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How To Have Lasting Friendships

How To Have Lasting Friendships

Statistically, you probably can count your friends on one hand. The average American only reports having two close friends. You could’ve lost a few fingers in an accident and still count your friends on one hand if you’re living the average life.

This is a huge deal.

You probably think you don’t have time for all this. You’re too busy for friendships. As one of my friends recently said, “I barely have time for my kids and wife. How in the world can I keep a friend?”

It’s an issue of life and death.

Proverbs 13:20 tells us that those who we walk with have an impact on our lives… good and bad. If we’re going to get better, we need friends. Proverbs 27:17 tells us that it is intimate friendships are one of the primary factors for us better ourselves.

Most of us are living in a relational deficit. I don’t think that’s because we don’t have access to friends. I honestly think it’s because most of us are horrible at keeping friends.

I’ve been blessed to keep a group of close friends throughout the years. Some for most of my life. I’m thankful for them, and I’m thankful they’ve chosen to love me with the kind of grace that it takes to keep a friend that long.

Here are a few strategies to keep help us keep our friends…

1. Choose ahead of time to love unconditionally.

Iron sharpens iron. That’s what the Bible says. Have you ever stopped to think what that means? It means friction.

If you’re going to have a lasting friendship I can guarantee you’re going to have a chance to get offended and hurt. Most of us retreat when those opportunities present themselves. I believe this is why most of us have a hard time keeping friends. I’ve seen people give up some of the most significant relationships in their lives over the pettiest, most insignificant things.

Instead of choosing to be offended, choose to love.

Offense is a choice. Instead, you can always choose grace, forgiveness, and love. If you’re offended by someone today, it’s simply because you’ve made the decision to be offended.

For you to experience the power of a lasting friendship, you need to choose AHEAD OF TIME to love unconditionally, because when the opportunity to become offended, hurt or bitter comes you can remind yourself: I’ve chosen grace.

When you choose grace and love first, it builds long-lasting, close friendships.

2. Create new contexts for your friendship once things change.

For a friendship to last it must outlast changes in context. You’re going to change jobs. You’re going to move to a new neighborhood. You’re going to relocate to a new town.

It’s not just geographical contexts that change throughout our life. Our life context changes too. When we started the church, I went from working for someone else to working for myself. I went from working a set schedule to working all the time (thank God it’s not that way anymore!). We’ve had three kids in six years. Children change everything, including your life context. During these seasons your availability changes. During these seasons the energy you have to devote to relationships shifts, too.

If your context changes and a relationship is meaningful to you, then you have to create a new context for your relationships to exist in.

Here’s the hard thing about this: It’s not convenient. It’s going to cost you. You’ll have to invest travel, time, and possibly miss out on other opportunities to create these new venues for your relationships.

You’ll have to give up that chance meeting with a client to fly across the country just to spend a few days with an old friend, but that old friend has more to give you than that opportunity does. You may have to give up an evening with your family to travel and have dinner with an old friend… not every evening, just one.

Here’s a simple truth: If you’re not willing to make those sacrifices, your relationships will not last. If you truly love a friend and value the relationship you share with them, then you must find a way to continually create contexts for that relationship to thrive in.

3. Pursue without prompting.

Every relationship begins with pursuit. You sought out your friend or they sought you out. You invited them over for dinner. They invited you out to go shopping. Either way, it was pursuit that brought you together with your best friends.

If you stop pursuing a friendship it will die.

That’s the principle that the Apostle Paul points us to in Philippians 3 when he says, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (from Philippians 3:12). The simple idea is this: God pursued us. Now we pursue God. If we stop pursuing God, even though God has done so much to set us up to win in our relationship with Him, the relationship will still die!

For a relationship to last, we must learn to pursue without prompting. Most of us feel comfortable pursuing a relationship when we know the answers to the questions ahead of time. We ask people over when we know they’ll say yes. We ask people to join us on a trip or for a day out when we know they have the availability.

For a relationship to last, you’ve got to be ok with your pursuit not being reciprocated and your attempts to pursue seemingly being rejected.

There are probably good reasons why they didn’t respond to your text. There’s probably something going on that you don’t understand. If you choose to take their lack of response to your pursuit personally, you’ll become offended, shrink back from pursuing them, and the relationship will die.

