Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: friendship (page 2 of 3)

The Benefits of Redeeming Conversations

Today I’m continuing where I left off yesterday, teaching on the topic of redeeming your conversations.

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What are the Benefits?
Aside from being a means of obeying the commands listed above, redeeming your conversations becomes…

  • A Means of Loving. If you are speaking what is beneficial, it is what is best for them
  • A Means of Serving. People want to talk about spiritual things and people want relationships that mean something. By re-deeming your conversations with them, you’re helping them get there. You’re serving.
  • A Means of Leading. Leading means gaining conviction, calling others to conviction, and then being the first to act on convic-tion. If you’re striving for obedience to the commands of Scripture, you’re leading.
  • A Means of Grace. 1 Corinthians 14 argues that the very best thing you can speak is not a miraculous tongue or even prophecy. What is most important is that your words edify and build up. That means your words give grace—they show people God.
  • A Means of Developing Manly Biblical Friendship. Guys bond over a common purpose (think team sports). If we never talk about our common purpose where will we develop meaningful camaraderie?
  • A Means of Encouraging Evangelism. Part of the reason we’re so scared of evangelism is because we’re scared of spiritual conversations at all. Getting our feet wet with brothers will go a long way to easing us into evangelism opportunities.
  • A Means of Cultivating Humility. It won’t be long before you feel awkward or dumb in a conversation if you’re working hard to make it meaningful. That’s great! This forces us to grow in humility. Are you in it for you or others?

Stewarding Your Conversations

Last night I was blessed with the opportunity to speak to the men of GFC about the privilege we have as Christian men to actually redeem conversations and make them spiritually beneficial. We began by asking the question, ‘How are conversations like gift cards?’ There are a lot of ways to answer that question, but the one I wanted to press home was this:

Potential conversations are like gift cards you receive. They have no cash value on their own; they are worth nothing until you redeem them. But even more than that, there’s a reality to the fact that conversations, like any other gift from God, are intended to be used. We’ll be held accountable for how we’ve used that gift.

I wanted us all to think hard about every potential opportunity for a conversation as an opportunity for something great and a gift we’ll be accountable for.

After that we dove into the lesson. I’ll post the lesson in a couple parts, beginning with what comes below.

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A Curious Thought
The NT never commands you directly to ‘redeem your conversations.’ But the reflective reader of the Bible will realize the importance of stewarding conversations in order to fulfill a number of other commands.

  • Romans 15:14 — I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.
  • 1 Corinthians 14:26 — What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revela-tion, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.
  • Ephesians 4:25 — Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.
  • Ephesians 4:29 — Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
  • Ephesians 5:18-19 — … be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart…
  • Colossians 3:16 — Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
  • Colossians 4:6 — Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:18 — Therefore encourage one another with these words.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11 — Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
  • Hebrews 3:13 — But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
  • Hebrews 10:24 — And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
  • James 1:19 — Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
  • James 4:11 — Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
  • James 5:9 — Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
  • James 5:16 — Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Evaluate your past Sunday: How were your conversations? Did you instruct, speak a hymn, speak the truth, teach and admonish, speak graciously, encourage, exhort, stir up to good works, confess your sins? Were you quick to listen? Did you speak evil about a brother or sister, grumble or complain?

Simply put, all of us want to have deep, edifying, spiritual conversations, the question is, how committed are we? And how do we get there?

Need Help Pursuing Fellowship?

If you are like most Christians, you realize your need for true fellowship (not just surface chit-chat). You want to get to know other believers and you want friends who know you and your struggles. You want to be able to get to know other believers well so that you can serve them and speak truth to them in love.

But, if you are like me–and most Christians I know–you may have trouble figuring out how to get to those good, deep, spiritual conversations. I’d like to offer a couple of resources that we’ve found helpful here at GFC. Neither is new to us–which is probably why they’re good–but we love them both.

The first is a document listing some accountability and authenticity questions for men. This was originally created for our men’s meetings some time ago, but several of our men have taken them and used them with great success in one-on-one friendship and mentoring relationships.

The second is a document that we created to help some of our leadership team grow in our understanding of how to open up spiritual conversations with people and ‘drive to the heart’ with our questions. It’s based on David Powlison’s list of X-Ray Questions.

What’s great about lists of questions like this is that they don’t have to be all that you use. They are not a script or a formula. But they are helpful resources for learning the art of skillfully asking questions and helping people uncover issues in their hearts. As we identify with them where their hearts are tuned away from God and help point them to God we’re fulfilling both great commandments: we’re loving God and loving others.

I hope you find these helpful!

Things That Never Get Old

I took the morning off today. I took my girls for a long, long walk in their stroller, then we went to the park and played with the swings and the slide, ran around like crazy people, and played in the sand.

