The Value of Old Friends

Last night I spent about 30 minutes talking with an old friend on the telephone. It had been a few years since we had connected, so it was really good to catch up.

Old friends.

There’s a special feeling I get when I think of my old friends. Feelings of love and acceptance to be sure, but even more than that, the feeling of value. Worth.

Imagining someone would consider me worth enough to continually invest in my life. A phone call, a prayer, concern and care, a word of encouragement, a tear or two; time spent with me and for me.

Old friends.

My wife and I are so blessed. We have friends from high school, friends we met while I was in the Army, friends from the old workplace, church; from times that seem so long ago…

The value of old friends. Friends you see maybe once every other year, and talk with on the phone maybe once in a blue moon. But the moment you begin talking, you pick right up where you left off.

Old friends.

Several things come to mind as I think of my old friends (with a smile, I may add).

One, you never know how long you have on earth to nurture friendships, so it’s imperative you don’t waste any time in doing so. In other words, be friendly so friendships can be built.

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly…” (Proverbs 18:24). Friendships are never entirely one sided. At times, one friend may need a lot more help than the other. But over time, and with no one keeping track, it doesn’t matter. It’s just part of being old friends.

“Give, and it will be given…the way you measure out is how it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38). What you value in a friendship should be your guide to being a good friend.

Two, old friends were once a new acquaintance. Somehow, and maybe it’s beyond your ability to recall, you became friends with someone and just kept at it. Maybe there were things to overlook at times, or serious discussions which had to happen to preserve the valued friendship. Maybe someone, like yourself, needed to say, “I’m sorry”, or, “I forgive you.”

All for the sake of the friendship.

Three, it takes a lot more to end a true, valued friendship, than a disagreement on political or religious views. Though Facebook allows you to “unfriend” someone with the click of a button, real life requires much more.

If a click of a button can end a friendship, there probably wasn’t much of a friendship to begin with.

I am so thankful for old friends. The older I get, the more I value them.

And that’s why I am going to keep nurturing the newer friendships I have. Whether it’s a new found friend I just met, or someone I’ve known for a couple of years, I will do what I can to be the kind of friend I’d like to have.

Do you need encouragement, help fixing a broken lawn mower, prayer, someone to get in your face with truth and love?

Count on me.

Would you like someone to walk with you as you experience pain, disappointment, or loss?

Count on me.

It’s what friends do.

It’s what old friends have done through the years.

A messy, but true, test of maturity.

It was quite a day. Cold and rainy outside meant the family would be stuck inside for the whole day with nothing to do.

Close quarters is fine if you’ve got some sort of entertainment to help pass the time. Unless, of course, you’re so bored nothing sounds like fun.

So there we were, all six of us sitting around the living room, waiting for the weather to change so life could begin again.

An all too familiar smell suddenly filled the room, stinging our eyes and noses with a terribly foul and rancid odor.

We were no longer bored. We now had something to get our minds off the rain.

“BJ! Did you mess your pants, or are you just trying to kill us?” The family spokesperson loves to get to the bottom of things.

“Why couldn’t you at least have given us some kind of warning? Like maybe saying, ‘I’m going to die now'”?

I, too, felt like chiming in but didn’t, for two reasons. One, I was too busy holding my nose and mouth shut, and, two, BJ was the baby of the family.

He was only 1 year old. And yes, he had messed his pants.

Thinking of this little scenario reminds me of how we in the church can be toward our brother or sister in Christ who has difficulties with life and can’t seem to go very long without messing all over themselves.

We like to consider ourselves as the mature ones who can “rightly divide the word of truth”.

But a true test of maturity is how we handle messy situations. Do we ignore our brother or sister, make fun of them, push them down with our words, or do we get our hands dirty helping them get cleaned up?

We want to see people born again, which means they become baby Christians. But then all too often, we expect them to be full grown the next time we see them at church.