Choose to pursue without prompting. Choose to do this without any expectation of them returning the attention. Do it because you love them. Do it because the relationship means something to you. Do it because, if you don’t… you won’t have a relationship with them.

4. Not every friendship lasts (and that’s ok).

Here’s the sad part… They’re not all going to make it.

Some of your best friends will fade. You’ll pursue them, and all of a sudden they’ll be busy every time you ask to do something. This won’t happen for just days, but months… or maybe years.

If you’re life-giving in your pursuit (not self-centered, not demanding, and not communicating out of hurt), it will become obvious that certain friends have moved on even when you haven’t. The pursuit will no longer be mutual, and it will become apparent that the relationship is over.

Remember, this doesn’t mean it’s over forever. I’ve had plenty of friendships resurrect out of what I thought were lost and broken circumstances. If the friendship is very important to you: pray over it, give it to Jesus, and release it to Him.

No matter what you do, there are going to friends that you lose throughout life.

This is actually something that you can thank God for.

Thank God that you had a friend that carried you through a season and loved you well.

Thank God that you experienced His love through another.

Thank God for them and what they meant to your life.

And… Recognize them for what they are: a gift from God.

If we guard our perspective well, we’ll recognize that Jesus is the giver of ALL good things. He is the source of our well-being in every sense. As the Provider, all of our friendships should point us to Jesus. When we see them that way, we can ALWAYS be thankful for them, even if the season of our friendship passes?

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What do you need to do to reestablish older, meaningful friendships?

The Basics Of Friendship

The Basics Of Friendship

Friendship is an enigma wrapped in a riddle.

My friend Bob used to say that about things that were confusing. I don’t really understand it, but I get what it means. It’s a confession… a confessing of complication and confusion. It’s as if you’re saying, “This topic is so convoluted and difficult to understand that we can all have different opinions on it and all be right.”

Understanding friendship is like trying to nail down Jello (that’s another one of my favorite sayings from Bob… he has a lot of them).

Here’s a very simple principle for when things seem convoluted:
When things are confusing, go to the Bible for timeless wisdom.

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Why They Aren’t Your Friends Anymore

Why They Aren’t Your Friends Anymore

We’ve all experienced it…

We made a friend, got close to them and shared our hearts and lives, only to months or years later to look back and feel like we’ve lost them.

For many of us, that perspective is filled with pain. We hurt in the loss. It’s hard to open up to someone, and it’s even harder to feel like you’ve lost that connection after being vulnerable and loving someone.

The truth is we don’t have to hurt because there are often practical reasons why they are not your friends anymore. Here are just a few…

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They’re Not Your Best Friend

They’re Not Your Best Friend

How many best friends do you have?

My son Klay has about fifteen. He uses that term very freely. If you’re playing with him and it’s going well he’s probably going to tell you, “You’re my best friend.”

He’s not being manipulative in his use of the term. He’s just very situational.

I’ve noticed the same thing among adults. We have lots of “best friends”, and I don’t really think the culture of friendship we’re creating is very good for us.

“Best friend” is a very sacred title.

It implies that someone has significant influence in your life and that you, inversely, have great access to theirs. A best friend is someone who knows you inside and out, with all the ugly and broken. A best friend is also someone you can find rest with, simply be who you are, and be fully accepted for that.

We don’t stumble across those friends often.

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What I’ve Learned About Friendship From Planting A Church

What I’ve Learned About Friendship From Planting A Church

In January of 2012, my wife and I started working towards planting a new, life-giving church in Albemarle, NC. It was a scary, exciting, and faith-filled journey. We left behind a city we loved living in, friends we loved doing life with, and a church we’d given years to build.

I thought planting a church was all about church.

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Lead Me

Lead Me

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

To respond that question, Jesus then shared a model prayer that demonstrated a progression of perspectives that could and should change the way we pray today.

As Jesus closed out the prayer, He ends with this request, “And lead us not into temptation.” (Luke 11:4).

