Sharing Life With … Our Friends

About a week ago, a friend posted on Facebook that he was going to post something that he was thankful for every day for a certain amount of days.

It caused me to think:  What men have made a difference in my life?  Who has been a positive influence on me?  Who have I had an influence on?
I thought of it in two manners:  First – what men have had the greatest impact on me.  I think there are four:  1st my dad.   2nd my son.  3rd my father in law and the 4th is my son-in-law as he is caring for my daughter.   I am indebted to all four of those men – each for different reason, but all four have shaped my life.
After thinking those four men, I realized that I have been uniquely blessed to be surrounded my great men who I have been able to call my friends.   Tim, a former marine, now construction foreman is just one of many. I will not name them as you will not know any of them, but here is what I want you to do on this Sunday before Thanksgiving.   Take one minute and write out the names of friends who have molded your life.  Ready – go – 60 seconds.

I can guarantee you something – if you would take more time to add to your list, you would find that the friends that are on your list; those friends that share life with you, those friends have really shaped your life.

Proverbs 13:20 (The Message)    Become wise by walking with the wise;

Hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.

Pretty straight forward isn’t it.  It seems as if there are two types of people – one you want to hang out with and one group to avoid.   If you want to have wisdom, look to be with people who have wisdom – if you want your life to go in a direction you are not pleased with, be with people whose values you did not wish to obtain.
Here at New Journey Church, I attempt to tell you every week that God wants to go on a New Journey with you.  In that New Journey, we find great life changing insights in knowing that if we seek God, he can be found.  However, this pursuit when we seek God is not a self-serving pursuit.  Every time we seek God he will lead us to people we can serve.  As we seek him and serve others, he also gives us wisdom on how to share life with others.
We are in the middle of a 9 week series on how to Share life.  We have talked about serving our community, being a godly parent and how to have the best sex ever.  For those of you who look shocked, that was the topic last week.
Today, how do we share life with our friends?  How do we become the type of friend that people would want to share life with? (Repeat)   That really is a very important question.  Often, we get the cart before the horse. If we only concentrate on trying to get friends but don’t concentrate on what type of friend we are, then our relationships are very shallow.
So today, we will concentrate on becoming the type of person others would want as a friend.  We are going to consider some characteristics and personal actions that we should live out as well as some we need to avoid.  I will be honest – most of them are not rocket science – we know we should do them or not do them – so today is just a gentle reminder of actions we need to possess.
I great backdrop are some simple, yet profound words given to us by Jesus found in Matthew 7:12, which has been known as the Golden Rule.

12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.

I like the way the Message translates that verse – Matthew 7:12 (The Message)   12″Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them..

Let’s take a moment and remind ourselves of some things we already know – but it is good to be reminded.  Here are four ways every one of us desires to be treated.  If we are going to apply the Golden rule, we need to treat others this way.  Please note the Golden rule is NOT a guarantee of how we are going to be treated back, but Jesus states this is how we should treat others.  So apply these four things in treating others.

Four Positive Personal Actions

  1. – We want people to encourage us.

Every one of us desires sincere encouragement.  To have others approach us and tell us that we have helped them.   Now, if we want to be encouraged, we should encourage others.  In fact, the Bible commands us to do so.  Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

13But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Let us remember this – encouragement must be sincere.  If we compliment someone in order to get them to do what we want, that is not encouragement, it is manipulation.   So, since Jesus stated “do to others as you would have them do to you,” then begin by encouraging others.

I am really big at giving people the opportunity to place into practice biblical instruction.  So, here is what I want you to do now.  Look at that list of friends that you wrote earlier.  Think about one or two that are here.  Circle them.  Make a note about a specific way you can encourage them today.  Don’t just say “you’re nice” or “you look pretty today” but try to tell them of a time that they did something which helped you.  Maybe did something for your child, your spouse or your parent.  Helped you with a project or listened during a tough time.  Circle their name now and following the service, go up to them and encourage them.  Remember Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

13But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
By encouraging others, we can keep people from believing sinful lies. If you want to become the type of person that people would want to share life with, learn to encourage others.

