Proverbs 18:24 tells us there is a friend who is “closer than a brother.” And while we, of course, think of Jesus, it is also true that there are times when the bonds of the family of God are stronger than the bonds of the family of your childhood.
While your biological family may not be dysfunctional, they may not be strong in the Lord, or though they may be there for you when you really need them, they may not actually “like or understand” you. They also may not live near you.
Last week our own Lizzy shared a story that fits as a perfect illustration.
This weekend, Make A Wish is coming to our house to “grant” Philip a play-scape. They’ve just started the building today, and we’ve kept it all a surprise. He’s so much younger than my other kids that we no longer had even a swing set, so this will be really special for him, and help build needed strength. When they first told us we were selected, they said we needed to have our family here for the “big reveal party”. Some here know that’s not a possibility for us, and I got that instant “lump” in my throat feeling. But I found out today, my dear Pastor who I mentioned a few weeks ago that Philip is so close to, is determined to come and be a part of this, as well as our pharmacist who calls herself Philip’s “aunt Nikki”. I’m humbled by God’s provision of “family”, reminding me again it’s not about blood or genetics, but the Body. I see this as His “pursuing” me because He knows the ache of my heart, the pain I carry from the rejection from both sides of our family, and He has brought a few people into our lives who love us well, to be family to us.
Below are pictures of Pastor Don rejoicing with Philip, Philip’s big brother playing with him in the new playhouse, and Pastor Don visiting Philip during a transfusion.
How vital is the family of God in our lives, often offering more meaningful support than a biological family.
The truth of Proverbs 18:24 became so clear when I was asked to write a curriculum for women in prison. It seemed logical to me to begin with a gospel. But my friend Linda Strom, who with her husband Dallas, founded the amazingly successful prison ministry of “Discipleship Unlimited,” said “I think we should begin with the book of Ruth.
“Ruth!” I exclaimed in surprise, “But why?”
“In our ministry we see Christ setting women free. But so often when they get out of prison, they return to their dysfunctional families or partners and become enslaved all over again. They are going ‘back to Moab.’ What they need to do is to say good-bye to their families and cling to the family of God, like Ruth did, so that they can stay free.” (And so we did — and produced “The Rescue” which is being devoured by the women and truly helping them stay free.)
Tim Keller makes the important observation that “In the early stage of your life, you were shaped most by your family. But for the rest of your life you will be shaped largely by your friends. You will become like the people with whom you spend the most time.” (God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life)
It is so important that we begin to see the body of Christ as our family, and that they indeed, can be closer than a brother. Today is Mother’s Day, and many of you did not have a mother who loved well, but I’ll bet you had a “mother” who has loved well in the body of Christ, a “mother” who became like Naomi was to Ruth. Indeed, the body of Christ is our source for the richest friendships and relationships of all.
That doesn’t mean we should not have good friendships with non-Christians, for if we do not, we will not be salt and light, or winning people to Christ, but our very closest friendships should be with those who draw us closer to Him. Ruth also provides a good model in taking risks when following God’s leading. She made an enormous risk when she said good-bye to Moab and clung to Naomi — and it made all the difference, not only in her life but in generations to come. Every close friend I have had involved stepping out on faith for me, and risking rejection. I pursued them the way God pursued me. I took flowers to Lee, I invited Ann over for lunch, I had theological e-mail discussions with Twila and then asked her to go bike-riding with me. Have I ever been rejected? Yes — and sometimes I risked again and found success, and sometimes I sensed God closing the door.
Every good gift, including friendship, comes from God. I have learned to pray for friends and to ask God for eyes to see the ones to whom I should risk reaching out, either evangelistically or for deeper friendship. If you are without close and godly friends, I encourage you to pray, and then take risks in reaching out to those to whom He draws your attention. It may or may not happen, but you will have been obedient.
We are continuing our study in Proverbs, and also sharing daily God Hunts. To understand the God Hunt, see the blog post from two weeks ago entitled Slowing Down, Seeing More.
On a personal note, I am closing my warehouse as it no longer seems like good stewardship to try to compete with Amazon. So everything, including the signed Aslan prints, are half off. Much is already gone, but I wanted to alert you. Just e-mail Brenda@deebrestin.com to see if we still have what you want after looking at the store. We are closing it May 31st but you can still order anything from the big websites or through stores.