Temptation represents a real challenge to the life Jesus wants to build in our hearts. Here are a few observations from this verse that should impact how we pray:

#1 – It’s OK to talk to God about your temptations.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but sometimes I feel ashamed to admit to God what’s actually going on in my heart. I don’t want to tell him that I’ve been greedy or coveted my neighbor’s new car or haven’t been content with my own giftedness. It feels shameful to admit such things.

But shame does something devastating to a relationship:
It shuts down intimacy.

If we’re not willing to talk to God about the temptations that exist in our hearts, then we’ll have a hard time being intimate with Him.

This process of confession and acknowledgment is a healthy part of a life-giving relationship with Jesus!

#2 – The leadership of the Holy Spirit is pivotal and worth pleading for.  

We’re all following someone and something.

Who and what you choose to follow may be the most significant decision you make in life because whatever you follow is leading you into the next step and season of life.

This is why it’s so important to be anchored in the leadership of God’s Holy Spirit.

If you’re like me, you’ve had friends that complain about their bosses. That’s a fairly common conversation. “My boss is the worst, because he __________.” You know how it goes.

Have you ever stopped to think that if you prayed about taking the job, then Jesus is your real boss? He led you there. He knew what you needed, the blessings and challenges you need (because we DO need challenges from time to time, don’t we?).

In this confession, Jesus acknowledges that He’s made the decision to follow the Father, and pleads with Him to make the path clear and free of temptation.

In confusing times, it’s necessary to lean into praying for God’s direction, because He desires to lead you.

His ways are better. Let’s follow Him.

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What is a temptation that you need God to lead you out of?


 

A Gift To Regift

A Gift To Regift

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

To respond that question, Jesus then shared a model prayer that demonstrated a progression of perspectives that could and should change the way we pray today.

Over the past few blogs, I’ve offered perspectives on this prayer, and what Jesus is teaching us today through it.

Jesus prayed, “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” (Luke 11:4).

I think this one of the most difficult verses in all the Scriptures.

Let me make two simple observations from this verse for our prayer life today:

#1 – We will have to forgive.

We live in a broken and fallen world. Sin abounds. We have a common and crafty enemy that seeks to destroy the work of God in our lives. That’s encouraging, huh?

If that it is true (and it is), then we’ll have to deal with hurts.

During this moment in His prayer, Jesus shows that for us to keep a healthy relationship with God, we’ll need to keep healthy relationships with others. It’s quite odd to say it this way (but, true): Your earthly relationships have an eternal impact.

Since we’ll experience hurt, there’s no way to have a healthy prayer life without being a forgiving person.

#2 – Our capacity to give grace is connected to our capacity to receive it.

This is frightening, to be blunt. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Father, if they withhold forgiveness, please withhold it from them as well.”

Are you holding on to any unforgiveness? I know that if I ask myself that, honestly, I’m consistently reminded of something or someone that I need to forgive.

I think sometimes we think of God’s forgiveness as a statement of our worth, and it is that in some ways. God loves you and values you, so He sacrificed His Son to provide the means for a relationship with Himself. That’s valuable.

But… more than that…

Forgiveness is a GIFT that is meant to be REGIFTED.

I think this statement embedded in the model prayer reminds us of this simple truth: Jesus lived for and with others graciously, and so should we.

As you pray, let it be an active time of forgiveness, and let the emotional cost of that forgiveness compel you to see the real value in the forgiveness that Jesus leveraged eternally for you.

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Who do you need to forgive?

He Wants To

He Wants To

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

To respond that question, Jesus then shared a model prayer that demonstrated a progression of perspectives that could and should change the way we pray today.

Jesus prayed, “Forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:4).

There’s two things that we need to assume before we can pray with that perspective.

#1 – We are not perfect.

While this may come as a shock to some of you, most of us know that we are not perfect. We have our issues, our own brand of crazy, and our own personal brokenness.

Can we drop our guard a little? We can act like we’re perfect a lot of the times, can’t we?

We argue about who being right, often assuming our rightness over others. We hate to admit our mistakes. For many of us, the absolute worst thing that could happen would be that someone knows your weaknesses and flaws.

We may not “think” we’re perfect, but we sure do act like we are sometimes.

#2 – God is willing to and wants to forgive us.

It’s remarkable to me that so many people do not believe that God should or would want to forgive them. They know the depth of their failure and have put themselves outside the compassion of God.