  1. We want people to forgive us

Every one of us has done things that we regret – most of those things have not only hurt us, but hurt others.  When that happens we want others to forgive us.   So once again applying the Golden rule principle of Jesus – if we want to be forgiven, then we need to forgive others.  In fact, that is also commanded to do that.

Colossians 3:13 (New Living Translation)
13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Is there anyone in your life that you need to forgive?  Forgiveness does not mean you allow them to continually walk all over you, but we do need to extend forgiveness so we are not poisoned by their actions. If you want to become the type of person that people would want to share life with, learn to forgive others
3- We want others to listen to us

James 1:19 (NLT).  Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

Being quick to listen does not mean never talking, but do take the time to value others by listening to them. When we are listened to, we feel valued.
I find it interesting that that verse links listening and not getting angry.  I think when we listen all the way through; we hear the person’s perceptive and do not get as angry.   If you want to become the type of person that people would want to share life with, learn to listen to others.
4 – We want people to take the initiative.

Don’t you like it when someone calls you and says “Hey we are doing this, why not join us?”  Jesus molded that.  Think about Zacchaeus.  Zach and I have at least one thing in common – any guesses to what it might be?  It has to be that both of us wanted to be with Jesus – I can’t think of anything else.

What can we learn from Jesus about being the type of friend that people want to share life with?  He took the initiative.   Think about it for a moment.  In this story, who spoke first?  Jesus did.  Yes, Zach climbed the tree, so that is some sort of initiative, but Jesus called out to him. He said, Zach, let’s do lunch.  In fact, Zach, let’s do lunch at your house.  He took the initiative.

I want you to consider something that is very good in our church, but in addition, something that we need to work on.

Little more than a year ago, we added the café.  I know some were apprehensive, but it has worked out really, really well.  Every week I see people sharing life together.

But something else I see almost every week is people sitting by themselves.  Have you ever been a guest in a church before – honestly, it is not easy.  And to come and sit by yourself when others are around having what appears to be a good time is very difficult.  So, here is a simple thing you can do.  When you see someone by themselves, take the initiative and ask them to join you – even if you have to squeeze people in your table.

The same is true with lunch following the service – ask someone different to go with you.

How much did Zach’s life change when Jesus took the initiative?  If you want to become the type of person that people would want to share life with, learn to take the initiative with others.

Matthew 7:12, which has been known as the Golden Rule.

12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.

We have considered 4 things to do
1 – Encourage
2 – Forgive
3 – Listen
4 – Take the initiative

Now, let’s quickly consider just a couple of things we should keep away from. Just like we considered things we should implement, let’s consider two things to avoid.

Proverbs 13:20 (The Message)    Become wise by walking with the wise;

Hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.

1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV) Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

The Bible not only teaches us to avoid having people with poor character traits as people whom we share life with, but it also reminds us to not possess those qualities.

1 – Avoid gossip

Why do we talk poorly of others?  Why do we think it is okay to rip others when they are not present?

Proverbs 16:28 (NIV)

A perverse man stirs up dissension,
and a gossip separates close friends.

We may not think we are doing much harm, but the Bible says we are stirring up dissension.  If someone is talking poorly of others, ask them – have you told this to _____________?  (name the person)  Ask, would you say this in front of that person?  Even if the answer is yes, is it spoken in love?

If you want to become the type of person that people would want to share life with, learn to avoid gossip and dissension.

  1. – Avoid being prideful

We like to think our way is right, don’t we?  If people would just do it our way, life would be better.  However, that is a very slippery slope.  It can quickly become prideful.

Proverbs 16:18 (NLV)

Pride comes before being destroyed and a proud spirit comes before a fall.

When you are with your friends, does it always have to be your way?  If yes, be careful.  Pride can ruin friendship.  Pride can ruin churches.

If you want to become the type of person that people would want to share life with, learn to have a proper view of pride.

I have left what I consider the most impactful verse on friendship until the end.

John 15:15 (NIV)

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

I know it is hard to encourage, to forgive, to listen and to take the initiative.  I also know the trappings of gossip, dissension and pride.  But the good news is we have a God who not only wants to go on a New Journey with us, but desires to share life with us as a Friend.