Also, I have a few more copies of the pre-release unedited The Jesus Who Surprises if you are willing to read one in exchange for putting a review on a website or two (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook). Just send me your mailing address at firstname.lastname@example.org — while supplies last.
Thank you so much!
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Share a productive risk you took in friendship.
3. Share about someone in the body of Christ who has been like a mother to you, or share a reason you are thankful for your own mother.
Monday: Closer Than A Brother
I have often interpreted the above as referring to Jesus, and while that is certainly true, and important to realize, I also think that Keller is right in applying it to seeing how a faithful Christian friend is such a gift.
4. Meditate on Proverbs 18:24. What is the main point and how might you apply it?
5. If you are familiar with the book of Ruth, how were Ruth and Naomi this to one another — and what difference did it make?
6. If you don’t have a friend like this, ask the Lord here to open your eyes and to give you the courage to take a risk. (We’d love a report if God shows you mercy!)
7. How have you spied God in the last 24 hours?
Tuesday: Show Yourself Friendly
Another translation of Proverbs 18:24 is: “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (KJV) Matthew Henry says that “we must love them…by all expressions that are endearing.” I believe that almost everyone lacks confidence and that by demonstrating that we would like a close bond, they are given courage to respond if they wish.
8. What are some ways acquaintances have “shown themselves friendly to you?” And how have you made it known that you would like a closer friendship with someone?
9. How have you spied God in that last day?
Wednesday: Better a Friend Nearby
Two years ago my liver enzymes were so high I went through a battery of tests, the last one being a liver biopsy. Though I was told it would not be hard, Debbie, who is a dear friend in my church, insisted on going with me. Though I have a sister here, she has her own deep concerns, and my daughter who lived in Wisconsin was still too far away to bother her for what seemed minor. Fortunately, I accepted Debbie’s offer for the liver biopsy went very wrong and my liver reacted violently, giving me the most pain in my life and all the symptoms of a major heart attack. I was in the emergency room for three hours until finally my liver calmed down. Dear Debbie, who was a new Christian, said, “I was so scared I started praying in tongues — and I don’t even know what that is!” She also called other friends to pray.
Both Debbie and another dear friend, Vicki, who came when Debbie called, got me home — and I was thankful I had not tried to drive myself. (We eventually figured out the culprit was Advil.) How thankful I was for faithful friends nearby.
10. Meditate on Proverbs 27:10. What is the main point and how could you apply it?
11. Action Assignment: Send an e-mail or note to a dear friend nearby and tell her why you are thankful for her. Report here what you did.
12. Share your God Hunt.
Thursday-Friday: Tim Keller on Friendship
Listen to the following and share your notes and comments.
13. Share your notes and comments.
14. What was your best God Hunt of the week?
My best God Hunt of the week:
I think being home with a cough & just being able to slow down & enjoy the beauty of God’s creation in my backyard! The sunshine, blossoms, birds, rest. Also the surprise late Mothers’ Day package from my son & his words of love & affirmation. Thank You Lord! 🙂
13. Share your notes and comments.
This was a convicting and informative sermon for me. He starts off with a definition of wisdom…”being so in touch with reality that you know what is the right thing to do in the vast majority of the situations that the moral rules don’t apply to.” “We’ll have a whole lot of choices in front of us and no matter what our morality or standards are, there’ll be many options that are all moral, but which is the wise one?” That’s where wisdom comes in.
The theme of this sermon is one of the things that convicted me…”You will not make it in life or lead a wise life unless you’re really great at choosing, forging and keeping terrific friendships.” Wow! That caught my attention! And after listening to the whole sermon, made so much sense.
1. Uniqueness of friendship – Your family will be there during adversity because they care, there’s loyalty and history, but they may not like you. A friend is someone who has chosen you and it’s irreplaceable. In the early part of our lives we were who our family made us. In the latter part, we’re who our friends make us.
2. How we discover a friend – True friends aren’t that many. Real friendship is like discovering a naturally sweet food. Waldo Emerson said, “Friendship doesn’t so much ask, do you love me, but do you see the same truths – are you passionate about the same things?” Lewis says, “The opening line of the beginning of a friendship…you too? I thought I was the only one.”
