Strong Start: Friendships, Family, and the Direction of Your Life

friendship-1483251-640x455On Sunday we opened up the book of Proverbs to learn about friendships. Friendships are these things that are all around us, that I think we end up taking for granted so often. But this is something that not only do we need to change, that Solomon would argue we must change to have a full life.

So we jumped in looking at various different sayings of Solomon pulling out three key points:

  • Friendship can matter more than family
  • Friendship will determine the quality and direction of your life
  • Friendship based on deep trust is all that matters

So first we looked at how friendship can matter more than family. This is something pretty shocking to say; not only in our day but in Solomon’s day and age. Because in his day and age you had no health insurance, crop insurance, or retirement. Your insurance or safety net was your family. Family was obligated to help in a time of crisis.

And this is actually why Solomon says that friendship can matter even more than family. He writes, “there are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother”. (Proverbs 18:24). Friends can stick closer than family.

And Solomon’s point is that any relationship built on chosen love, rather than obligation will be stronger and better. And this is just true. He’s not saying family doesn’t matter, but that friendship can run deeper than just family relations. Any relationship (family based or not) built on love, and choice will always beat any relationship based on obligation. And this is why we need to invest in our friendships and why they matter because they are formed by love and not by obligation.

Secondly, we learned that friendships determine the quality and direction of our lives. Solomon writes this, “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm” and this is true. That the people we are close to rub off on us for good or for bad. This is another reason that we need to choose our friends carefully, and invest in them wisely. We choose our friends, but once our friends have been chosen they will choose our destiny. This is why we need to continue to see and raise the importance of the value of our friendships.

And also, but not least, Solomon reminded us that if our friendships are not based on deep trust that they aren’t really friendships. That if someone lies to us and laughs it off, they are worse than a destructive killer (Proverbs 26:18-19). That a true friend will not let us walk into difficulty but will warn us (Proverbs 27:5-6). That true friends provide heartfelt care and counsel, not just what we want to hear.

So on Sunday from these three general themes: friendships matter more than family, friendship determines the quality and direction of our lives and true friends are built on trust; we came to our main theme. Our  main idea was simple but needed: We need to choose and invest in good friendships.

We need to choose and invest in good friendships.

If we want to have a strong start we will not regret investing in good friendships, and key relationships. We will never regret strengthening our relationships, and distancing away from difficult ones.

So we gave a challenge to choose and invest in good relationships. To seek out good ones and to cultivate them. No relationship just “starts” and becomes amazing without work and effort. Friendships require cultivation to be forged. So we challenged one another to actually put the effort in. To put the time into the good relationships built on trust, and limit the ones that cause harm. To seek out good friends and invest in them with our lives.

One thing is sure if we want to have a great 2016, a strong start, it won’t happen with poor, nonexistent, or shallow relationships. A great year starts with great friendships, so start investing in them today.

The Chinese have a proverb, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

The best time to invest in friendships was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. 

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaWe need to choose and invest in good friendships

Teaching Points:

  • Three challenges: Serve weekly, connect with God daily, journey with 2 others
  • “Is it wise” is always a better question than “is it wrong”
  • Friendships are more important than family
  • Relationships built on love beat relationships built on obligation every time
  • Friendships determine the quality and direction of our lives
  • We choose our friends, but once our friends have been chosen they will choose our destiny
  • True friends are honest and trustworthy friends
  • We need to choose good friends
  • We need to invest in good friends
  • Friendships are not “found” but forged and cultivated
  • Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself. C.S. Lewis
  • Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival. C.S. Lewis
  • The best time to invest in friendships was 20 years ago. The second best time is now. Chinese Proverb

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Had you thought about friendship being more important than family before? What do you think of that? How have you seen it be true that friendships determine the quality and direction of our lives? Who are your closest friends? Are they trustworthy and honest? Who should you be investing in? And how can you be better investing in them?

Discussion Questions / Responses for Young Families

Talk to your kids about the importance of friendship and how it determines our quality of life. Ask them who their best friends are? And ask them are they wise friends? Do they make good choices? Help them to think through making the best friends.

Challenge for the Week: Choose to invest in friendships this year.

Why Friends Matter More than Family

friendship-1309415-639x852On Sunday we are looking at a really important topic but one that’s sidelined in our world: friendship.

