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Monday, August 17, 2020

Horses in Lancaster County
Horses on Trout Run Road
Click on photo to enlarge

"The Blessing Of Old Friends"

Message summary: Today we want to consider enduring friendships as one of the greatest blessings in life for which we should be thankful. “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”*

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“And the next day we touched at Sidon. And Julius courteously entreated Paul, and gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself” (Acts 27:3).

Tom and MarshaThis weekend we had a visit from old friends. We met Tom and Marsha 40 years ago when they became a part of the church we served in northern Pennsylvania for nearly sixteen years. They were a young married couple with two little girls seeking to find their way in life. Tom and Marsha made an earnest commitment to following Christ and became very active in Christian service which was a great blessing to our congregation and community and to us personally. They are one of the great blessings of serving that church which we eventually left in 1993 to take a pastoral position in Massachusetts.

David Simpson childhood photoMany who are dealing with the aging process may groan, "I can't think of anything that's good about getting old" but there are a few benefits and one of them is having old friends. Now to be clear,  if I made a friend in 1st grade and maintained that friendship through 8th grade, from that perspective he would be an "old friend", but that increasingly takes on more significance as one ages in the sense that David Simpson, who indeed became my close friend in 1st grade, still is over sixty years later!

The late Kenny Rogers sang a song with a thoughtful truth, "You Can't Make Old Friends". When you meet someone and become a friend they're a new friend.  Another common phrase is, "Old friends make it great to grow old." We would probably word it, "Having old friends is one of the positive aspects of getting old".

All through life we make friends, then we seek to maintain that friendship. Of course in our lifetime the internet has been a great asset in reconnecting and maintaining contact but every generation has had old friends. As a little kid I remember the old men talking together as they sat on a park bench near City Hall in Belton, MO. At that being that old seemed incomprehensibly far off.

Marvin, our next door neighbor has for many years met for breakfast seven days a week with his longtime friends way back from his early school years so that's about 60 years now. He works construction and we see his truck pull out about 5:30 every morning to meet with his friends for breakfast before starting his work day. Covid sure messed up their schedule for a while but Marvin told us they found a way around it when the restaurant starting serving food outside.

Today we will examine two phrases from our rather obscure daily text. In reading this long narrative portion about Paul’s captivity and shipwreck it’s so easy to miss them.

Background: Paul is on his way to Rome as a prisoner. He’s appealed to Caesar. He’s surely discouraged and weary from traveling the stormy seas and being under surveillance the entire time. Uncertainty is his only glimpse into the near future.

1) "And Julius courteously entreated Paul." The ship stops at Sidon where Julius "courteously entreated" Paul.  This translates the only time in the New Testament that we see the Greek word "philanthropos", the root for our English word “philanthropy.” Julius, a hardened centurion, assigned to guard Paul at all times gave him freedom to see his friends and later spared his life when others wanted to do away with him (Acts 27:43). What a positive example and stimulus for us to forge a friendship even in the midst of a hardship and being in the company of those we might not prefer. It reminds me of an acquaintance that chose to pray every day for his competitor/”enemy” instead of hurling insults or responding in kind to his combative tone.

There is no mention elsewhere in Scripture that Paul was ever in Sidon, but nevertheless he had some friends there. I wonder who they were and how he had met them. We’re not told about the circumstances but it’s easy to determine they’re the kind of friends you want to surround yourselves with all throughout life’s journey. Their presence in our lives refresh us when difficulties and disappointments might otherwise drain us of energy and motivation. We sure need friends like that don't we?

2) "And gave him liberty to go unto his friends to refresh himself”. These friends had a part in Paul’s refreshing. The word "refresh" translated from the Greek is a word again found only in this passage throughout the entire New Testament. It has the sense of "kind attention". That’s what Paul needed and that’s what these unnamed friends did as they provided for his needs; physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

That’s what we’ve quite often needed and have experienced from so many good friends, including many of you reading this message. Thank you. There’s a lot of refreshing needed in our lives as we deal with daily challenges that can deplete us of a positive outlook! We all need caring and devoted friends to stand with us and in turn there are people who need us to be that kind of friend, like the Scripture says, "A man who has friends must show himself friendly" (Proverbs 18:24).  Today we encourage you to thank God for the blessing of old friends!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, You have given me many treasures that cannot be bought with money and friendship is among them. I thank You for the special friends who brighten my outlook and challenge me to be a better person. Thank You for my caring friend who loves me and never gives up on me even when I feel like giving up on myself. For that dear friend who comes alongside me and helps carry the burdens that I bear, I am especially thankful. My life is enriched and my spirit is refreshed as I share my heart with a close friend who does not criticize but accepts my frailties; who prays for me and expresses love for me in ways that build me up and strengthen me in the trials of life. Father, You are the greatest and most trusting Friend that I will ever know. Help me to draw near to You so that You draw near to me. Amen.

Note from ClarenceToday's opening quote is from the Christmas classic, "It's a Wonderful Life". I'm always touched at the end when George Bailey receives a note from the angel Clarence reminding him, "Remember, no man is a failure who has friends."

Clarence's message is also a reminder to each of us. Friends are of tremendous blessing, especially when we endure hardships of any kind.

Tom and Marsha
Tom and Marsha in front our Hydrangea Tree

Dave Simpson
Here's a photo of my longest-time friend David Simpson, a businessman in Springfield, MO.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Old Friends"  Video  Old Friends Quartet   "Old friends make it great to grow old"

"Friends"  Video   Michael W. Smith

Music ministry
Saturday evening we took Tom and Marsha over to the Old Windmill Farm. Late in the evening we shared some worship music with them over my iPhone. We wanted them to hear "Is He Worthy?" and "The Blessing".

Brooksyne feeding baby piglet
Brooksyne feeding a baby piglet. She got a kick out of the piglet resting its right hoof on her index finger during the feeding session. The sow gave birth to 11 piglets but most have died so the family is trying to save the two remaining piglets with special milk feedings.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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