3. How we forge a friendship – Four building blocks of creating a friendship…
1. Constancy – a friend won’t let you go to ruin. A companion says call me when you need me… A friend will be there.
2. Carefulness – In friendship you give the gift of emotional connection voluntarily.
3. Candor – truth telling
4. Council – confiding with secrets. A friend always lets you in, never lets you down.
4. Where do we get the power for friendship – Jesus is the ultimate friend, instead of inflicting wounds He took those inflictions. Jesus will never let me down and in turn I need to be that friend-not fearing rejection. Make Jesus the friend your heart desires and you’ll have all the friends you need.
We need friendships that are really like us and really unlike us to make us into the friend we need to be.
14. What was your best God Hunt of the week?
Answer to prayer, asking the Lord to give my daughter a spiritual hunger and longing to know Him more…she texted me this,
Girl, read your Bible
You can eat all the kale,
Buy all the things,
Lift all the weights,
Take all the trips,
Trash all that doesn’t spark joy,
Was your face and hustle like mad,
But if you don’t rest your soul in Jesus,
You’ll never find your peace and purpose.
Then she said this…”I need to remind myself of this more often.” 🙂
Wow Sharon, what an answer…God is on the move!! 🙂
What a great text from your daughter! Luke 1:50
LOL the fact that the person who reads the kjv on my Bible app goes to Timothy Kellers church and does the reading…i don’t know why that makes me laugh 🙂
your not really good at life if you can’t keep and forge strong friendships! WOW
real friendship is like sweet food.
you can only discover a foundation for friendship, you can create a deep friendship once you find the foundation”what? you too?, i thought i was the only one.”
friends are side by side absorbed in a common interest (This is so true for me. My best friends and I all think of Jesus as the center of our world, we desire an intimate relationship with HIM over all things)
super long story and horrible spelling because i have no time to edit but worth reading i promise!
God sighting. A friend of my best friend Michelle’s has visited our church a couple of times, her husband came from a very legalistic church growing up. It made his mom and dad separate when they foudn out his mom had been married at 17 for 6 months. they made the dad move to another city. After a few years the church was sued for all the marriages it broke up because of this horrible use of the Bible and “changed it views” his dad came back after that but years had gone by and things were never the same. He feels very guilty when he goes to church because that legalism religiosity is so deeply ingrained that he cant separate Jesus and religion. We had a sermon series called losing your religion and he watched it on line. Robina (his wife and Michelles friend) shared that it was the first time her husband ever engaged and smiled while listening to a sermon. Well, Robina’s dad was sent to hospice yesterday and Michelle called me and said it would mean a lot to robina and her family if someone from the church came. I called our pastors wife and the two of us went over. Robinas mom LIT UP she has never gone to church but she was so touched that the pastors wife came to see her. while there Robina shared that her half sister did not know that her dad was in hospice and that the number she had was disconnected but that she knew where she lived. it is a very disfunctional situation and R did not feel she could see her face to face. as she shared this in the back of my mind i thought “i could go tell her sister” but did not say anything because…WIERD! but as we went to leave i felt God SCREAMING IN MY EAR to offer, so I did. she burst out in tears. Her husband and her had talked about asking someone to go do that but had no idea who you ask to do such a thing….. he died last night
I went there this morning and was able to tell her sister (who broke all contact with her father many years ealier) that her dad had died. but more importent Robinas husband and mom saw how God worked that all out.
It is SO FUN to see GOD work in such a tangable way 🙂
a little note, Robina is a strong Christian and has attended church all her life. the churches Robina has picked tend to lean very conservative and legalistic which has turned her husband and daughters off from the church and Jesus. They all came to church 321 (our church name) for mothers day and loved it, had a conversation about the teaching and are looking forward to watching it on line when at their lake house this summer. Being intentional about reaching out to this family was key. Thanks to Michelles willingness to steer a dear friend from the church that supports her ministry to one that might be a better fit this whole family may find its way back to JESUS!
Wow Cyndi, what a awesome story of God in action & how He used you!
Is that Max Mclean? When I heard that voice read Scripture on one of the Keller mp3s I suspected it was!
I am excited to listen to the link Lizzy posted!
I’m going to do this out of order. God hunt. I’ve been praying and fighting fear all week about my son and his marriage. My husband contacted me at work midday yesterday that Garret’s pastor had called. That in itself spiked my fear. He wants Garret to come home for the weekend, giving some breathing space. I wrestled with that all night. What to say, how to frame it…. Finally was ready to say, You show me, Lord. I don’t know what to think or say. This morning got a text from pastor, with some directives for the weekend and saying that he sees progress and is encouraged. That is a huge embrace for me from God.
