Thoughts on Kobe

Like so many other people all across the world, I was stunned when I learned about the horrible crash of the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other lives. Nine total lives were lost in the wreck and the ripples of this tragedy began to make their way literally throughout the whole world.

My own daughter texted a group of us to ask if we had heard. Sunday afternoon, relaxing after church & lunch, I began to search for news. Is it true? Can this be a real story? Hopefully this is just a bad case of misinformation. However, it didn’t take long to find that it was in fact true. Over the next hour, I watched news and details come in and my heart continued to sink.

The days that followed were difficult as close friends of Kobe began to share their reactions and memories of their time with Kobe. So many emotions shared by so many people who had been touched by his life in one way or another. There were many times when my eyes filled with tears as I watched and heard the pain others were experiencing.

The hardest emotional hit for me (a person obviously not friends with Kobe) was hearing his daughter was on the plane with him. I am a dad. I have a daughter. Seeing all the pics and videos of Kobe with his daughter just ripped at my heart. Knowing that his wife and three other daughters would be grieving and hurting so deeply was tough to think about.

So many athletes and people from the NBA, other sports as well, celebrities, public figures and random people who had interacted with Kobe in some way were sharing their thoughts and feelings. There was no shortage of proof that Kobe’s life had greatly impacted the lives of many people. Emotions were raw, heavy and real.

A beautiful part of it all was seeing just how many people bonded over their mutual respect and admiration of Kobe. His basketball prowess was one part, but the way he lived the rest of his life was celebrated to an even greater extent. Being a father and specifically a #girldad seemed to be one of Kobe’s most fulfilling roles.

Again, being a sports fan, a father and a #girldad had me often very emotional as I watched this all unfold. I truly felt for all those who were grieving and hurting so badly and I also felt some enjoyment seeing how much everyone seemingly cared about Kobe and his family.

However, being a person of faith, I couldn’t help wonder just how many people who were experiencing so much emotion over this loss of life actually had a grasp on what life after death means for us.

The truth is, all nine of those souls left this mortal world in an instant and found themselves in eternity. You might not believe in any kind of life after death, and I get that. Every person is free to believe what they will. But, I whole-heartedly believe in the Bible and the truths it contains. I believe that every human being will leave this earthly plane as their body ceases to live and either find an eternal reward or eternal suffering. I believe in a literal Heaven and hell as taught in the Bible.

The truth of the Gospel of Jesus is that he is the only way to heaven. He paid the debt for our sinfulness and secured for us an eternity in heaven with God. Our path, the only path, to an eternity in heaven is to believe in and accept Jesus Christ as Savior.

“there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”  Acts 4:12

No matter how good a person is in his or her life, and no matter how well they are liked or loved, the bottom line concerning life after death is whether or not their faith has been put in Jesus. Salvation through Jesus Christ is based solely on the grace of God, not on anything we can accomplish ourselves.

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”  Romans 5:8

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”  Ephesians 2:8-9

My prayer has been that Kobe, his daughter and the others left this physical world knowing Jesus as their Savior.

My other prayer is that this closeness many shared in grieving this tragedy will be used by God to bring many to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

Times like these are great opportunities for God to work in the hearts of people. When we stare death in the face, we are reminded just how fragile life truly is, we are primed to consider our own mortality. May you consider your own life and what would be your final resting place if you entered eternity in the blink of an eye.

Hello, I’m Grateful

Not really. I’m not a naturally grateful person. I do typically try to be positive and look on the good, lovely, beautiful parts of life, but truthfully I struggle when things do not go the way I would like. My wife will confirm to my being grumpy, griping and stewing over why things have to be “this way”. It’s not attractive. I know that. Of course, knowing is half the battle…right?

Every year. Every single year we stop down for Thanksgiving. It’s always one of my favorite times of the year. We get together with family, enjoy some great food (that we seem to only have at this time of year for some reason) and usually toss the football around. We also watch the Dallas Cowboys game. That doesn’t always end well the last several years, but still we watch.

The most important part of this time of year, though, is the focus on being grateful. No, we do not actually need a special holiday or time of year to realize that we have lots and lots for which we should be thankful. Gratitude should be a constant staple for those who know and love God.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!           – 1 Chronicles 16:34

The forever part of that verse reminds me that I shouldn’t take a break from having a heart of gratitude and staying in the mindset and spirit of thanksgiving. God’s love is strong and everlasting, so my gratitude to him should be as well.

