Celebrating the Friendships That Didn’t Last a Lifetime

They all cried as they embraced and kissed him [Paul] good-bye. They were sad most of all because he had said that they would never see him again. Then they escorted him down to the ship. Acts 2:37-38 NLT

Growing up back in the 20th century, long before Facebook and social media, a pastor or Sabbath School teacher we all loved would move away. It seemed there would always be one member of the congregation or Sabbath School class who would keep in fairly regular contact with the pastor after he moved. Through this member we would hear about the pastor’s current mission trips and his daughter’s graduation and marriage. Looking back now, it never occurred to me to get the former pastor’s contact information. It was enough to hear the stories through that one member who kept in contact, and I suppose subconsciously in the back of my mind, I assumed if I ever needed to talk to the former pastor again personally, all I had to do was get his number from that one member who had it. Looking back, before social media, we still had a healthy and balanced way to stay in touch. 

Often times I read memes about lifelong friendships and how wonderful they are-and yes they are! I treasure my friends that I discuss current events with, while remembering going through Watergate together. A couple weeks ago I shared a story about a lifelong friend who had to remind me of an accident I had decades ago. That was very special albeit embarrassing. yes, lifelong friendships are very special, but let’s not let that distract from the specialness of the friendships that didn’t last a lifetime. 

While I was in first grade my family moved into a home just a couple blocks from the church school, so I moved with them. Next door lived “Hans” who was about my exact age. In no time we were playing together all the time. He was into puppetry, and we even did a puppet skit on a local TV cable station. We played super heroes and on certain summer nights would sleep outside in the treehouse, with the plans of waking up at 4am to go fight crime. Looking back I thank God I never could wake him up. No telling what trouble we would have ran into. Later in middle school we started drifting apart, and in our teens while we still lived next door we seldom saw each other at all. He had his public school friends and his music. Even as a little boy he loved playing the “Entertainer” on the piano with his front door wide open. To this day I can’t hear that song without thinking of “Hans.” I digress. Anyway Hans and I drifted apart, and for the last few years we were neighbors we were basically total strangers. However, there were times in high school where I was struggling with Algebra and Geometry.  “Hans” was great at math, and would let me come over so he could explain it to me. I would thank him, and he would express his pleasure at being able to help me, then I would go back home. That was the extent of our friendship at that point. 

At the turn of the 21st century, I learned from his sister that “Hans’ was living in New York City. (Thankfully his sister did indeed turn out to be a lifelong friend.) About this time I got my first computer with Internet capabilities, and had some questions. “Hans” was into computers so I called him up, and once again he enthusiastically helped me out. Once again, I thanked him, he said I was welcome, we hung up and have never spoken since. Ever since 7th or 8th grade “Hans” has had his own friends, hobbies, career and a life that I simply haven’t fit into since around 6th grade. I love staying in touch with people. I love lifelong friends. At the same time I realize it is not practical or even healthy and balanced to expect everyone from my past to still be an active friend today. That would be about as silly as a playwriter putting the entire cast into every single scene. The entire cast does not belong in every single scene, not even the star. It would be about as crazy as a field goal kicker expecting his coach to put him in on every play. That’s not how it works or how you win games. 

Fact is, there is a time for actors, once they have served their purpose, to make their final exit from the play. Solomon’s wisdom teaches us there is a purpose for every season, but seasons change and so do our needs, and so do the needs of our friends. But while we celebrate lifelong friendships, lets remember the wisdom of Solomon and also celebrate those wonderful friendships that did not last a lifetime. They still served their purpose. Every friendship howbeit ever so brief, serves a purpose and brings a lesson. While my friend “Hans” had moved on with his life, and really did not need me in it, he was still there when I needed him for Algebra. Through him I have learned how to move on in my life and leave some people alone, while leaving the door wide open for that moment when I may actually be able to serve them again. That’s why I also came up with the analogy of the field goal kicker. While the field goal kicker is not needed on every play, he is needed to be on the sidelines throughout the entire game for that one moment he is needed to kick the winning field goal as time expires. Just because the coach seldom puts the kicker in on a play does not mean he does not value the kicker-he does! Just because a friend called another friend for lunch today without calling you does not mean your friend does not value you. We don’t have to be in on every “play” to be valued and appreciated. 

Let’s learn from the stranger who helped us fix that flat tire and then disappeared into the night never to be seen again. He came and taught us kindness, served his purpose and exited the scene. He doesn’t even need to exchange Christmas cards. He taught us a lesson, served his purpose and that was enough. 

Let’s learn from the Sabbath School teacher who harped on that one idea all the time till it drove you crazy. You haven’t seen or heard from her since the turn of the century. But sitting in Sabbath School class last week a question came up and you remembered what she said so many years ago. You used it to help someone last Sabbath understand the point a little more clearly. 

