Monday, November 13, 2006

Kingdom Friends

The company we keep; transformational friendships. We can never truly live until we recognize we are inseparable from others. This is a comforting statement and a scary one, too, because we all have accumulated a great deal of hurt from our ‘friends’.

"Humankind has not woven the web of life...we are but a part of it. Whatever we do to the web we do to ourselves. All things are bound together...all things connect. Whatever befalls the earth, befalls also the children of the earth." Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Tribe

I was nearly 21. I met a young woman at work who often spoke of her friends. I soon discovered it was through her church that she had all these great supportive friendships. I thought to myself, ‘Why can’t I meet friends like that?’ Have you ever said that to yourself or someone else?

What do severe problems do to your ability to connect? There was crisis in my work place at the time.

Meeting Janet was all about realizing from God, “I don’t have to live like I’ve always lived.”

You don’t have to live like you’ve always lived. That was a new mental model that I wanted to believe. Old mental models must be surfaced so that new Kingdom Thoughts can replace them and help us create space for kingdom friends. A key kingdom thought: It's not about me.

It was the prospect of Kingdom Friends that brought me face to face with God.

Take a minute to think through your best, most rewarding friendships. What made them that way for you?

How long ago were those friendships active?

How are feeling about your friendship connections right now?

What about your worst friendships? It’s very likely that they were filled with deception, infidelity, substance abuse, dependencies, financial irresponsibility, or abuse – physical/emotional. That was the cycle of my older brothers girlfriends, male friendships, and then marriages. Yikes!

I know for myself, my initial experience with kingdom friends was truly transformational. But along the path I started to lose it. I had good friends, but…Doubts crept in. my orphan heart would rear its ugly head. Do they hang out with me only because I call? Why don’t my friends call me?

I began to consider going to another church. Where the heck did I get that idea? I’d never been to another church! God kept me close by, and I struggled and muddled through. Another mental model was surfacing...

“Nothing I do matters, or ever will”.

I was coming to grips with my learned helplessness in friendships. It was a scouring time for me on the inside. This was an old mental model that God needed to help me change.

What are some of your mental models about friends? Take a minute to jot one or two down on the notes section of the program.


Some of you might surface thouhgts like, 'I don't have any friends'; or ' I'll never have any;' 'I don't deserve friends;' maybe some of you would write, 'God has blessed me with friends'.

There are different types of friendship entitlements: 1. Healthy: being special “to” someone; it is relational, as with a Kingdom Friend; 2. Unhealthy: treat me special, because I am; it is non-relational.

Some people just think they deserve things: because they exist; because they think they are special; or because someone has taught them to be that way. Often we get this way in our victimhood.

In Kingdom Marriages there is healthy entitlement- you are of absolute importance to me, next to God.

Five out of six women feel they don’t have intimacy (oneness) in their marriage. The same five out of six of women feel their husbands don’t even know the basic needs of a woman for intimacy (oneness) or how to provide intimacy for them.

It’s easy to throw a stone at _________________ for the desperation that we feel in our relationships, our friendships and marriages, but it takes two to tango and we must consider what part we play in our own dance of discontentment.

Whatever else is said of a man or woman, this much is clear: They are not what they are capable of being. G.K. Chesterton

Kingdom friends are there to help us become what we are capable of being. They begin in the telling of our story. When I first met that group of Christ followers, they listened to my journey. These people didn’t tell me about Jesus, they were Jesus to me.

Stories move in circles. They don’t go in straight lines. So it helps if you listen in circles.There are stories inside stories and stories between stories, and finding your way through them is as easy and as hard as finding your way home. And part of the finding is the getting lost. And when you’re lost, you start to look around and to listen. From A Traveling Jewish Theatre

That’s where I found myself when I encountered those Christ followers who became my kingdom friends: I was lost; I was ready; I was in a state of broken humility and it was a gift of God.

Kingdom Thought: brokenness is a gift of God.

As we move to the idea of Kingdom Friends, we want to ask God to help us cultivate places of story sharing, circles of trust, places of the heart where we reflect God’s love to each other. We all need a place to shed our old self, and friends who will allow us to see into their growth into son ship and daughterhood, friends who will gently love us towards seeing God as Father, and not in a caricature of our painful past. They will help us identify and jettison old mental models to make way for new Kingdom Thoughts.

