The More You Know…

(Psalm 101:5)  Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret, I will put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate.

My Granny Frances always gave me really great advice, which always seemed to begin with, “Honey…”  Most of her advice I remember, verbatim, and it continues to be useful in every stage of my life.  I remember once she said to me, “Honey, if that gal will talk about someone to you, she’s done talked about you to someone else.  Drop her like a hot biscuit.”  That’s good wisdom.  Granny was right.  Sometimes you do have to let go of friendships that are shallow because they can damage your witness to others.  If someone is a known gossip and backbiter, is that something you want to be associated with in your circle of influence?

There comes a time when social graces have to be put aside and you have to put a muzzle on all of that ugly barking.  When someone begins badmouthing another in your presence, or filling your ear with their garbage talk, did you know you can nicely ask them to shut up?  Just tell them to quit it and explain yourself.  It’s not rude, it’s the right thing to do.  In 2 Timothy 3: 1-5, it is written, “Understand that the last days will be dangerous times. People will be selfish and love money. They will be the kind of people who brag and who are proud. They will slander others, and they will be disobedient to their parents. They will be ungrateful, unholy, unloving, contrary, and critical. They will be without self-control and brutal, and they won’t love what is good. They will be people who are disloyal, reckless, and conceited. They will love pleasure instead of loving God. They will look like they are religious but deny God’s power. Avoid people like this.”

So there it is.  My mother has always told me, “Some people…well, you just gotta love ‘em from a distance.”  This is something that I have learned is invaluable.  A social life is nice to have, but not at the expense of my reputation or integrity.  You can call it what you will, but I’m guarded and with good reason.  I just think it is important to be careful.  I have learned the hard way that not everyone is to be trusted with something so valuable as an intimate friendship.  Do know, this should never be a hindrance when it comes to loving others the way that Christ did.  Think about that for a minute though, wasn’t Jesus careful himself of who he trusted?  It all kind of goes back to the old adage, “Choose your friends wisely.”  You can love everyone, but not everyone has to be your best friend. 

On the other side of the coin, maybe you are the one who gets caught up in the gossip.  The tongue is a hard thing to control, and for whatever reason some people really struggle with this more than anything else.  Hey, I’m not here to write you off…we all have our own little marbles we slip on from time to time.  It could even be that you don’t truly realize what you’re doing.  Well here are some signs that maybe this is an area of growth for you.

  1. You’ve noticed that some friends may have stopped calling and/or texting as often.
  2. People make excuses to avoid spending time with you, or often cancel plans.
  3. You complain a LOT.
  4. You don’t really know what’s going on in the lives of your friends.
  5. You’re jealous and give back-handed compliments.  (“Your haircut makes you look slim.”)

Those are just a few signs that maybe you’re a little toxic and that you’re probably pushing others away with negativity and by stirring up discord amongst others.  You know what though?  That’s not in God’s plan for your life.  He wants us all to have good, lasting friendships that together are His light in the darkness.  We can’t do that when we are just little lights that flicker on and off sporadically.  We have to guard that flame and keep it burning high and bright! 

Finally, let me just say that we are all guilty of biting the occasional back, so to speak.  It happens.  That’s why Christians need one another though, to lovingly say to our brother or sister, “Hey, that’s not okay.”  When we can gently correct wrongdoing and continue on in love, that’s true, godly friendship. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, give me eyes to see clearly and ears to hear the truth.  Help me to lovingly avoid and silence gossip, and give me the boldness to take a stand for what is right.  And when I am wrong, when I use my tongue to hurt or to bring dissension, send godly friends my way to shut me up.  Help me to be better at loving others in all ways…the best way…Your way.  Amen.

Two Are Better Than One

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” — Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

When I was growing up, I attended 7 different schools during my 12 year public education. In addition to the usual transitions from Elementary to Middle School and finally High School, I also had to change schools because my family moved several times. I remember telling my parents that I was glad that I had been to so many different schools because it forced me to learn how to navigate new social environments and make friends everywhere I went. Although my high school, like most, had different cliques, I did not limit myself to just one main group of friends. I could sit down at any table in the lunch room and be with friends.