My ex-fiancé dumped me over 20 years ago, but I still remember how she showed me to add sour cream to mashed potatoes and gravy. I still love making them that way to this day. And as I look back, I learned some important lessons from that relationship that are more important than mashed potatoes and gravy. I learned some hard lessons that have helped me in my relationships today. I am glad she was a part of my life! 

While the blessings of lifelong friendships are amazing beyond words, lets not forget to celebrate the friendships that didn’t last a lifetime. After all, those friendships were not in vain even though they did not last. They served their purpose and they taught us valuable lessons that last a lifetime. 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Kaleb’s Baptism Pictures and Stories

In the summer of 2011 Mike and karmin were members of a group Bible Study that would meet at Panera Bread, and sometimes Mike and Karmin’s home. During this time Mike and karmin had a baby boy named Kaleb.
Here I am meeting Kaleb at his first ever Tuesday night Bible study. Actually it was his first ever Tuesday night! Like my friendship with Mike and Karmin, Kaleb and I have been best friends ever since. For over 10 years we have always been there for each other, or at least they have always been there for me. They were there with me when I went to the ER in 2009, and have always been there when I needed help with cleaning or moving, or just watching my place while on vacation. They are also there for me whenever I need someone to eat pizza with me or just a listening ear at Starbucks.
So ten years later this summer, when Mike and Karmin told me they were having baptism studies with Kaleb, I was very honored and happy when they asked me to participate in Kaleb’s preparation for baptism. Kaleb completed his Following Jesus baptism workbook as a part of his Bible study. Kaleb was also full of thoughtful questions on various topics as we studied together.

Yesterday was the special day when Kaleb expressed his love for Jesus, by being baptized. Kaleb gave all of himself to Jesus, because Jesus gave all of himself for Kaleb. About his baptism Kaleb said,

“I want to be baptized so I can continue my journey with God. I also want to be baptized so I can have a stronger relationship with Him. God is the only God and I want to make my commitment to Him.”

Here is the video of Kaleb’s baptism at the Tampa Frist Seventh-day Adventist Church.
After the baptism Kaleb received his baptism certificate which includes his Bible beliefs. Please pray for Kaleb as he continues his journey with God.

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. Galatians 3:26-27 NLT

A special thanks for those who have been faithfully making these moments possible through the Bible Worker Fund. God bless you for your prayers and monthly or one time offerings.

12: The Restless Prophet-Sabbath School Teaching Plan

Photo by Nathan Cowley on Pexels.com

Prepared by William Earnhardt, for Sabbath September 18.

Main Theme: Jonah could not find rest with his heart in the wrong place. God is patient as He helps us have the right attitudes that give our hearts peace.

Read Together Jonah 1:1-18. Discuss together what the main idea is of this passage.

Study: Why might Jonah be running away? Did running away bring true rest?

Apply: What are some ways people run from God today? Do they find true rest apart from God? Hint: Isaiah 48:22.

Share: Share a brief testimony of a time when God finally brought you around to doing the right thing.

Read Together Jonah 2:1-10. Discuss what the main idea is of this passage.

Study: What is Jonah praying about? Where does he direct his prayer and why?

Apply: How has God been merciful even when you were running the wrong way? How did his mercy help you find true rest?

Share: Your friend asks what exactly Jonah 2:8 is talking about. How do you explain it?

Read Together Jonah 3:1-10. Discuss what the main idea is of this passage.

Study: How did Nineveh respond and how do we see their repentance was sincere?

Apply: How do we show that we have sincerely repented? Hint: Ephesians 4:24-32, Luke 19:8-10. How does repentance and making things right give us true rest? Can you think of a time when you could find no rest until you finally made something right?

Share: A friend at church says she is afraid to share Jesus with her coworkers for fear of being rejected or made fun of. What hope can you share with your friend?

Read Together Jonah 4:1-11. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: Why is Jonah so upset? Do you think Jonah may have forgot that the same mercy that saved Nineveh also provided the great fish to save him also? What can we learn from this?

Apply: Have you ever been reluctant to grant mercy to someone only to realize later that we all need mercy? See We all Need Mercy. How does forgiving others give us rest?

Share: Can you think of someone you have “discarded” as hopeless as a Ninevite? Will you rethink your attitude and share the Gospel with them this week? Remember,

“Often we regard as hopeless subjects the very ones whom Christ is drawing to Himself.” – Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons, Page 71.