As we were playing, I was filled with joy and delight in all that God has given me in this life. I am overwhelmed with blessing in my life.

At the exact same time, however, I felt twinges of sadness. Why, you ask? Because I can’t remember the last time I took time and just played with my girls like that.

Life has been so busy lately. We bought a house, began renovating, and found the work that needed to be done was a lot more than we had anticipated. That, combined with the usual September busy-ness at church, has made for a long stretch of working every waking moment.

I don’t like that. Busy is not what I was created for. It robs me of joy and peace and makes me frantic and tired. It brings constant temptation to stress and anxiety (a.k.a. pride and disbelief).

Busy is not what life is for. Being busy causes me to miss out on good things. Important things. The best things.

Lately, after our day of prayer, I thought to myself, ‘I never get tired of praying. I never pray and then think that it was a waste of time. It never gets old. It’s always worth it.’ Today I had that same thought while I was playing with my girls.

That got me to thinking, what are the things in life that are always worth making time for? What are the things that never get old? What are the things you can do with your time that are always worth the investment? Here’s my first attempt at a list.

  1. Prayer — private, family, corporate prayer with brothers and sisters from church
  2. Time in the word — reading on my own, studying for preaching, sitting under preaching
  3. Going on dates with my wife — we generally just get away somewhere where we can sit and talk… I can never get enough of that
  4. Playing with my girls — especially when I haven’t wasted all my energy on everything else so that I’m too tired to enjoy them
  5. Eating meals with my family — time sitting, talking, learning fighter verses, hearing the funny things that kids think to say…
  6. Time at ‘my’ Starbucks — not that Starbucks is worth the time, but when I’m there I have a good book or just my Bible, sometimes my list of people to pray for… I sit, enjoy coffee, the change of scenery, meet with God and seek opportunities to share the gospel with the people I know there. It’s always refreshing.
  7. Preaching — I’ve found that even when I preach and feel like it was a ‘bad sermon’, I hear reports from people of how the Spirit is working in their heart. His word will not return to him void, so it’s never a waste of time to preach.
  8. Being with people — one of the saddest things that can happen in my job and in life in general is when I get so busy with ‘stuff’ that I don’t have time to be with people and open up my heart to them and have them do the same with me. The more time I have to just be with people, the more I’m amazed at how I see God in that person and the more I’m blessed by them.

These are the things that I love. I’ll never get to the end of my life and think, ‘Man, I wish I had spent less time doing those things.’ Would you have the same things on your list? What would you add / change / delete from your list?

The question I suppose I should ask is, ‘What are the things in my life that detract from these things?’ And then, is that necessary? Is it what is best?

I’m praying tonight that my God gives me grace to prioritize and wisdom to know how to find better balance so that I don’t miss out on the very things I’m put on this earth to enjoy.

Sermons on Friendship

I have had the privelege over the past four weeks of preaching a mini-series at GFC on the topic of friendship.

Below are the individual sermons. I came at the sermons with a bit of a different approach. Since we, as elders, had wanted to address the core values of our church again, we thought it would be best to address the topic of friendship under the five headings of our core values.

So the first message was basically answering the question, ‘Why prioritize friendship?’ After that we thought through what truth, authority, humility, freedom, and delight have to do with friendships.

Over the course of the series we offered the following definition of Christian friendship: Two souls knit together as one in the pursuit of God through commitment to ongoing fellowship.

Friendship Quotes – Part 1

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to preach a series of messages on friendship at our church. As part of my study, I’ve been enjoying a book simply entitled Friendship by Hugh Black, published by Joshua Press.

Here are some of the quotes that I’ve enjoyed:

‘The religious life, in spite of all the unnatural experiments of monasticism and all its kindred ascetic forms, is pre-eminently a life of friendship. It is individual in its root, and social in its fruits. It is when two or three are gathered together that religion becomes a fact for the world. The joy of religion will not be hid and buried in a man’s own heart. “Come, see a man that told me all that I ever did” (John 4:29), is the natural outcome of the first wonder and the first faith. It spreads from soul to soul by the impact of soul on soul, from the original impact of the great soul of God.’

‘Christ’s ideal is the ideal of a kingdom, men banded together in a common cause, under common laws, serving the same purpose of love.’

‘The very existence of the church as a body of believers is due to this necessity of our nature, which demands opportunity for the interchange of Christian sentiment. The deeper the feeling, the greater is the joy of sharing it with another. There is a strange felicity, a wondrous enchantment, which comes from true intimacy of heart, and close communion of soul, and the result is more than mere fleeting joy. When it is shared in the deepest thoughts and highest aspirations, when it is built on a common faith, and lives by a common hope, it brings perfect peace. No friendship has done its work until it reaches the supremest satisfaction of spiritual communion.’