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

If there are to be babies in the family, we probably should expect the room to smell at times. Let’s not be put out because our day was ruined, but rather let’s find a way to help them out of the mess they find themselves in.

“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.” (Galatians 6:1 ESV)

I could have been a rock star

The other night I began watching a documentary about the rock group “The Eagles”. How and why they formed the group, who were the principal musicians, etc.

It was interesting learning how two ordinary guys, who weren’t tremendously talented, made it all the way to stardom.

It suddenly hit me.

I could have been a rock star.

I’m not pumping up my own heels, honest. So please, don’t quit reading.

Sure, Don Henley and Glen Frey were talented guys as far as your average Joe is concerned (no, that wasn’t a reference to Joe Walsh). But they were not the best musicians to ever find their way to a recording studio.

Somewhat like myself. Not the best, but possibly better than your ordinary run-of-the-mill musician.

I could have been a rock star.

I’m not looking at this “revelation” as something I wish I would have followed through on; even though, as a teen, I wanted nothing more than to be in a band, make tons of music, live a wild party kind of life, and become filthy rich.

Of course it never happened.

I got married at 18, and while I was developing my skills as a musician, and the desire to be a star was still inside me somewhere, I followed the path back to Iowa, then West Virginia, and eventually into the Kingdom of God.

Oh, I could have hung out in California like Don and Glen did. We were living in Orange County around the same time Don and Glen were introduced to people like Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, and others who were instrumental in discovering and forming the group of guys who’d later become known as The Eagles.

I could have become a rock star.

But I didn’t.

And I’m glad.

God had other plans. And, like I said, I’m glad.

Just a few short years after getting married, the biggest thing that could ever have happened, happened to me.

I became a new creation in Christ. A child of God. An heir of God. A joint-heir with Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

I don’t mean to infer those who are rock stars don’t know true purpose and peace. Not all of them, anyway. But watching the documentary helped me realize all the things God saved me FROM. I already had enough that God to change in my life without jumping into the pit of unimaginable wealth and immorality.

Yes, I still enjoy music. Actually, I really enjoy music. Playing, performing, or whatever you’d like to call it. It’s a part of who I am; who God made me.

I enjoy singing and playing in honor of the living God Who changed my focus those many years ago. Worshipping Jesus simply because He is worthy of all honor, glory, and praise.

As for the guy who wanted to be a rock star… well, I’m just glad he didn’t meet the “right people”.

I could have been a rock star, but thank God, I never made it.

Has God ever kept you from something you thought you wanted, even needed? You may want to praise Him for that.

“[God]… who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:4 – 103:5 ESV)

He redeemed me by keeping me from it, even before I ever started thinking about Him.

Wow!

From admiration to assassination in 30 seconds 

“And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth…” (Luke 4:22 ESV)

“When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.” (Luke 4:28 – 4:29 ESV)

In between the above two passages was a short, 30 second message from Jesus to those in Nazareth, His hometown. Their response wasn’t much different than today’s religious folk.

It wasn’t a message about Heaven or Hell, or even giving more money to the Temple building fund.

So what was it that got them so worked up? Why were they willing to let Him hang around and read from the scriptures one minute, but ready to murder Him the next?

It’s the same thing that gets folks, yes, even church going folks, riled up today.

He said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

That’s what did it.

When He finished reading from Isaiah 61, and handed the scroll back to the attendant, Luke recorded that all eyes were on Him, as though they were anticipating His next few words.

This is what He read from Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18 – 4:19 ESV)

Some probably thought He’d speak about Isaiah, and what a wonderful servant of the Lord He was. Others may have already started thumbing through their bibles to passages like David had written; speaking about the King of Glory arriving with power and majesty.

Some could have been piecing together ones from Malachi, thinking about Elijah, John the Baptist, and the coming of the Lord.

But no one was ready for His message, “Today this scripture is fulfilled (or ‘as good as done’) in your hearing.”