My prayer this year at Thanksgiving is summed up in Psalm 9:1-2

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with joys and reminders of all God has done in your life. Even if you’re dealing with some difficult things at this time, push yourself to find the good and give God thanks!

Family First?

It was a weird car ride back in 1980-something. I was riding with my family in our maroon 1984 Oldsmobile Cutlas, and we were traveling down 287 heading home from a trip. We had just spent time with more of our extended family and it was rather late in the night.

None of us are sure why, but we got on a rhyming binge and couldn’t stop. I think it started with the word “destination” and went crazy from there. We were rhyming, laughing, and crying as Dad tried to keep the car on the road. You know how you laugh so hard your eyes fill with tears and you can barely see straight? That was us and we all still remember it fondly. It was weird. It made no sense at all. However, we will talk about it and laugh again when we get together.

I’m sure most families have their own version of unique stories. I also know it’s not every family that has lots of great, fond memories. Some families have really tough histories and few times of laughter and silliness. That being the case, it seems like somewhere in almost every family (even if it has to include extended family members) there is this sense of comfort and welcome when we’re with family.

In my own life, being with family is right at the top of my list! Whether it’s just at home watching a movie with my wife and kids, cooking out on the grill, or getting together with my parents and sister’s family…I truly L.O.V.E. these special times. We all do Thanksgiving together (rotating homes every year), and I look forward to it all year long!

So, I ran across this video from Francis Chan that made me consider my affection for and heart toward my own family. Watch it real quick and give it some thought.

 

As a pastor, I’ve seen this kind of overzealous sense of family take over some families. Other pastor friends of mine have shared similar occurrences in their churches. The truth is that some families will elevate their family above everything else. There are families who were at one time very involved in the church, serving faithfully, helping out and using their gifts to bless others, begin to pull back and fill their time with all things family. If you have a family that you love, as I have said about my own, it’s probably not difficult to see how this happens. We just love being with our families, watching our kids grow up, even move on to have their own kids.

If you want to, you can use the Bible to build a case for this type of family first approach. See 1 Timothy 5:8 for an often used verse. However, to put your family first, above everything else, you have to ignore a myriad of other responsibilities given to followers of Christ. To put it plainly, those who do elevate their family and give it this place of preeminence in their lives (to the level of not faithfully serving, supporting, engaging the church) have to turn their backs on God’s purpose for His church.

Thom Rainer wrote a great book that provides a clear, concise picture of what it means to be a church member. It’s a really good book, especially if you are part of a church family. Matt Chandler said of this book,

If you love your church, are frustrated with your church, or don’t understand why membership matters, I encourage you to pick this book up and read it.”

I Am A Church Member

We’re not all at the same place in life. Our families look different, are in different stages, include many people, or maybe it’s just yourself right now. None of that matters when we see clearly our responsibility to be part of God’s church…the church for whom Jesus gave himself.

Ephesians 5:25 says, “…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” He didn’t do that and institute the church so that we could take it or leave it, or relegate it to the back burner so that we can enjoy life and family however we want. In fact, Jesus taught that if our family gets in the way of us being faithful to serve Him, we should leave them behind in order to be a faithful disciple to Him. (Luke 14:25-33) He is teaching what it means, what it will cost, to be one of his disciples.

All that being said, family is a huge blessing in lots of peoples’ lives. There is great comfort, companionship, and joy to be had in a strong, supportive family. As followers of Jesus, we must diligently seek to keep family in its proper place as it relates to our responsibilities to God.

Or is it Happy Life, Happy Wife

Here’s another old saying that gets kicked around now and again. Someone mentions it around a newlywed or a group of husbands joke about it (out of the wives’ earshot of course). The underlying thought to the statement is that an unhappy wife casts a dark cloud over the rest of the home, and every single member of the family is affected.

I’ll admit that I like it when my wife is happy. Actually it’s more about when she’s able to rest in real joy. Happiness is such a fleeting emotion that can literally come and go in a nanosecond. It is solely based on how current circumstances are affecting us. Joy, on the other hand, stems from a depth of spirit, and it is something we can rest in no matter what is surrounding us in a given moment. The Bible tells us that the joy of the Lord can be in us, and that it can be full.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.        -John 15:11

If it resides in us, and it can be full, it doesn’t matter what things might be happening outside of us. The indwelling joy can overcome whatever we might be facing at a given time. Isn’t that great news?

So, back to happy (joyful) wives. I read some counseling training a while back that included a note from a husband. He was discussing how he attempts to keep his wife happy in normal everyday life. One of his quotes really jumped out to me.