When you are struggling to forgive – remember the God who formed the universe wants to be your friend.  When it is really scary to see someone you don’t know and try to talk to them, remember the God who placed the stars in the sky is with you.  When you have been hurt and want to stir up dissension, remember the one who said “Father, forgive them” is with you.

It is good to know we can be a friend of God!   So, today, as we attempt to live out the golden rule, let’s remember God is with us.

Sharing Life With …. Our Lover

Today  we will begin with an informal survey – I need you to raise your hands if the following is true of you.

1 – This week, how many of you considered specific ways to help the homeless in Jax?
2 – This week, how many of you thought about world peace and specifically how you could help?
3 – This week, how many of you thought about the 2nd coming of Jesus and attempted to decide if you were pre post or amillenial?
4 – Last question in this survey – this week, how many of you at any point thought about sex?
Since sex is apparently all that you have been thinking about this week, today, we will explore what the Bible has to say concerning the topic of sex.  What we are going to find might surprise you.

Here at New Journey Church, we try to explore topics that really matter.  We believe that the Bible is very relevant to people living in the Jax community.  Because of that, we attempt to center everything we do around 3 primary tasks:  seeking God, serving people and sharing life.  Two weeks ago we began a series on what it means to share life with others.  Sharing life can be both wonderful and challenging!  Because of that, we are attempting to communicate relevant, biblical truth which can help us share life with those who are closest to us.  Listed in your worship folder is a list of the nine themes we are considering.

I try to teach about this subject of what the Bible teaches about sex about once a year and some of the thoughts shared today I have taught about previously.  But those truths are still relevant.  However, because the overall church has been negligent in discussing what God says about sex and because of that, people in Jax, Orange Park, St Aug, throughout all of NE FL – in fact throughout the entire world are facing a great deal of anxiety and hopelessness.

Marriages are struggling for several reasons. People young and old, are making mistakes because they are getting wrong information regarding sexual behavior.  They are getting that incorrect information from the wrong sources.  Single people struggle how to be a person of integrity when it comes to sexuality.  Married couples struggle because they have believed items in regard to sex that are not true.
All of that brings us to what the Bible has to say in regard to this subject.  Let’s consider again Genesis Chapter 2 – all the way back to the Garden of Eden – to explore what God has to say about this topic.  If you were here last week ago, will recognize that a portion of this passage is same text I used in regard to Sharing Life with our child’s other parent. Last week we explored first aspect of this passage, which reminds parents that we must raise our children with the ability to leave father and mother properly – that means emotionally, socially, spiritually, and financially.

At the point in the Genesis 2, God had already created the heavens and earth, He had created the animals and now he just created Eve.  Read with me Genesis 2:23-25 from the New Living Translation.

23 “At last!” Adam exclaimed.
“She is part of my own flesh and bone!
She will be called ‘woman,’
because she was taken out of ‘man.’”
24 This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.
25 Now the Adam and his wife were both naked, neither of them felt any shame
In that text, God’s original intent is revealed.  God desires that we  share life with our lover and have intimacy, connection and have no shame.  Hear those three items again – God desires intimacy, connection and for you to have no shame.   How do we go from intimacy, connection and no shame to anxiety and frustration?

We have both misinformation and misunderstanding about sex.  This leads to an unhealthy attitude.  Where does this unhealthy attitude come from? Where does this misinformation come from?