Jesus was telling them, and us, Isaiah was speaking of Him when he wrote those words some 700 years prior. He was also saying He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), that God hadn’t changed, and He knew Him so well He could speak on His behalf.

And that’s what gets today’s people rankled at times.

It’s one thing to talk about God. People who are very uncomfortable talking about Jesus can usually talk about God with no difficulty. “God” isn’t necessarily personal; only some “higher power” or “force” way beyond the blue.

Yet Jesus said, in essence, “I know God, and He knows Me. He has empowered Me to do what I’m doing. God has anointed Me to heal all who are oppressed by the devil. Today. Right now.”

God IS the same yesterday, today, and forever. All He has done in times past, He is not only able, but willing to do today. 

Through His Son Jesus.

Paul wrote, “Today is the day of salvation…”. In other words, no one need wait an extra minute to believe, receive, and experience the promises of God.

He also wrote, in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, “…we beg you, as if God were speaking instead of us, be reconciled to God…”. Or, “We’re not lying. All He has promised, He means to make good. We know Him personally and are speaking for Him.”

Yep, that has a tendency to get folks a little peeved. But isn’t that just what a witness is supposed to do? Speak of things he has seen, heard, and knows to be true?

When you declare Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever as though you know it to be so, don’t expect everyone around you to be full of joy. They may even attempt to shut you up. 

But that’s okay. Everyone needs to hear, we need to declare it, and Jesus will take care of the rest.

After all, He authenticates (confirms) His word with accompanying signs. All the promises of God are fulfilled in Christ. He is God’s “Amen”.

So be it!

Jesus Died For All

Sitting in a local shopping mall, I began to reflect on one of the most important and profound truths ever to be revealed by the angels of God, the people of God, and God Himself.

Jesus died for all.

Friends, enemies, people I like and those I don’t give a hoot about.

Americans, Canadians, Mexicans, Chinese, and even those who haven’t a clue to their nationality.

People who think like me, act like me, vote like me, and like the same kinds of food.

But, He so loved the world He died for those who are even the exact opposite of me.

And He loves them as much as He does me.

Jesus died for everyone who’s now in Heaven, as well as those who are incarcerated forever in the place of the damned.

There are more than seven billion people on this planet and Jesus died for each and every one.

He died for the conservative, the liberal, the gay, and the straight.

Those with tons of intellectual power and those who barely have enough smarts to blow their nose; Jesus died for them.

Many say they don’t believe, can’t believe, in such a ridiculous thing. They claim mankind made up a fairytale to make themselves feel better about the hereafter.

People say a lot of things. 

Some say they used to believe, but they outgrew such nonsense. Others won’t believe because, in their minds, the gospel doesn’t make sense. Like, why would God do such things? Create mankind knowing he would fall from his position of glory. Give His Son (if He could be called that) for people who demonstrated nothing but contempt for Him. And raise Him from the grave three days later?

To those who have such a difficult time with faith (or in things they can’t figure out, explain, see, etc.), they must have forgotten all the times they have believed something they haven’t figured out, could explain, or ever saw.

Most people will follow their doctor’s advice, even if it includes going under a surgeon’s knife. Why? They certainly can’t figure out the whole procedure, nor will they be awake to assist. No, they believe because they choose to believe.

And make the necessary arrangements.

But whether or not they really believed the doctor isn’t what made the doctor’s message true or false.

The doctor knew.

The message isn’t true because it’s validated by the hearer. Nor is it false, because the majority won’t believe. Truth. Jesus lived, died, and rose again. He did.

He did it for me, you, and anyone who’s ever taken a breath of air. Jesus died for all.

Believe it? Good.

Can’t figure it out? Good.

There’s only One Person Who knows for sure, Who planned everything, and Who continually invites all to believe. God, the Father. He knows.

So why not choose to trust, even though it all seems so preposterous?

Why not yield your life to the One Who cares for you more than you or I could ever imagine?

Jesus died for all. 