Wisdom is knowing which thing is the right thing to do when there are many choices that are all moral. Can’t be wise unless you’re good at choosing, forging and keeping terrific friendships.
1. The unique necessity of friendship. Prov says that friendship is generally better than blood. This was said in a culture where blood was supreme. Blood will be there, but they may not like you much. A friend has chosen you. They will cleave to you. Friendship is not replaceable. Our culture puts sex first, but friendship is a love that is deliberate. Even though our culture thinks it unnecessary. But you won’t make it without friends. (I’m living this these days..where do you go when you need someone with skin on to help you pray?)
2. Discovery or choosing of friends. Close friends are rare. It just isn’t possible for everyone to be your close friend. Friendship requires a commonality and foundation that is discovered, not made. You are looking for someone who sees the same truths, someone that you say in surprise with ‘you, too? I thought I was the only one!’ (This explains to me the importance I place on family. My family doesn’t share my outlook, and I’ve wanted a family of friends to share my heart and soul.) this is why wanting friends makes it so hard to have any. Need to be together looking out, not examining each other.
3. A friendship must be forged. While discovery is a good foundation, friendship needs four more things. (Walls?)
A. Constancy. Availability in all kinds of times. Not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself.
B. Carefulness. Need to be involved enough to be tactful. Need to be emotionally connected to want to come alongside them. You don’t crack jokes when they are crying. It is something you give voluntarily.
C. Candor. Yet you tell the truth. If you refuse to tell truth, it means you care too much for yourself and not for the other. It is a tension and causes you pain, this careful candor.
D. Counsel. There are two sides to this. One is pleasant and reassuring. The other challenges you. This going back and forth between the two sharpens both of you.
Reading of a perfect friend causes a longing within us. Lacking the friends we need is crushing. Need to measure ourselves by this. (Oh oh) where do we get the power to be a friend? Only through Jesus and His example.
15. Take away this week. I recognize and resonate with some aspects of friendship, but OLord, how much I need to grow in Your example to be a better friend.
Mary B–so thankful for this encouragement from the pastor about your son!
Oh Mary B, what a huge & special embrace from our Father! xx
Huge God Hunt, Mary. Praying for more progress.
13. Share your notes and comments.
In our lives friendship gets squeezed out b/c it requires a deliberate investment. So true in our lives the past 8 years since we bought our farm. It has been SO MUCH work. I feel a deep longing to get back to having close friends and even investing more in our own family. It’s tough because the farm does take up a lot of time.
A friend always lets you in, never lets you down. The ‘always lets you in’ part is so hard. I’m praying for a friendship for my husband and I that will be the kind to grow our faith and build accountability but also the kind that is gentle and sweet to the soul. This kind of friendship is so rare but so needed. Praying for our hearts & eyes to be open to see who and my mouth to offer the invitation. I’m also praying for trust in the Lord as I find myself feeling very vulnerable thinking about actually being that close friend to someone else.
14. Best God hunt of the week.
I’m praying I will see that today. My husband and son (16yrs) have a strained relationship lately. There is hurt on both sides. Praying for reconciliation today.
Oh yes, may there be reconciliation & healing! Keep us posted….I remember when that happened with my husband & teenage boys at different times, but now as young adults they have a new appreciation for each other. I pray that for your family too.
Is your name Chris? Hard to tell from Simmchris, lol
Yes, Chris. Thank you! They got along fine today, but so busy with work that there wasn’t time to talk. Hopefully, it will come. Sometimes my husband doesn’t see the hurt in the kids and I’m not sure how to explain what I’m seeing but so long for them to be close. I think my husband had such a bad relationship with his dad and maybe wants to be close but doesn’t know how to do that. Tough things we grow up with that can follow us into adulthood. Thank you again for your prayers.
Praying for your husband and son. We went through that with our daughter when she was about that age. And now at 28, she and we are slowly getting closer again. For a time, my heart ached for the strain on our relationship with her. But God has been faithful and has answered prayers for reconciliation. May it be so as well for your husband and son.