One thing I have found to be true as I grow older is that it becomes harder and harder for me to make and keep friends. It’s not that I’m in any way less sociable, but my life no longer revolves around spending time with my friends. I have other obligations and responsibilities that come first, and so do my buddies. I’m sure many of you can relate to the experience of trying to plan some time with a friend, only to find that neither of you are available at the same times. It can be very frustrating! I think this is part of the reason that over time our social circle has a tendency to narrow to just family and a few close friends.

friends

One of the things that I absolutely love about the church, and SpiritLife in particular, is that it has extended my group of family and friends. I’m no longer limited to just one sibling (sorry, Sis!). Every week, I am living life with a bunch of brothers and sisters in Christ…worshipping, praying, teaching, learning, laughing & loving each other. These are people who are an important part of my life now that I may never have even met if it were not for this church!

Does this mean the church is nothing but a glorified religious social club? No, of course not! But it does make it much easier to develop relationships with others, especially the important relationships that make life much better and more fulfilling:

  • Spiritual Fathers & Mothers — It is so important to have someone in your life that can be there to love and support you unconditionally, to share their wisdom and experience, and to nudge you in the right direction when you get off track.
  • Companions & Prayer Warriors — We all need someone who will come alongside us and live in the trenches with us. These are the people that you can rely on to help, support, and cover you in prayer when life gets tough (and when isn’t it tough?!). They share in both your celebrations and your sorrows.
  • Spiritual Sons & Daughters — Scripture teaches us that it is imperative for us to instruct and invest in the generations that are coming behind us. It falls to us to show them the way of righteousness. When you sow into the life a young person, you will rejoice in the harvest for years to come!

In our increasingly private, segmented culture, it can be easy to keep all of our relationships superficial. We stick to talking about sports, weather, kids, and cars. But I encourage you to engage on a deeper level. Yes, you will have to open yourself up. That can be uncomfortable, but the potential rewards are worth the risk. When you have a posse with you, life isn’t nearly so scary or overwhelming!

Prayer: Father, thank you for inviting us into your family and for the righteous men and women who have poured into our lives. Help us to love each other, just as you have loved us. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

I Thought You Were My Friend!

20 My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant. 21 His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. 22 Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Likely, each of us has experienced the pain of a relationship break up. It happens in a variety of ways. Sometimes, we just gradually grow apart. For instance, I have fond memories of high school and college friends that I am no longer close with because of geographic separation. The same is true with colleagues I once worked with. Friendships grew out of opportunities to collaborate on common goals and projects. But, once the season of teamwork was complete, new assignments made it difficult to remain close.

As a child, I remember taking family vacations to Alabama to visit grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. We cousins always made the most of our opportunities to share new ways to play games, laugh at new jokes together, and terrorize the neighborhood. But, time moved on and we became adults with our own families and responsibilities to attend to.

Psalm 55 tells a different story. The Psalmist reflects upon a relationship gone sour; a friend had become an enemy. This was not a gradual growing apart. This was a case of hurt feelings and purposeful retaliation coming from someone who had been an equal, a companion, and familiar friend.

David writes, “For it is not an enemy who taunts me— then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. 13 But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. 14 We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng.”

While in seminary, I took a class on conflict resolution. I learned that the deepest wounds are often inflicted by the individuals closest to us.

As a pastor, I’ve talked with many people who spent their childhood being verbally, physically, and sexually assaulted by parents. This evil brand of abuse can stay with a person for many years, exacting waves of depression that seem impossible to overcome.

Spouses typically fall into this category. I truly believe that one of the reasons God hates divorce as much as He does is because of the deep scars it leaves behind. It can be especially devastating when someone you have shared the intimate details of your life with decides to leave. Some never recover from these wounds.