He said, “Happy wife? Are you kidding me? I’m just trying to keep my wife from being hostile, combative, and argumentative. Happy is a pipe dream, and when it happens I’m 100% stunned!”

WOW! He went on to say that despite having that negative mindset he honestly tries to do the things that he knows she wants done. So, while his motives are definitely skewed, he does spend time trying to be attentive to the things that matter to his wife. I found myself thinking that’s a good thing…I guess. She wants things done a certain way, he does them, and everyone’s happy.

However, after spending some time mulling it over, I decided that it’s really not a good thing at all. Our motives matter! The reason we do things is really the most important part. Our actions can often be a facade we use to show others what we want them to see. On top of that, this husband’s actions are actually way more about his desires than his wife’s. It’s ultimately a practice in selfishness. He does particular things just to keep his wife off his case. It’s really all about him.

If you’re thinking, “What’s the problem? Everybody seems to get what they want”, I’ll tell you. This kind of bartering system whereby I do some things and you do some things in order to build some semblance of harmony in the home is a sham. It never works. Both he and she have no joy. What will inevitably occur in this husband’s (and almost certainly his wife’s) heart is a building up of disdain. He will continue to try to do those things to attain his level of peacefulness, but he will become angry, bitter and then resentful. Instead of building a lasting peace and joy in the home and marriage, he will come to resent his wife and the fact that he has to be married to her.

Now, not every marriage in that state ends. Some can sustain that level of cohabitation without many flare ups or confrontations. They continue to do their own things, staying out of each other’s way, and doing enough to stay cordial. They might even experience a passing moment of intimacy together, and no one is the wiser to the actual state of the marriage. Tragically, many marriages end up like this.

What’s missing? Why do so many marriages struggle and others end? The most important ingredient is missing. That is love. We’re talking about the kind of love that brings you joy to serve your spouse. It’s the opposite of this husband’s motive. Instead of just doing stuff to keep peace, and keep his wife quiet, the husband who truly wants to be a source of God’s joy for his wife will faithfully, cheerfully, generously serve her.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her… 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.        -Ephesians 5:25, 28

Learning how your spouse works, what he or she likes, and what he or she doesn’t like is living in understanding and wisdom (1 Peter 3:7). Serving her because you have committed to love her all the days of your life is what it is all about. Do that in a gracious and generous way and see where happiness shows up over and over in your marriage. The joy that comes from the Lord, lived out in your marriage, will manifest itself in repeated moments of happiness.

Tebow Time & His Airness

It’s super late, actually just really early…1:15am to be exact. Yesterday, during his first professional baseball game, when he saw his first pitch, Tim Tebow promptly deposited it deep over the center field fence. Yes, he hit the very first pitch he saw out of the ballpark. Now, this fact has nothing to do with what Tim’s baseball career might or might not be. If you know anything about baseball, you know it is a difficult game, and it can take years and lots of hard work for a minor league player to make it to the big leagues. Then, it takes even more hard work to stay there.

So, again, I am not saying this proves that Tim Tebow is the next baseball phenom. However, that one swing, and all the hoopla around it did get me thinking. Truth is, I’ve been perturbed ever since Tim announced that he was going to tryout for major league scouts. What bothered me was the way so many people (experts and amateur fans) quickly and summarily dismissed Tim’s chances.

It reminded me of the Sports Illustrated cover that convinced me to never pick up another issue. bag-it-michael-si

In 1994, the magazine decided to sell a few more thousand copies by slamming  Michael Jordan for his attempt to play professional baseball. He cut off all communication with Sports Illustrated, even to this day.

Both of these men have something in common- they are winners. In their professional lives, whatever they’ve attempted, it seems something inside them wills them to win. Michael Jordan is considered the best basketball player of all time. Tim Tebow was one of the best college football players ever. He was the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, and he lead the University of Florida to 2 national championships in three years. Even in his very short NFL career, Tim had a knack for getting his team the win.

tim-collage-for-blog

However, critics can’t seem to say enough bad things. Michael didn’t make it to the major leagues, and maybe Tim won’t either. But, it seems to me that every man and woman should be given the opportunity to try something without being lambasted and denounced as a failure before they even get started.

Honestly, some people are probably dissuaded from even attempting something new just because of the very real chance they’ll be trashed by others. This cynical approach to life, and seeming joy we take in bashing those who dare to stray from what we think they should do is a sad trend in our society. It makes me wonder just what would magazines, blogs, and sports talk shows be filled with, if negativity and cynicism didn’t exist.