The journey towards truth is too taxing to be made solo. The path is too deeply hidden to be traveled without company. The destination is too daunting to be achieved alone.

Headstrong ways of charging at truth scare the shy soul. Parker Palmer

"Sex and envy are the greatest drives in life." Lyndon B. Johnson

"People react to fear, not love. They don't teach that in Sunday School, but it's true." Richard Nixon

How would you like to be married to either of these former presidents or be one of their friends? Or enemies?

Kingdom friends help us unlearn mental models like that. They help us discover our real needs, and point the way to Jesus Christ.

Jesus doesn't meet our needs; he rearranges them. He cares very little about most things that I assume are my needs, and he gives me needs that I would've never had if I hadn't met Jesus. Will Willimon

Ecclesiastes 4:9,12
It's better to have a partner than go it alone.
By yourself you're unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped.

True growth starts with learning to tell our stories to one another.

Who are the people in my life who consistently strengthen my spiritual intimacy and influence?

Hurt people hurt people, but "Changed lives change lives" and "together is better". We can be WOW!ed by God so that we are left "With Out Words".

There are two broad assumptions that define adulthood in our culture:
1. I know and am fairly comfortable with who I am.
2. I am willing to take responsibility for myself.

At a personal level, number one isn’t experienced deeply by many people. If that is the case, it makes taking responsibility difficult for us. We'll hide, puff up, or seek entitlements.

Selfishness is the antithesis of love.

"When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends." Japanese proverb

Henri Nouwen defines "community" as the place where the person you least want to live with always lives! Some of us call this family.

When some people aren't acting like themselves, it’s an improvement. Zig Ziglar

Needed to connect: two, or more, connectable people!

"The inner journey is to know that creation comes out of chaos, and that even what has been created needs to be returned to chaos every now and then to get recreated in a more vital form." Parker Palmer

This series is meant like a field manual for friendships, sort of creating a band of brothers or women of worth, couples committed to Christ, families on fire and I could keep on as a rhyme cat.

It will be a challenge. It will be a challenge because we’ll need trust. Trust to overcome our fears. Trust to overcome our past hurts. Trust to overcome our pride that puffs up and keeps people away.

Come to the table and say goodbye to past betrayals.

John 13:20-35
Make sure you get this right: Receiving someone I send is the same as receiving me, just as receiving me is the same as receiving the One who sent me." (When Jesus sends someone to you, receive them because in doing so you welcome Him and the Father.)

After he said these things, Jesus became visibly upset, and then he told them why. "One of you is going to betray me." (Betrayal hurts)

The friends looked around at one another, wondering who on earth he was talking about. One of the friends, the one Jesus loved dearly, was reclining against him, his head on his shoulder. Peter motioned to him to ask who Jesus might be talking about. So, being the closest, he said, "Master, who?"

Jesus said, "The one to whom I give this crust of bread after I've dipped it." Then he dipped the crust and gave it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. As soon as the bread was in his hand, Satan entered him.

"What you must do," said Jesus, "do. Do it and get it over with."

No one around the supper table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas was their treasurer, Jesus was telling him to buy what they needed for the Feast, or that he should give something to the poor.

Judas, with the piece of bread, left. It was night. (They didn't get it because they wouldn't have suspected Judas, or any of their other friends. They were exactly that, friends!)

When he had left, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for who he is in him. The moment God is seen in him, God's glory will be on display. In glorifying him, he himself is glorified—glory all around!

"Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I'm telling you: 'Where I go, you are not able to come.'

"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my friends—when they see the love you have for each other."

Simon Peter asked, "Master, just where are you going?"

Jesus answered, "You can't now follow me where I'm going. You will follow later."

"Master," said Peter, "why can't I follow now? I'll lay down my life for you!"

"Really? You'll lay down your life for me? The truth is that before the rooster crows, you'll deny me three times." (Peter never intended to betray his best friend, Jesus, yet there are times that when we are faced with the approval of people, we choose to turn our backs on those closest to us. We all have been betrayed and have been betrayers ourselves. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Another Kingdom Thought!)

Betrayal and disappointment were present in the relationships Jesus had. They will be a part of our experience, too. Let God comfort you in those painful relational memories, in the loneliness, and open your heart to a new reality of Kingdom Friends waiting to be discovered.


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