That is not true of any of us.

Perhaps the worst crime in history was the execution of Jesus, the Son of God himself. And as Jesus looked upon the men murdering Him, he pled with the Father to “forgive them.” (reference Luke 23:34)

If we realize that we are not perfect and that God is the kind of God who is willing to and wants to forgive us, what happens?

We seek His forgiveness in prayer.

Have you ever apologized to someone, received their forgiveness, and had a relationship restored? I have. It’s an amazing thing.

You know what’s unexpected? You’re closer after. Grace and forgiveness facilitates intimacy.

God knows that. He wants to be close to us. That’s exactly why He wants us to seek His forgiveness!

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What do you need God to forgive you of today?

What You Think You Need

What You Think You Need

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

In response to that question, Jesus taught his disciples using a model prayer. That prayer has been referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer”. During this prayer, Jesus models a progression of perspectives that could and should change the way we pray today.

In verse 3, after Jesus has instructed His disciples to start with focusing on God as their source and laying down their will, He prays, “Give us our daily bread.”

Isn’t it good to know that God has invited us to ask for what we need?

Later, as Jesus continues to teach, He parallels God’s response to us to that of a father responding to his kids. If my kids ask for food, I typically try to find them something to eat. If my kids ask for a hug, I don’t withhold it. If my kids want to pray with me, I never say, “No.”

What have you refused to pray for because you already said no for God?

Maybe you’re the mom who sees a need in the character of your child, but you’ve resisted asking God to give it because it’s always been a part of your family. Maybe you’re the business owner who needs to his business to grow so that you can hire someone to help you so that you can spend more time with your family, but you’ve felt selfish in praying for further financial success.

Maybe God wants to say, “Yes.”

Isn’t it amazing to know that God invites us to ask for the things we think we need? Because, let’s be honest about this, we don’t always know what we need. Some of us think we need things that are simply wants. Even though we miss it, He still wants to talk to us about it!

So… “do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Here’s one simple caution: Don’t assume that God is obligated to do what you ask simply because you’ve prayed about it.

God can never answer a prayer that is outside of His will, both as it’s revealed in the Scriptures for you and as the Holy Spirit desires to lead you.

He’s not under your authority, you are under His.

Sometimes my kids will ask RIGHT AFTER dinner for MORE FOOD!!! I know that they do not need it, it’s just a want, and if I fulfilled their request it would be unhealthy for them.

In that same way, God will lovingly say “No” when a “Yes” would hurt.

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What’s something you’ve said “No” to God for that you need to start seeking God to do in your life?

Shift Your Focus

Shift Your Focus

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Luke 11:1

In this moment, Jesus taught his disciples to pray by praying a model prayer. That prayer has been referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer” and is commonly recited among Christians worldwide.

During this prayer, Jesus models a progression of perspectives that could and should change the way we pray!

During the first blog in this series I shared how Jesus invites us to focus on Him as we begin to pray. What a powerful invitation! We can choose to look into the heart of the one that can change everything and talk to Him as a friend!

In the very next statement Jesus says, “Your kingdom come (your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven).” (see Luke 11:2 and Matthew 6:10)

The second perspective Jesus directs us to in prayer is a broader perspective.

This broader perspective is not self-centered. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to act like the world revolves around ourselves? When we act this way, we make EVERY THING about us, get offended easily, use people, manipulate relationships, and sabotage our lives.

This perspective is not self-serving. Do you find that in yourself you often want things to go well for YOU? In this way, we think: If it’s not good for me, then it can’t be good. This keeps us from embracing the gifts God gives us in difficult moments, from journeying through brokenness to find His beauty.

This perspective is not self-focused. Isn’t that how we often think of the world? Through a lens that sees ourselves and our interests first. If we allow ourselves to view the world this way, we’ll spend much of our lives only focused on ourselves and that kind of life is futile and empty.

Jesus invites us to shift into a perspective that see’s the interests of God first, to value the movement of hope and restoration that is spreading around the world through the Gospel of Jesus more than our own lives.

That perspective changes everything.

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What needs to change for you to be more concerned about what God is doing rather than what you want?

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