That includes YOU!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16 – 3:17 ESV)

When mountains won’t move…

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Some of the most important times in our lives happen when mountains suddenly appear, blocking us, at least momentarily, from continuing on the path we are plodding.

Our focus is redirected.

Though our view is changed and all we seem to be able to see is the obstacle looming before us, it is important for us to have the right perspective – to see beyond the obvious – and position our sights on the glorious, the Glorious One.

Earlier this year a huge mountain appeared before me, taunting me and daring me to continue on my present path. It was overwhelming, to say the least.

But as I stared at the mountain, as if my glare would make it suddenly disappear, I sensed the Lord directing me to take a few steps back, get a different perspective, and see what He could and would do.

As I did, I began to see the beauty in the mountain, the obstacle. I began to see the Lord’s lovingkindness as He revealed to me my path isn’t blocked, it is changed.

His path is one of abundance, righteousness, and peace. It is life-giving.

It is not a dead-end. 

As I quieted my heart before Him and started walking the new path, a new hope and vision came into view.

Sometimes mountains don’t need to be removed. So enjoy the view as a redirection occurs.

The Smile 

Toothy or toothless,
Faint or recognizable from miles away,

The Smile.

Silent or audible, youthful or well defined through age,

The Smile.

It speaks, soothes, invites, supports, and can help sustain one’s soul through otherwise debilitating situations.

It welcomes others into its space, its territory, even in a crowded room.

The Smile.

It says, “You’re okay, and I hope the best for you.”

Everyone can Smile.

Even the one whose face has been paralyzed due to an accident or illness can Smile in their heart, unless their heart is paralyzed.

The Smile reveals a person’s heart.

The Smile.

One of the simplest ways to encourage, and be encouraged.

The Smile.

Medicine for the soul, an embracing arm around the shoulder.

The Smile.

Ready and willing to run the risk of disappointment, the Smile opens the door to reconciliation and restoration.

God created the Smile. 

Hope revealed in the flesh.

Born of the Virgin Mary.

Christ the Savior.

The Smile.

Merry Christmas!

Who’s ever heard of a man named Shemaah?

Shemaah, a Benjaminite, had at least two sons, Ahiezer and Joash. Though not well known, they were greatly appreciated for their skills and leadership abilities. 

They were bowmen and could shoot arrows and sling stones equally well with either hand. They were Benjaminites, Saul’s kinsmen. (1 Chronicles 12:2 ESV)

Use your imagination and picture them around ten years old, practicing and competing with each other. 

“They’re both just wasting time”, friends and family would grunt. “They’ll never amount to anything.”

But the Lord had other ideas.

There was a little boy, growing up just ten miles away, who would need the skills and loyalty of such men.

David, the young shepherd boy, destined to be king of Israel.

Navigating your way through your teen years, maybe you struggled to discover your life’s purpose, while those around you thought you were wasting time, or pursuing the wrong thing.

Maybe you didn’t know, or could never quite figure out, what to do with your skills and passions. 

Perhaps even now you’ve been afraid to step out in pursuit of those passions because no one else is doing it. 

No one likes to be the oddball. 

No one appreciates being labeled a rebel or nonconformist. 

But Shemaah’s two sons, Ahiezer and Joash, though they had skills that weren’t exactly conventional, did much for the Kingdom of David and the Kingdom of God.

You say preaching, teaching, or prophesying to the nations isn’t your calling? There’s still a place and calling for you. 

Let’s remember there’s a God in Heaven Who gives each person gifts, callings, and passions for His glory and the edification of all those around us.

Your name, my name, may never appear in lights or be mentioned in the most popular Christian magazine. 

It really doesn’t matter. 

But if we’re doing our best with what we’ve been given, what we do will matter. Greatly! Ahiezer and Joash seemed to find their niche, and God thought enough of them to include their names in His Word some 2500 years ago. 

