be a friend involves a variety of elements:  approachability, listening, confidentiality.  The Lord Jesus was “a friend of sinners.”  He listened to questions, He spent time with the lost, He fed them!  Some of us have only conditional friendships with sinners (“Look, I’ll give you six months.  If you don’t trust Christ by then, I’m moving on to someone else!”).

But how do we becomes friends of sinners without doing what they do?  Without compromising our Christian convictions?  We look to the Savior as our example!

We read in Matthew 11 that the religious leaders of Israel criticized John the Baptist for his frugality (he didn’t care about fashion or food) and Jesus for His indulgence (accusing Him of gluttony and drunkenness).  For the Lord Jesus to be a friend of sinners  meant eating and drinking with sinners, but not to excess.  Most of us bring any hope of a friendship with sinners to a screeching halt by insisting on praying for our meal!

In a subsequent post, we’ll talk about intentional living and learning to listen to the stories of our sinner-friends.  The challenge today is — look for opportunities to become a solid friend of sinners!  Spend time with them.  Eat with them.  And pray for them!  (to be continued)

 

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2018 in friendship

 

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My Sermon “Unlike Jesus: One Area Where Jesus-Followers Excel”

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Northgate Bible Chapel in Rochester, NY, a while back. And I preached on this topic of being a friend of sinners.  Jesus was a friend of sinners.  We must be as well.  Here’s my sermon, if you wish to listen to it.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2018 in friendship

 

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A Survey about Your Unsaved Friends!

Friends:  I’ll be in Rochester, NY, this coming weekend (March 23-25) for a simulcast with Biblical Eldership Resources.  I’ll give two messages on Saturday — the topic is “Faithful Preaching and the Power of the Spirit.”

On Sunday I’ll be speaking at Northgate Bible Chapel.  During the Sunday School hour I will be asking the following questions about our being a friend of sinners like the Lord Jesus was:

An Unsaved Friends’ Survey
Seven Questions about Your Unsaved Friends

1.  How many unsaved friends do you have?

2. What’s one danger of having unsaved friends?

3. What is one benefit of having unsaved friends?

4. What is one basic aspect of friendship that you might need to work on?

5. How are you praying for your unsaved friends?

6. How should the church fit into your efforts to reach your unsaved friends?

7. What’s one activity you could do with your unsaved friends if you chose to?

Your thoughts?

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2018 in friendship

 

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Time for Some Great Quotes on FRIENDSHIP!

“True friendship is when you walk into their house and your WiFi connects automatically.”

“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.” (Plutarch)

Proverbs 27:5-6
An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2018 in friendship

 

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Message #1: “With Friends Like These . . . Job’s Friends and Religious Foolishness”

This past Sunday I began this series at our church. The Pastor and I will be sharing four messages that survey the whole book of Job. I will do my best to post our sermons.
For this 1st message (on Job chapters 1-3), I drafted four men from the congregation to reenact the four messengers bringing the bad news to Job. The sound quality of the lines isn’t very good, but you’ll get the idea.
Here’s my 1st sermon — I appreciate any comments you might have.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in friendship

 

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What animals are thinking #16 (scroll down)

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Posted by on August 13, 2014 in friendship

 

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