1 – Media    TV/ Hollywood / Music

Think about some of the songs we listen to in regard to the area of love.  Now I realize that some of these go back a long time, but I wanted you to get an understanding how long this has been with us.  How many of you remember the group Jim Morrison and the Doors?  In the 1960’s or 70’s he had a popular song that had the following lyrics “I love you, I love you, won’t you tell me your name.”    Another very popular song about that same time was “If you can’t be with the one you love – then what?  “Love the one your with.”   Go down the years with me – Pat Benatar sang “Love is a ____________?  Battlefield    According to Tina Turner in the song “what’s love got to do with it” – What is love in that song?  It is simply a  2nd hand emotion”    In the movie love story we learned that being in love means that we never have to say “I am sorry”    Who can forget those great theologians “the Captain and Tenniel that said we should have the same type of love as what animal?  Muskrats!   Who can forgot the following “Muskrat Suzie / Muskrat Sam doing the jitterbug out in muskrat land.”
With a backdrop like that, it is no wonder we have misinformation about sex.    But we cannot simply blame the media – for one reason, we listen to it.  But we have another source of misinformation when it comes to sex – and that has been the church.
For centuries, the church didn’t talk about sex.  You are going to think I am making the following up, but it is true.  Church authorities issued edicts on when people who were in there churches could have sex.  One church had an edict that said married couples could not have sex on Thursdays because Jesus was arrested on a Thursday.  Nor could they on Friday because Christ was crucified on Friday.  Saturday was forbidden because you were to honor the Virgin Mary on Saturday.  Sunday was also not allowed because Christ’s resurrection took place on Sunday.  So now it is down to Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  But the edict disallowed intercourse the 40 days before Easter, the 40 days before Christmas and the 40 days before Pentecost.  A man named John Boswell took those days and estimated that left only 44 days in the year that sex was allowed!
That reminds me of the guy who went to the PK convention.  The speaker said, How many of you guys have sex every night – a few liars raised their hands.  How about once a week?  A few more hands went up.  What about once a month?  Once again, a few hands.  Finally, how many have sex once a year.  One guy in the back stood up and was jumping for joy.  Shouting out – it’s me it’s me.  The speaker said, if you only have sex once a year – why are you so happy?  The man shouted out “Because tonight’s the night!  Tonight’s the night!
Now, that was a joke, but the edicts detailing when a married couple could engage in sexual relations was not a joke.  With misinformation like that, from both the media and the church, it is no wonder people have been desperate when it comes to the area of sex.
Please hear me clearly:   Sex was God’s idea!  (Repeat)  To that I say – we serve a great God!   Bryan Wilkerson wrote, “What we must say first and loudest from the pulpit is that sex is great and its God’s idea.  Adam and Eve didn’t one day emerge from the bushes, faces flushed and breathless and announce, ‘Hey God, you will never believe what we just came up with!’”
What churches across our country need to be shouting out is that sex is God’s idea.  Because it is God’s idea, we need to follow his plan in regard to sex.  If we want to properly share life with our lover God tells us that we are to follow his plan. The Bible is clear that we are to stay away from sex outside of marriage.  I know that sounds mighty old fashioned, but look at the quality of our home life since our county since we went away from that concept.  Sex outside of marriage includes 1) pre-marital, 2) extra marital and 3) homosexual relations.

1 Corinthians 6:18 (NLT)   18 Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.

Hebrews 13:4 (NLT) Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.

God is not being mean and vengeful.  He has your best interest at heart.  He wants you to have hope when sharing life with your lover.  He knows the proper order of things.

ILL – Hold up a bag of St Aug grass.  When this is cared for properly – unlike what it is in my yard – it is green, full and beautiful.  But when it is dumped on the ground, it not only dies – it is messy.
Hold up a glass of water.  Water is great to drink – but if I dump enough of this on the carpet, it will ruin it.
It is the same way with our sexual relationships.  God desires for us to have intimacy, connection and have no shame.  But when we go outside the parameters He has set for us, we don’t feel his love.
Before we go any further – The Bible reminds us that we can be forgiven.  (Repeat) There is nothing that God cannot forgive.  He forgives us if we ask him to forgive us when we lie or steal.  He also will forgive if we have been disobedient to him in the area of sexual relations outside of marriage – doesn’t matter if that was pre –marital, extra-marital or homosexual activity.  God desires to forgive!  Ask him.  Don’t believe the lie that you cannot be forgiven.  You can experience the Grace of God – even in the area of sex.

Isaiah 1:18  “Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord.  “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.  Though they are as red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

Since we have looked at the negative – the things to avoid – let’s begin to consider the positive.   Remember, God created sex and I believe that God wants to help you create an environment to help you have the greatest sex you ever had.  Now that is worth repeating!  God wants you to have the greatest sex you have ever had!   If we are going to leave our mother and father and be united with our spouse as Gen 2 states, we need to explore some of what the Bible has to say about this topic.

Read 1 Cor 7:1-5 from the message

If you want the greatest sex you have ever had, you need to set the correct atmosphere.  Now when I state atmosphere, I am not talking about candles, Kenny G or Barry White – but the following types of atmosphere.