So, let me give you this quick bit of encouragement…DO IT NOW! Whatever it is that you’ve been wanting to try, dying to see if you can accomplish, hoping you could find the courage to try…just get up off your couch and get started.

As a believer and follower of God, I’m inspired and motivated by this verse in the Bible,

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.     -2 Corinthians 9:8

Whether you are coming from a foundation of faith in God or not, you will need inspiration. You will face cynicism, and you need to be able to shake loose the doubters and haters. Then, pick yourself up and get started. I am reminded of another story that challenges and inspires me ever year on May 21st. That day in 1982, a 21-year-old Cal Ripken, Jr. was inserted into the starting lineup by Baltimore manager Earl Weaver, where he would remain for the next 2,631 games. He played every single baseball game for the Orioles for more than 16 years.

The only way a story like that happens is by someone getting started. So, when the voices are telling you that you’re not good enough, and they say you can’t do it, that you’ll fail if you try, that’s when you will be faced with a decision- go forward or give up. You’re likely to face that kind of decision many times in your life, but it can be an especially difficult one when you’re changing course, or trying something new.

Just tell those cynics…well…on second thought, don’t tell them anything. Instead, ignore them, turn around, and walk away. Stay away from people like that. Seriously. The world has way more than enough, you don’t need that kind of influence in your life. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, care about you, and root for your success. They also have to be ready and willing to speak truth into your life. That’s for your protection. But most importantly they must have your back.

Make the decision. Turn away from, ignore, and remove the cynicism from your life. Then, get started. DO IT NOW!

 

Holding On Loosely

The classic rock band 38 Special sang, “hold on loosely, but don’t let go.” The song was released in 1980, when I was a young nine year old boy. I know I heard it from time to time on my parents’ radio, but it’s a certainty that I gave it little to no thought. It was just another cool sounding song.

The last three and a half decades have afforded me the blessings of aging and acquiring life experiences that have given me a certain perspective on the idea of holding on loosely…even though it’s very difficult at times.

When you have something you do not want to lose, holding on to it with anything less than a death grip seems totally illogical. Right? In those situations, you normally grab and hold with everything you have. The blood rushes away from your fingertips and they turn white as a sheet. So, the idea of holding on loosely boggles the mind. If I’m not serious about holding on to it, I’d just as soon not hold on.

The last couple of years (especially recently with my daughter) I have learned firsthand that parenting requires this kind of holding- loosely. I joked with my wife that if I had known we were going to have to let go of our children and let them live their own lives, I would have never gotten into this whole parenting thing. Truly, it’s been downright tough on this dad’s heart.

In today’s picture-happy world, there seems to be no escape from the reminders of just how special the early days were with my kiddos. It’s hard to go more than a day or two without seeing something that brings a warm smile to my heart. And, as a very good friend of mine pointed out to me the other day, I am quite sentimental. Actually, he told me he knew I would more than likely struggle with this stage of parenting. I’m still not sure why he never warned me.

Here’s what God’s word has reminded me of during this particular season of life.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”, and the Byrds kind of echoed it with their song, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” in 1965.

Psalm 103:15-16 says, “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.”

My Kiddos Jan 16 blog

Things change. That is life. Both of my amazing children, who need their parents less and less each day, will one day go on to live their own lives. Instead of my wife and I oohing and awing over all their cute little antics, we will strive to embrace their maturing and celebrate their accomplishments. The job has changed on a daily basis, but I must still joyfully enjoy, and be thankful for each and every different season of life.

No is not a bad word

 

Here’s a quick thought about the state of parenting in America today.

Maybe it was a specific time and place, or a particular worldwide event that sparked the change, but something has clearly shifted in the way parents raise and train their children. At times it almost seems that the keys to the kingdom have been flat handed over. Mom and Dad just hope and pray that their little heathen spawn do not take over totally and destroy everything.

Overstated? Maybe. But similar scenes play themselves out over and over in our society today. A scene in which mom or dad want the child to do something, but can not acquire even a modicum of compliance. The kid glares at the parent with a look of, “Did you just tell me to do something” or “You talkin to me?” Then the child continues to do exactly the opposite, and there are zero consequences…unless you count the pain and suffering the rest of us have to endure as consequences. It’s nearly impossible to make even a short trip to a store without witnessing parents at the end of their ropes, and kids screaming and yelling as they’re carried or dragged down the aisles.