Is there hope? I believe there is! It is found in the one relationship that can heal the hurts of life. David knew that! He counsels us to, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Did you catch that? He will sustain you! That’s good news.

I want you to be encouraged today. I realize that you may be experiencing the pain that comes from a broken relationship. But, remember, God loves you! He won’t leave you comfortless. He’ll always be beside you. As the old song says…

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
And what a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged
Take it to the Lord in prayer

Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer

PRAYER: Father, thank you for being my friend. Earthly relationships can be unfriendly, unkind, and fleeting. Help me to never be like that. I would rather be like You; faithful, kind, loving, and trustworthy. I’m committed to that! Amen.

This Will Hurt Me Worse Than It Hurts You!

(Luke 17:3-4 HCSB) 3 Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” 

When I was young, one of the methods of discipline that my parents used was spanking. Mom and dad were good spankers. They would sit me down and explain why I was getting a spanking, they spanked me on my backside, they hugged me while I cried while explaining how much they loved me, and then assured me that the discipline was for my good. Often they would say, “Son, this will hurt us more than it will hurt you.” Of course, being young and immature, I never really believed that! In my limited understanding, I only saw the physical pain I was experiencing. As an adult who has raised two children of my own, I now understand the emotional pain that is felt by the parent. It was painful for all, but beneficial to my development. I am who I am today partly because my parents were willing to hold me accountable for my actions and attitudes.

Jesus spoke very directly to the disciples in Luke 17. His words were strong, clear, and non-negotiable. “Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” I wonder when is the last time you rebuked another Christian? Oh, I know what scripture says about being judgmental… But, Jesus is not talking about judgmental attitudes here. He is actually calling us to accountability. It is my responsibility as a Christian to rebuke another Christian if they commit sin. In fact, according to Jesus I should be on my guard; watching out for their soul and the possibility that I might be drawn into the sin as well.

We are not very good at this! In fact, we don’t want to rebuke or be rebuked. We’d rather just turn our eyes away and mind our own business. But you know what? If my words of rebuke can help you make better and different decisions which will have a positive impact on your life then I should be willing to engage in the dialogue. For this to be done properly, we should consider the following guidelines.

  • A rebuke MUST be motivated by love.
  • A rebuke is better received when delivered with soft and appropriate words.
  • A rebuke should offer assistance, solutions, and prayerful support.
  • A rebuke MUST be followed by forgiveness.

Do you know someone who has lost their way? Maybe a friend has backed off from their relationship with Christ. They identify as a follower of Christ, but there is very little evidence to support their claim. Have you considered the possibility that the Lord has placed you in their life to help them in their SpiritLife journey?

I realize this is not easy. It probably will be more uncomfortable and painful for you than it will be for the other individual. But, if your loving involvement can be a mitigating factor in leading them to victory–shouldn’t you be willing to take that chance?

PRAYER: Lord, as difficult as this task can be, please give me the courage to speak appropriately, forgive freely, and support my Christian brothers and sisters on their journey of faith. Amen.

Refreshed By Kindness

(Philemon 1 :4-7 NLT) I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.


What a beautiful expression of confidence that Paul gives when speaking of his friend Philemon. The relationship must have been close as evidenced by the personal observations that are mentioned in his letter. He praised him for the consistency of his faith and his love for God’s people. He also anticipates that Philemon will share with great generosity as he continues to understand and experience the best blessings in Christ. He further speaks of the refreshing joy and comfort he had personally received from Philemon as he acted in kindness to those around him.

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Godly friendships are such a blessing. I’m sure you can think of someone whose friendship has refreshed you. I want to encourage you to acknowledge that person today. Write them a note, send them a text, give them a gift. Let them know how special they are.

Do not save your loving speeches for your friends till they are dead; Do not write them on their tombstones, Speak them rather now instead. – Anna Cummins


PRAYER: Father, thank you for the many loving friendships that have refreshed my soul. May Your best blessings be theirs today. Give me the words to adequately express how special they are to me. Amen.

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