‘We cannot live a self-centred life, without feeling that we are missing the true glory of life. We were made for social intercourse, if only that the highest qualities of our nature might have an opportunity for development. The joy, which a true friendship gives, reveals the existence of the want of it, perhaps previously unfelt. It is a sin against ourselves to let our affections wither. This sense of incompleteness is an argument in favour of its possible satisfaction; our need is an argument for its fulfillment. Our hearts demand love, as truly as our bodies demand food.’

‘The divine meaning of a true friendship is that it is often the first unveiling of the secret of love. It is not an end in itself, but has most of its worth in what it leads to, the priceless gift of seeing with the heart rather than with the eyes. To love one soul for its beauty and grace and truth is to open the way to appreciate all beautiful and true and gracious souls, and to recognize spiritual beauty wherever it is seen.’

Getting to the Cross When Hurt

In the nine years of Grace Fellowship Church, we have enjoyed real and genuine peace between brothers and sisters. Conflicts and divisions have not been an issue for us, by the grace of God.

That being said, I’m sure that day will come. Like suffering, conflict is one of those areas of life where Christians need to be taught ahead of time so that when the hardships come, we’ve already got truth instilled in our hearts that we are ready to apply.

This past Wednesday night, I was able to address the men about how to respond when we are offended by other Christians. I suggested that Christian men typically think of two things when there is conflict. Either (1) we go to Matthew 18 and feel the need to ‘fix it’ right away, or, (2) we go to 1 Pet 4.8 and think that by ignoring offence we’re exercising a love that covers a multitude of sins.

In reality, however, I think that the Scriptures call us to a balanced approach when we are sinned against. Before determining how to approach a brother about the speck in his eye that has offended us so much, we need to be sure to deal with the log in our own eye first.

Dealing with our hearts means looking to and applying truths from the cross. That’s what I’ve attempted to help us learn how to do with the handout that I gave. There’s an extract below, along with a link to the full article.

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There is a profound sense in which the saddest of all evils are those which are committed by Christians against Christians.

When enemies arose against David, he could rejoice in the justice of God. He knew that whatever enemies came against him, no matter what they did, they would have their evil returned upon their heads. They would pay for their crimes. He could delight that since he was the leader of God’s people, if someone arose against him, they had really arisen against God. David’s cause was just; the cause of his enemies was not. There was a black and white, a good and a bad, a right and a wrong.

When Christians sin against Christians, how can we find comfort? In just about every Christian-Christian conflict, there is no clear right and wrong. It is rare that one party is 100% right and the other absolutely wrong. Who can claim perfectly pure mo-tives when the Spirit of the Lord searches hearts? Where, then, is justice that vindicates the innocent and condemns the guilty?

More than that, when a brother or a sister sins against me, even the justice of God becomes sad. Every sin will be paid for. If it is an unbeliever who unjustly attacks, we know they will be called to give an account for their actions. If, however, it is a Christian who sins against me, how can I rejoice in that justice? Now the sin which they have committed not only hurts me, not only grieves the Spirit as sin against grace, but even (in some sense) adds to the wounds of my beloved Saviour. It is sad.

Where, then, is comfort to be found?

I know that there is comfort nowhere if not in the cross, so my hope must somehow be fixed there. But how can I genuinely find comfort in knowing that I’ve been sinned against, hurt, alienated, distanced from those I love, and that Christ is the one who must suffer as a result?

I suppose there is comfort here in several ways. I’ve thought of 1o, but I know there are more. Any to add to the list?

Click here to read the pdf version with full explanations of each point.

  1. I must remember that my debt is paid.
  2. I must know that this, like the cross, pleases God.
  3. I must look to get insight into the Father’s heart.
  4. I must remember that Jesus identifies.
  5. I must remember that I’m not Jesus.
  6. I must remember that this is better than I deserve.
  7. I must remember that my identity is not tied up in what others think of me or how others treat me.
  8. I must look to the cross to learn patience.
  9. I must remember that God is more just than me.
  10. I must use this so that I might serve.

For the Christian, the cross is a place of forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. It is the place where we are justified and made right with God. But that right standing with God is the foundation of so much more.

For the Christian, the cross must become a place of refuge in any and every situation in life. We must learn to be intentional to interpret all of life through the cross. Life-changing truth and reality are displayed at the cross as nowhere else. The cross is the most ultimately-applicable reality ever, in all of human history. Are you being faithful to remember it in your circumstances? Are you being changed by it?

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