While each child is unique, as well as every parent, there does appear to be a common thread that connects these awkward and chaotic parent-child battle scenes. The word “NO” has become a bad word for parents. Obedience and compliance to the wishes of the parents (who are supposed to be the ones with the wisdom) is nowhere to be seen. In fact, there are very few commands given at all in the new parent-child relationship. It’s as if parenting has become a daily exercise in bargaining. Parents ask questions of their little darlings, like asking permission to have them do or stop doing something, and then just hope the child will agree.

Ludicrous is the word that best describes this parenting practice for me. Even at times when the child’s safety is at stake, this same practice is prevalent. Seriously? A child stands up in his high chair at the restaurant, his head a good 4-5 feet above the concrete floor, and there is still this idea of, “Please sit down, Sweetie.” “Let’s not stand up, Bubba.” Parents need a grasp of what it means to parent with a loving, firm hand of leadership. Protecting your young children is at stake. Children need to have a very clear sense of who is in control, who is their authority, and who is there to help and protect them.

When they are doing something that they shouldn’t, you need to tell them, “No”, and they need to know without any doubt that you mean it. The same goes for when you tell them to stop or start doing something. Young children need to be taught how to obey right away. They’re young lives are shaped and molded by how they follow leadership from their parents. They are learning that life is not all about them. In fact, it’s mostly not about them, and they need to know that.

As they age, and learn to do things on their own, the percentage of their lives that belong to them grows. However, in years 0-4 or so, their young lives have little of that ownership. They live lives of “do this/don’t do that”, and these formidable years are crucial to them being able to understand life.

So, parents, teach your children the word “no”. Teach them that it is a good thing for them. Help them know that part of living life is understanding that we will have to hear “no” from time to time. Show them that the word “no” can be used with both kindness and firmness…that it is an important part of life. The younger they get a handle on this truth, the easier it will be for them as they grow and mature. And, the easier life will be for you during the early years of childhood.

One other quick note: mean what you say and say only what you mean. Take this principle from the Bible in Matthew 5:37. Let your “no” mean “no”, and your “yes” mean “yes”. Be an example of consistency and integrity as you lead your children. If you continually allow them to disobey as you repeat, “Stop that!” and “I told you…”, you are fostering in them a very real sense of confusion. Young children will ever push and search for the real boundaries that make them feel safe.

These words are shared in hopes of helping you in your journey of parenting. My hope is that you enjoy your children as you raise and train them to be God-honoring adults one day.

My Mom is Perfect…for me

 

Mom & Dad dressed upIt pains me to have to admit, although I think many of us might have experienced the exact same emotions and thoughts, but I wasn’t the easiest boy to raise. To say that I came by my childhood nickname honestly would be a gross understatement. My grandfather gave me the clever moniker of “iron head”, and somewhere inside my 3 or 4 year old brain, I think I began to do everything within my power to live up to it, and wear it like a badge of honor. Truth be told, I might have started that process straight out of the womb. As to whether or not I ever stopped, you’ll have to ask my mother.

So, Mom, Dad, & Methe childbirth pains that accompanied my arrival were most likely outdone by the pain that came from trying to raise a little iron head. For that, I am sorry, and I have told my sweet mother that on numerous occasions in my adult years. While some might think this a bit tongue-in-cheeky, it isn’t at all. I really am sorry, and occasionally l feel some real pain and sadness that comes from the realization that I simply did not grasp the beauty of my mother while I was a child.

That’s where I think many of us might find some common ground. That area of realization that we truly didn’t have the foggiest of ideas what exactly it took for our mothers to mother us. If you were like me, you ran through your childhood thinking life was mostly (if not all) about you. You expected your mom to be there for you no matter how she felt, or no matter what was going on in her own life. Her life, in essence, was to be what you needed, when you needed it, and for however long you needed. Doesn’t that seem like such a thankless, unglamorous, tedious job? Yet, she did it day in and day out…all because my mom loves me. I know I will never be able to repay all that my mother did for me, but I hope to love and honor her well the rest of my days. She is definitely worth it, and believe me, she earned it. Not only was I a mess, but my little sister came along when I was three and added to the fun.

Doing life with my own lovely wife, and being right by her side through all the details of kyleeandmichael2004raisiKym2ng our own children has helped me gain a greater understanding and deep appreciation of motherhood. Honestly, I do not know how moms do it! It is totally beyond me! God’s plan for raising children clearly is genius. The sweet bond that is clear to see between mom and baby could only happen because God put something special in the heart of mothers. Funny thing is, that bond only grows stronger and stronger over time. Ask a loving mother about her kids today, no matter the age of her children, she will brighten up and talk about her kiddos like they are the greatest. There will be a sparkle in her eye and a smile on her face as she discusses how her awesome her children are.