1 – Atmosphere of communication
The passage I just read from in 1 Cor 7 starts and ends with communication.   First – they asked Paul about Sex.  Look at verse one – “Now, getting down to the questions you asked in your letter to me.”  They wrote him a letter and asked several questions – one of them was about sex.   So this section began with communication.

Verse 5 he tells about agreeing to separate from each other sexually for a while.  If they are going to do this – they are going to have to talk about it.  Great sex starts with communication.  Ask your spouse what they like and don’t like.  Ask what are your needs?

When I mention needs, I don’t want to sound overly stereotypical – but generally speaking
Ladies need romance
Guys need physical intimacy
What does the Bible have to say about a ladies need for Romance?  In the OT, there is a book called The Song of Solomon – it really is a love story between a man and his wife.   Listen to what the man says about his wife in Song of Sol 4:1-7 NLT

Now, I am a Floridian and I am not real sophisticated but in this passage, the author is pitching some major woo here – your teeth – you got them all!

Gentlemen, please hear me – romance is not simply in the bedroom.  It is helping in the kitchen, it is doing the laundry, it is helping the kids with their homework, and it is getting the kids to school.   It is also reminder her that she is special.  MK Cosmetics stated that every lady has an invisible sign around her neck stating “make me feel special.

What about a guys needs?   Every guy needs to physical intimacy.   A lack of physical intimacy to a guy is the same as a sudden emotional distance to a woman.  Ladies surprise your husbands everyone once and awhile.  Don’t chase him, but surprise him.
Do something different to help him know that he is your man.
Consider the ladies response in Song of Solomon to what her man said.

Song of Solomon 4:16 (NLT)   16 Awake, north wind!   Come, south wind!   Blow on my garden   and waft its lovely perfume on my lover.  Let him come into his garden   and eat its choicest fruits.

Proverbs 5:18-19 (NLT)    Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth.
She is a loving doe, a graceful deer. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love.

Now, ladies, when your man reads that do you know what he thinks?  Well, hot dog!  Isn’t God a great God!
Just like a lady needs romance, a guy needs physical intimacy.   All of this is tied to creating an atmosphere of communication.

2 – An atmosphere of unselfishness
In the text I read from 1 Cor 7, which Paul was answering the people’s questions about sex.  1 Cor reminds us “Marriage is not a place to “stand up for your rights.” Marriage is a decision to serve the other…”

Philippians 2:3 simply states “Don’t be selfish.”  That is true in every area of our lives, including in the bedroom. We need to be realistic – natural concerns like aging, fatigue, worry; stress, etc affect us in every area of our lives – including intimacy.  Realize that sex does not have to be constantly mind blowing, chandelier swinging experience every time.  Don’t be selfish!
That leads to our 3rd way to create atmosphere – not only communication and not being selfish

3 – An atmosphere of commitment
The text I just read from Prov 5:18 stated “rejoice in the wife of your youth.”   Marriage is meant to be a life long-commitment.
Please don’t demean sex into a simply exchange of body fluids.  It is much greater than that.  Sexual relations are a scared trust.  (Repeat)   Earlier I stated that we need to follow God’s intention and abstain from pre-marital, extra-martial and homosexual relationships.  Why?  Because sex is a sacred trust.  It is a commitment.  In our primary text of Genesis 2, “two become one flesh” – that text is not simply talking about sexual intercourse – it is talking about commitment.
Steven Curtis Chapman is a Christian singer who was raised in a Church of God congregation in Kentucky – He went to Anderson U which is a Church of God college in IN.
After Steven Curtis was an adult, his parents got a divorce.  He was crushed.  But he wrote the following song to his wife – illustrating his commitment to her.

Tomorrow morning if you wake up, and the sun does not appear I will be here.  If in the dark, we lose sight of love. Hold my hand and have no fear – cause I will be here

Tomorrow morning, if you wake up and the future seems unclear I will be here

Just as sure as the seasons were made for change, our lifetimes are made for years, so I will be here.

Those are excellent words in describing commitment.   If you desire to have less desperation and more hope, increase your commitment.