I’m sure Shemaah never dreamed for a moment how important those days of his kids playing with bows and arrows, or throwing rocks at tin cans, actually were.

And God may be the only One Who knows what He has in store for you and I. 

But you can be sure it’s good. 

And necessary for Kingdom business.

The Start Of Something Wonderfully New

Early morning @ Little Boy Lake

Early morning @ Little Boy Lake

There’s an encouraging word resonating deep within my spirit; one I hope can makes its way to the blogosphere.

Every day, every moment, is the start of something wonderfully new with God.

Encouraging? How?

God doesn’t get bored with me. Or you.

Remember, He’s the One Whose mercies and compassions are unfailing; they are new every morning.

He’s the One Who makes all things new, whether it’s a new Heaven and earth, a new creation, a new opportunity, or a second chance.

He is always doing something wonderfully new.

Always!

You’re never too young or old to experience His new beginnings. And even if you think you’ve seen it all, pay close attention. You haven’t seen anything yet.

I was wondering how I could “sing unto the Lord a new song”, when He’s heard it all before and my vocabulary is so extremely limited.

I sensed Him speak to my heart, “I treat it as something new and fresh, when it comes from your heart.”

Wow!

Which tells me how I should receive the words He speaks to me; as something new and fresh.

Walking each day with the One and Only Almighty God is the experience of a lifetime – every day. It’s new, wonderfully new and fresh, when I allow my heart to rule over my mind and flesh. As I yield to the Spirit’s voice, rather than my own feelings and ideas.

He Who has promised to faithfully complete what He began in my life some 40 years ago, has promised to do so in an amazing way; one only He could possibly accomplish.

There have been multiple times when I have felt burnt out, overlooked, too old for the “good ministry positions”, and out of sync with life. The Kingdom has seemed far off rather than near. I’ve wanted to run and hide, and not be bothered with anything while I wait for Heaven.

But as He encourages me to not quit because my labor isn’t in vain, He also reminds me that I “ain’t seen nothing yet”!

Regardless of how many things He’s already done in and through my life, He’s always in the process of starting something new.

Something wonderfully new.

And the same goes for YOU.

I Choose To Be Thank-FULL

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Here it is, the day before Thanksgiving, and I just realized how unthankful I’ve been. 

No, you won’t hear me grumbling about non important things; I mean, how would that sound? But I have definitely been less than thankful.

Most definitely.

It dawned on me yesterday afternoon, actually. I ran into a former coworker and he asked me what I had been up to. I hadn’t seen him for a number of years, so I brought him up to speed rather quickly.

But in doing so, I included the reason why I was no longer working for the same company. Oh, I could have simply told him I had retired, but I felt the need to tell him why. After all, it made for a better story.

And besides, the more I tell it the more I justify my feelings; the better I look in my eyes. 

But the Lord convicted me of how unthankful I had become.

Yes, I was wronged. I shouldn’t have been treated like I was. It was awful to lose a great paying job, and have to retire so young.

But the Lord still wants me to be thank-FULL. Full of thanks. Without any room in my heart for complaints or grudges.

What do I have to be thankful for, even in the situation I was “forced” into?

First of all, the level of stress I was experiencing immediately dropped to almost nothing. I can be thankful for a stress free life.

Second, I discovered a passion and calling to write. And with ten books published, I’m just beginning to develop my skills as a writer.

And the ideas keep coming.

Third, my schedule is so much more flexible. No longer must I submit a request to take time off, and hope someone with more seniority doesn’t want off the same day.

Of course I am thankful for my Savior, my wife and family, my church and my friends.

But if I am harboring ugly feelings toward someone, or about a situation wherein I was wronged, I cannot be thank-FULL.

So I’ve made up my mind. I don’t have to explain to anyone else about how badly I was treated. Nor do I have to beg for another’s consolation or pity.

No, I choose to be thank-full.

I have a wonderful life to live, and I’m going to do just that!

How full of thanks are you?

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15 ESV)

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