Early 70's Harper Family

It doesn’t escape me that some families have much different stories. Not everyone has a great relationship with their mom, and tons of fond childhood memories. If we’re all being honest, I can dig back and remember some of the things that weren’t the greatest as I was testing my mom’s patience and sanity. With that being the reality, let me leave you with some encouragement.

Learn from the past, live in the present, and look to the future. Choose to dwell on the good things you can remember, and do everything you can to make a better future. My relationship with my mother is better today than ever. God has a way of healing the hurts of the past, and giving all necessary grace for the now. No matter the pains of your past, and no matter how close you are to that past, God can do a work in your heart. Forgive the past, rest in the goodness of God, and treat your mom the way you hope your children will treat you as you age. The truth is, God gave you the mother you had for a purpose. Your mom was the perfect mom for you, for what he wanted you to learn. Let God continue to do the work in you that he began through your mom.

As children, we have one simple command that God puts on our lives, regarding our parents.

“Honor your father and mother”

This command is recorded in four different books of the Bible. God’s plan for children is to honor mom for as long as you have breath. There is no time in your life that you are allowed to stop honoring your mom. She is to be loved, cherished, treasured, and honored all the days of your life.

Remember this: Motherhood is a tough gig. It takes a fortitude that I’m quite sure I do not possess. Take time out to let your mom know how special she is in your life. Take the time to show her, the time to love her well. If your mom has gone on before you, live in the way she modeled for you. Honor her with your life.

For my mom: put me on the schedule. Lunch is on me whenever you want.

Iron Like A Man

As you read, I hope you think about a friend or two with whom you will share this. Not for more readers, but because you have some great friends in your life. Real, close friends whom you consider more like family.

Think about your friends for a moment…all the people outside your family that tend to be included in the different outings and events in your life. Are they all “friends”, or are some just people you hang out with? Chances are, they aren’t all friends. More likely, they serve as friends of the moment. They fill these pieces of time when you enjoy some commonality in life and simply hang out together. But, if friendships truly are an important part of our lives as followers of Christ, we should understand what it means to be a real friend and make time to evaluate our friendships.

There are examples of friends, good and bad, throughout the Bible, and God has plenty to say about friendships. In John 15:15, Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends.” We read about Jesus weeping in John 11:35, and it was his compassion towards his friends during their time of grief that triggered his tears. He hurt because his friends hurt. Seems that friends and friendships were important to Jesus as he walked the earth.

So, what is the criteria for evaluating friendships? Here are some keys we should strive to have in our friendships. Think of someone you consider to be a “close” friend, and ask these questions.

  1. What do you generally talk about when together? Do either of you dominate the time?
  2. Is there mutual care and concern for the other’s life and happenings?
  3. When one has a need, does the other do everything possible to be there and help out?
  4. After spending time together, are you encouraged and strengthened? Joyful?
  5. Can you say that you are a better follower of Christ because of this friend? And, would they say the same about you?

Proverbs 17:17 says a friend loves at all times, and that is exactly what we typically like about our friends. But a little further into Proverbs is a verse that speaks to the real purpose of close friends.

Look at this great verse in Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

The real test of a close friend is that he or she makes you better. God’s desire for our friendships is that we continually encourage, and push one another to grow and mature in Christlikeness. It is much more than simply enjoying one another’s company.

If you have never seen a blade sharpened, you might miss the imagery of this verse. However, the principle matters more than the imagery. The principle is that interaction between good friends, as they support, encourage, correct, and help each other will hone each friend’s skills in handling the challenges of life. Particularly, the challenges of living a life committed to Christ. One thing is for certain when it comes to sharpening blades. The sharpening agent must get very close to the blade. It has to be right against it and be moved back and forth with intense pressure to do the hard work of sharpening.

Closeness is the key, and the simple truth is that closeness in friendships does not develop by chatting about sports, shopping, movies, weather, or other people. Real friends who work at making each other better, spend time in close proximity and continually grow closer as they work through the complexities of life.

Evaluate your friendships with these questions and the principles of God’s Word, then thank God for your friends. If some friendships are not the kind you know God wants you to have, pray for that friend and ask God to change the friendship into one that honors Him. Remember- you need close friendships built on biblical principles just as much as the next person, and God wants to work in and through those friendships.