I know right away the word sounds a little…well my little pony with rainbows and stuff. It sounds kind of weak, or something you’d hear on a children’s show talking about the “power of friendship”.

And while I have those initial reactions and resonances I also know that they are untrue. There is power in friendship. In fact, it’s probably the one thing in our culture that we need to regain more than anything else. We have so many connections, but not that many deep friendships. We know lots of people, and know how to network, but not how to cultivate decade long journeying with others. And this is something I want to address on Sunday.

  • Why are relationships and friendships so important?
  • What makes them unique?
  • How do we invest in them?
  • And why do we need them?

And to do that we are going to look at Solomon who says some pretty shocking things about friendships. That friendship will determine the quality of your life and the direction, more than finances, or even your family. That friendships are more important than family and are closer than family. That having good friendships is the key to a good life.

So that’s where we are going on Sunday.  I hope you can join us, to learn about the “power of friendship” even though I know that sounds lame, but it is anything but that.

3 (Marks): Journeying with Others: The Sacredness of Relationships

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We began on Sunday by noticing something that is so obvious but that we forget: that our culture has a way of taking the depth out of our relationships. 

What I mean by this is in our lives it seems like we have many more relationships at a loss of deep ones. We have lots of friends on Twitter, Facebook, or in our office but don’t have a lot of deep ones.

Jen Pollock Michel writes, “Our connections have grown broader, but shallower”. And I think that’s true. We know so many of the shallow details of one another’s lives, but don’t truly know one another.

But relationships are not just peripheral to our lives, they are absolutely central. They are where we experience not only life, but also God.

Andrew Root writes,

“Our relationships are the very field, the very place where God is encountered”

So relationships matter. That’s what we explored and we began with the only place I know to begin – the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

God became human in the person of Jesus Christ. The implications of this are huge. But right off the bat we should notice one thing if God became a person – persons matter. If the person of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, was shaped and formed by relationships, relationships matter deeply!

Our culture teaches us that relationships are to be used. To be used for our own needs, self-interest, entertainment or whatever. What the Bible teaches is that relationships are sacred and to be shared, and are places for us to give.

Pauls says in Philippians 2 that in our relationships we are to have the same attitude as Jesus, who emptied himself for others. This is to how we live as well. We are called to live with the same self-emptying, self-giving love in relationships.

Our world teaches us relationships are to be used; Jesus teaches us they are places of sacred connection meant to be invested in.

So on Sunday we ended with this main point: Relationships are sacred and meant to be shared. So often we use them, are entertained by them, or are forgetful of them. The Christian’s calling is to give, invest, and cultivate them.

So we gave the challenge to actually invest in relationships. To push past the shallow relationships of culture into real life-giving, God-finding, ones. The challenge for this week wasn’t for a week, or a day, or a month. But for a year. I challenged everyone to journey with at least two other people closely for a year. To choose to invest in relationships. To choose to find God in relationships. To choose to see the sacred and give like Jesus in relationships. Because what I know is this, that without relationships life dries up. But with deep relationships life bursts, spills over, and changes everything.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Relationships are sacred and need to be shared

Teaching Points:

  • 3 Marks of Christians: Love God, Love Others, Love the World
  • Our connections have grown broader, but shallower. Jen Pollock Michel
  • Our deep desire is to be known and to be loved.
  • Developing deep friendships isn’t helpful in following Jesus, it’s necessary if you want to follow Jesus.
  • “Our relationships are the very field, the very place where God is encountered” Andrew Root
  • Relationships aren’t a part of life, Relationships are life
  • Relationships aren’t tangential to our existence, we only exist because of relationships
  • Jesus is self-giving, self-emptying, self-sharing love and relationship
  • Many people now don’t have friends for decades, they have them while it,s convenient.
  • Relationships are places where lives are changed
  • Relationships are not shared interests, but shared connections.
  • “Everything changes because you share in her life and she shares in yours; you dwell with her and she with you. It is sheer grace” – Andrew Root

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What relationships have impacted you most? Which relationships do you have now that are closest? Which relationships do you need to invest in more? How have you seen God move in and through the relationships around you? Who can you journey with for the year?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Today, rather than talking about relationships with your kids, invest in them. Ask them what they’d like to do, make it something special and build some experiences and memories. Focus on giving in the time, and be like Jesus emptying yourself for your kids.