Even With bad Breaks we are More Than Conquerors

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 NKJV 

In John 8:1-11 Some men with terrible motives and intentions seduced a woman and dragged her to Jesus  to see if He would condemn her or even allow her to be stoned to death. As evil as their intentions were what they inadvertently did was they brought a woman to the feet of Jesus where she found salvation. As terrible as it was, and believe me it was not Jesus’ idea for them to do her that way, but in the end Jesus turned things around to work out in her favor and to God’s glory. 

Terrible things happened to Jesus. Satan worked through evil men to make the Son of God a degraded spectacle on the cross. yet through it all Jesus became the Savior of the world. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that the one who was so despised, rejected and degraded is Lord. In the process a multitude that no one can number will be saved.

The Father’s presence encircled Christ, and nothing befell Him but that which infinite love permitted for the blessing of the world. Here was His source of comfort, and it is for us. He who is imbued with the Spirit of Christ abides in Christ. The blow that is aimed at him falls upon the Saviour, who surrounds him with His presence. Whatever comes to him comes from Christ. He has no need to resist evil, for Christ is his defense. Nothing can touch him except by our Lord’s permission, and “all things” that are permitted “work together for good to them that love God.” Romans 8:28.- Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, Page 71. 

What a wonderful promise that nothing can touch us but what infinite love permits, and all these things work together for our good if we love God. Without ever reading Romans 8;28 or this passage from Mount of Blessing I just shared, Joseph realized that all the bad breaks he endured worked out to develop his character so he could save lives. Instead of being bitter and resentful Joseph saw even the bad breaks and evil intentions of others were working to his advantage. Not only did Joseph forgive his brothers for selling him into slavery but instead of blaming them he said it was actually God who did it- and He did it for the good of others. 

But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. Genesis 45:5 NKJV

Not only did Joseph not blame his dysfunctional family for all the bad breaks in his life, but he refused to acknowledge them as bad breaks. Instead he realized through all of the evil intentions of his dysfunctional family and even Potipher’s wife’s terrible accusations God was working to refine his character in order to get him exactly where he needed to be in order to save many lives. 

When bad breaks come our way instead of blaming others for our situation lets trust God the same way Jesus and Joseph did. Let’s share in their hope and encouragement. Surely God is working out something wonderful in our lives. 

Christ rejoiced that He could do more for His followers than they could ask or think. He spoke with assurance, knowing that an almighty decree had been given before the world was made. He knew that truth, armed with the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit, would conquer in the contest with evil; and that the bloodstained banner would wave triumphantly over His followers. He knew that the life of His trusting disciples would be like His, a series of uninterrupted victories, not seen to be such here, but recognized as such in the great hereafter.-Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 679.

Instead of being resentful and bitter over supposedly bad  breaks lets bask in the love of God! God’s great love is working through our tribulations and persecutions making us more than conquerors. 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 NKJV 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

05: Come Unto Me -Sabbath School Teaching Plan

Prepared by William Earnhardt for Sabbath School class on July 31, 2021.

Main theme for this week’s lesson: The yoke Jesus gives us is not a burden. It’s a support system. It’s His grace.

Read Together Matthew 11:28-30. Discuss the main idea of this passage.

Study: what type of rest does Jesus give us? How might the preceding verses help us understand?

Apply: How do we take Jesus’ yoke? How does that make our burden light? See God Will Definitely Give you More Than you can Handle.

Share: Share a time God gave you rest from a trial or temptation.

Read Together Matthew 5:5 and Galatians 5:1 and identify the main idea of these passages.

Study: What does it mean to be meek? What is the yoke of bondage Christ frees us from?

Apply: How do we stay meek and have rest and peace in a doge eat dog world?

Share: Tell about a meek person you know. How do they show meekness while having a confident rest and peace?

Read Together Exodus 18:13-22. Discuss the theme of this passage.

Study: What does bearing another person’s burden look like in this story?

Apply: How do you keep from being over-worked and over burdened? Should we send ourselves on a guilt trip for not doing a job in the church someone else could have just of easily done?

Share: Do you know of someone at work, home or church who is being burned out like Moses? How can you help them this week? Or if you are burned out how can you delegate some of your responsibilities?

Read Together Galatians 6:2 and identify the main idea of this passage.

Study: How does bearing each others burdens help us fulfill the law of Christ?

Apply: How does bearing someone else’ burden help you bear your own? An old story is told about a man who was caught in a snow bank in a blizzard. He was freezing and about to give up an die when he heard another man moaning in the storm. The first man found the strength to rescue the other man and ended up saving himself in the process. Do you believe this story to be true? Why or why not?

Share: Are there any burdens or responsibilities that someone can help you with, even a shut in or a child? How could you actually be helping them by letting them help you? Would it even be worth adjusting our expectations in order to help them by letting them help us?

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22 NLT