Thank you. The teen years can be tough. So many powerful emotions and such tender hearts. I appreciate your prayers and God’s faithfulness:)
Take away this week: I need friends and they need me. I’m not always a good friend and need to rely on my Best Friend to be a good friend to the body.
I have also realized that our friends can take many forms. Keller says our faith is common but all else could be so different and cause growth in us. Made me think about 3 dear elderly people who have shown so much care and concern for me whenever I see them. They look me in the eye and ask very deliberately after myself and my family.
Also, my husband has chosen to be involved in Kids Hope and is a mentor to a 7 year old boy in foster care. The boy desperately wants this friendship and it’s so sad that school is going to be done for summer and they won’t see each other anymore. But this kind of friendship can mean as much and more than the traditional friendships we think of with people our age.
“It is so important that we begin to see the body of Christ as our family, and that they indeed, can be closer than a brother.”
My takeaway is this: that my friends/sisters in the Lord, are not just an option but they are necessary for the life & health & growth of my soul! I need to invest in them & be asking the Holy Spirit to lead me & empower me to love with His Love.
I have been so blessed reading all the God Hunts this week. Our Father is always working! 🙂
Friends are necessary for health!
I have a sweet story of how I took a risk with my son’s girlfriend’s mom yesterday who lives close by. 🙂 but I’m grocery shopping right now. 🤪 I am listening to Keller while i shop. I love you my sweet friends. ❤
Okay, so my son was at his girlfriend’s house and she’s graduating this weekend..I called him and then asked if I could speak to her mom and wow! So I just went for it and confessed i was so glad they are believers and glad about the boundaries they have with their daughter. Then i confessed im in a wilderness here with friendship and she loudly exclaimed, “so am i!! If you want to get in the word with me too i’d love that! ” She has 4 children and her youngest..what a story..he has a heart condition and they said he wouldn’t live after he was born. This made them come back from Guatemala where they were missionaries with New Tribes. He’s 6 years old now but can’t be around anyone with an illness, and has a tube connected to his heart-so it’s bad. Make a Wish came last week and they are flying their whole family to Kentucky to go camping! We are going to the graduation party tomorrow where i will get to meet her. God answered pretty fast!! Thank you, and Thanks Cyndi for praying..(Cyndi & I facebooked eachother yesterday..such a sweet gift Cyndi is!)
Wow, Rebecca! God was fast. “He makes everything beautiful in His time.” It makes me think of lonely people out there who don’t have friends because they are afraid to reach out or that Christians like us are afraid of reaching out as well. Your courage is an encouragement to me.
Wow Rebecca, what an answer!! That is so exciting to hear! 🙂
I am literally jumping up and down right now!!! tears of joy are running down my face!!!! I am so excited for you 🙂 Our God is soooooo good to us. Praying she becomes a dear friend even if your son no longer is going out with her daughter 😉 this is such AWESOME NEWS!!!! can you tell im a little excited for you 🙂
So, so happy for you, Rebecca. Such encouragement.
Wow, Rebecca. So excited for you!
Keep us updated Rebecca on this exciting God hunt!
I will!! 🙂
My takeaways for this week are:
1. Friendships need to be forged. I will need to invest my resources in another person.
2. Friendship is “what, you too?” or seeing the same truth.
3. We are made for friendship.
my God hunt for today is appreciating all of my senses-sight (flowers in our yard), smell (fragrance of lilacs and earth after rain-petrichor, a new word for me), sound (of mowers!), touch (holding hands), and taste (seafood).
13. What can I say about Tim Keller? As usual, he translates the Bible for me so I truly get it! Friends…it is hard being a true friend. I think one thing that really sticks out is how a true friend will tell you what you don’t want to hear. Jesus gave himself for his friends. Thank You Lord!
14. What was your best God Hunt of the week?
has to be the fantastic sculpture in the church where our son’s baccalaureate ceremony was held! Breathtaking! Riveting!
Wow Laura, that’s powerful & very confronting!So glad u were encouraged 🙂
My best God hunt for the week is the sweet fellowship I have with my three daughters-in-law all of whom are Christians. I just had a 4 hour road trip with one of them today and we had such good, meaningful conversation. These girls are an answer to the prayers that I have been praying since my boys were young.
That’s awesome Dawn! 🙂 What an answer to prayer.
Dawn–that is amazing–and so encouraging! I’ve been praying for my son’s future wife (and he’s only 12!) but I so hope to one day have what you describe.