Challenge for the Week: To pray about 2 people to journey with for the year.

Relationships are a Gift

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Sunday is a bit of a special day for me. We will be dedicating our beautiful little girl on her 1st Birthday. And one of the great benefits of being a pastor is that when your child is dedicated you also get to preach.

So what I’ve done with our other kids, is to preach a sermon geared to them.

For my special little girl, I’m going to be talking about relationships.

Because here is the thing – relationships are sacred and special things. But they are also so prevalent and so infected by self-interest that we forget that. We so often use relationships for entertainment, our own needs, or self-interest that we forget the biggest thing about them.

Relationships are a gift – and that’s what I want to explore.

The truth is Eden doesn’t “do” a lot for me in any tangible sense of things. She can’t get me a drink, and I spend a lot of time caring for her needs. But because relationships aren’t about “meeting needs” but spaces where grace happen, she has changed me. Because she is a gift, and all good gifts are life-changing.

So that’s where we are going but before we get there take a moment to think through this important question:

Are there any relationships you’ve been neglecting? 

It happens so easily, and so quickly. And if you’re tempted to skip past that question or are too busy then there are probably relationships that you might have skipped past in your busyness. So think it through and change it because relationships are gifts. Gifts of grace, God, and life.

Baptisms and Walking with Others

772301_79279389This Sunday we are having Baptisms to end our series on “Finding a Fresh Start”. Could there be any better way to end talking about finding a fresh start, than seeing baptisms? That’s what they are all about – starting fresh. Saying I want to follow you Jesus, going down into the waters, and coming out confirmed in Christ’s death and resurrection.

It’s a beautiful thing.

 

But something we will learn this Sunday is this too, it is not an individual thing. Baptisms are a corporate thing, body-thing, community thing.

 

And while this distinction might seem small it isn’t. It is crucial and important. Because the truth is that while we can find a fresh start on our own, we can’t keep a fresh start going on our own. We need others investing and involved in our lives. Faith is a communal journey, not an individual journey.

 

So on Sunday as we see people take a next step, and see a fresh start we are also going to be reflecting on this question: “whom are we journeying with”? Because faith is passed on through others, sustained with others, and developed with others. So who are the others in your life?

 

That’s our question for Sunday, and it’s a good question for today too.

Who are those who matter most to us?

I know I’ve often quoted Henri Nouwen in the past few months here on the blog, but the truth is he is worth quoting. So I’d like to do that again with a few questions at the end. He wrote this:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”

I think this is so true. So here are a few questions that for me flow out of that quote:

  • Who means the most to you? Have you told them that lately? Have you shared with them why they matter to you so deeply?
  • When you encounter someone who is hurting, is your first reaction to share words of advice, or share a touch of comfort?
  • Who around you needs help today? How can you share in their pain and give them hope?

Worth reflecting on. Worth acting on.

Outburst of Love and Encouragement

Sunrise on Fields

Want to know why I love our church? Because of this:

Quite a few weeks ago, I was trying to think of how I could show my care for a family in our church. They had an important doctors meeting, so I thought I’d go leave flowers with a note of my prayer while they were away at the meeting, to get when they got home. I thought it would be a good way to surprise and encourage.

And as I’m placing the flowers, I saw a car drive into the driveway and I thought my little surprise might be ruined. Except it wasn’t them. It was someone else from our church with the same idea. They had brought homemade muffins, and food (which made me wish I’d thought of that).We both smiled as we both placed our little gifts and left.

Here is the thing – I hear of stories like this all the time. Of people dropping by with groceries for people who are in difficulty, I see people bring flowers to bless a friend on Sunday, I hear stories of people showing up to fix things, to give away money, time, and love.

I love our church because they seek to creatively care. Because they take Galatians 5:6 seriously, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love”. What is important is our faith moving us to loving actions. What is improtant is us showing our care for others.

Our church is far from perfect, I am far from perfect. We mess up and miss things. But we continue to try to put that verse into practice. To have our faith express itself in love, and this is why I so love this place.

So this week why not try to express your faith in love? Why not try to come up with a creative way to show you care? Hebrews talks about us encouraging one another in outbursts of love and encouragement (Heb 10:24). So why not do that today – leave a note, drop off a meal, send a card, offer to babysit, bring by a coffee to a friend at work. Today let your faith express itself in love and let the stories of life and love spread.