Archive for September, 2012

Old Friends

This subject is one of my favorites!

Two fresh, shining moments involving friends reminded me of the joy and importance of these gifts from God. One lives far away; one lives near. One I see every few years; the other weekly.

I’ve known the first one for almost four decades. He leads a regional ministry out west and he has a way of knowing just when to call. Once, when he became a seminary president, he called to see if I would candidate for a local church so, he incredibly said, I could be his pastor. I still feed on that. He has been my teacher, co-pastor, and somehow—by God’s irrepressible grace—he calls me friend and seeks me out. Before mentor was a buzz word, he was mine. The phrase “more is caught than taught” rushes to my fingers faster than I can type.

Recently, he strategically placed a simple but deep compliment about my writing. His penned arrow of encouragement pierced the amour of a parched heart.

My nearby friend is another amazing gift. When we get together, we easily find our Florida backgrounds and grandkids the fuel for conversation. But from our first days in Dayton in 2000, he has been a vehicle of Spirit-directed honor and sacrifice toward Cheryl and me. It feels like he just zeroed in on us—and hasn’t let up since. No calculator could add the many occasions he has gone way beyond our need or request to help. These “God-things” big and small would be too uncomfortable to tell about this humble man.

Most of all, it’s his presence that staggers me. He comes into our lives at unexpected times and when he exits the aroma of Christ fills us. A recent invitation to a simple, slow boat ride with unencumbered talk nourished this world-weary friend.

Honor, sacrifices, presence, and to be willing agents of encouragement by God’s Spirit are a few ever-sweet presents of friends from God. I join Paul in Philemon 7, “For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.”

I have never been drawn to crowds. My sixth grade teacher (Mrs. Bratz!) once told my mother I only had a few friends because I was careful in picking them. God designed us to need choice pickings to follow Jesus well and to finish strong. These old friends aren’t necessarily chronologically ancient (these two aren’t). They are enduring, trustworthy archers with well-crafted, well-timed arrows of grace from God. I thank God for these two—and the others God brings while I am a “stranger and exile” on earth.

Who has God brought into your life that you could write a note to (or newspaper column!) today?

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Core

‎”Think of no other greatness but that of the soul, no other riches but those of the heart.” -John Quincy Adams.

Knowing Lawnmowers and God

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.”

I called Joy at just the right time last Saturday. Joy is my oldest daughter, wonderfully married to Chad, and has two kids. Everything is right about my daughters except one thing: they live in Georgia.

Joy was excited, and quickly—and a little breathlessly—said, “Chad is going to be proud of me. Chad is off with the kids and I decided to mow the yard.”

For the record, yard work was never one of Joy’s passions. (Truthfully, she didn’t always have a yard for me to show her how to mow.) The yard was on the high side of abundant sun and rain, so the mower stalled a few times. But she did it, “expanding her horizons,” as her mother often urged her when growing up, and surely pleasing her already awe-struck husband. I, of course, made fun of her amateur status as a landscape artist, but it wonderfully illustrated a word study I was preparing for my Sunday School of Discipleship class the next day. Think about 2 Peter 1:2 with me.

It is a dangerous thing to skip over inspired introductions to New Testament letters. They fly by us too quickly, but they are Scripture, too. Peter sets the purpose for his last letter in the midst of his introduction in verse two: the multiplication of grace and peace to his readers in the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.

They needed lots of grace and peace. We do, too. Peter’s first letter spoke to the reality of suffering for disciples of Christ. This second letter—a sober parting missive by the senior Apostle—focuses on false teachers and their corrosive instruction. Jude shares this concern, and warns certain persons “have crept in unaware.”

Peter uses a fascinating word to describe the way grace and peace can be ours in abundance: knowledge. This isn’t more information about God. It is, in context, an ever-growing depth and intimacy with Jesus Christ. I love young love, don’t you? The eyes they make for each other are awkward at times, but they warm our hearts. They think they know so much about each other but we understand in a decade or four they will “know,” sense, and experience so much more. So it is with our love affair with Jesus as we devotedly understand and apply His Word and ways.

I wonder: Am I an amateur about my relationship with Jesus, willfully inexperienced and unknowing, and frequently stalling in the high grasses of following Jesus well and finishing strong?

P.S. Hey Joy, Dad is proud of you, too.



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