From the Podcast: Learning Friendship from Children

From the Podcast: Learning Friendship from Children

By Kent Bass


We just released a Striving Together podcast episode on friendship. If you haven’t listened to it yet, I hope you will soon. Pastor Shane and Pastor Manny had a helpful conversation about what it looks like to experience friendship, especially in the context of the church.

Of particular note to me was a small anecdote Shane shared about one of his children becoming new friends with another child. What struck me was the ease at which young children can (generally) develop friendships. Kids can walk into a room, start playing with complete strangers, and walk away confident the person they were playing with is a new pal–almost as if they had been friends from birth. Why does it seem so easy for them?

Children don’t bring cynical judgments into relationships

One of the barriers we face in developing friendships is our cynicism. We think, “That person wouldn’t want anything to do with me. And even if they did, they probably wouldn’t understand how to care for me.” Whether it’s our personality or past experience, we can view relationships with a “glass half empty” lens. Cynical assumptions don’t breed relational depth.

Children don’t bring fearful expectations into friendships

Shane mentioned fear being a barrier to relationships, and I wholeheartedly agree. Even though we can pride ourselves on being more reasonable and rational than children (monsters aren’t real) we allow our “mature” fears to dictate how we interact with others. “If I opened up and shared about who I am and how I feel, if they really knew me, they wouldn’t want to be my friend.” Fear tries to convince us we are sovereign, that we know for sure what will happen. Living as if our “what if?” fears are certainties will keep us from the kind of vulnerability that friendship requires and thrives on.

What can we learn from kids?

Cynicism and fear certainly aren’t the only barriers to friendship, but what I appreciate (and often learn) from my own children when they encounter problems is this: they are quick to come to me. Monsters under the bed might seem ridiculous to me, but their irrational fears lead them into my arms.

This is the kind of childlike faith that Tony preached on from Luke 18. “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (vs16-17). The faith of a child is the recognition of need and the belief that God can provide. Childlike faith embraces dependence on the Father.

What obstacles keep you from experiencing friendship? As you face these obstacles, does your faith in God lead you toward him and others, or do you turn inward in disbelief? Let’s be a people who depend on God. In his wisdom, he has given us a family of faith to provide us with care and support. Let’s strive together to embrace the gift of friendship.


Kent is a native of southern Illinois and a graduate of the University of Illinois. He holds an MA in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He met his wife Hope at a Christian sports camp in Pennsylvania in 2007. They got married in 2010 and have four kids: Silas, Anna, Grace, and Asa. He is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and loves talking about the intricacies of the golf swing. As a pastor, he loves having a front-row seat to watch how Jesus transforms people’s lives.

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Five Things the Lord Taught Me About Grief

Five Things the Lord Taught Me About Grief

As a trained biblical counselor, you might think that I know a lot about grieving. I know many things, but learned things come into greater clarity when you experience them personally. So I thought I would share a few new things the Lord has lovingly taught me these last six months since my mom passed away. I hope you will find them helpful.

1. A good listener is a wonderful gift.

Shortly after my mom’s death, I had two sweet, godly friends ask me to lunch. When I had lunch with the first friend, she let me share all the details of what happened the month preceding mom’s death. She just listened. I felt loved and cared for.

The second friend tried to be helpful and every so often in my telling the details, she would compare my experience to her painful experience when one of her parents died. I am quite certain her responses came from a loving heart. However, the comparisons were not helpful. What I found when leaving lunch with the second friend is that I not only felt the burdens of my own pain, but I also felt hers. As a result, I left feeling more sadness and grief.

To serve someone well in their grief, be a good listener. You can start the conversation simply by asking, What happened? As a follow-up question, you might ask, What was the hardest part? A final question might be, What could I do that would be helpful?

2. Some friends may not understand; don’t be hurt by this.

I have many wonderful young friends. Because they are so young, many of them have not yet experienced the loss of a parent. This makes it difficult for them to understand the grief I felt. Additionally, I was so blessed to have had a godly mother. She was my best girlfriend and we spent a lot of time together hanging out. I miss her every day. The Lord showed me that another impediment to a friend understanding the grief I experienced could be the fact that they have a very different relationship with their mom/dad. It may be strained, superficial, or even non-existent. In cases like this, there may even be some jealousy.

The Lord was gracious to help me realize no one could truly know how I was feeling. It may have been because of a lack of experience of grief or due to very different relationships. Either way, I had to recognize these truths and choose not to have my feelings hurt but rather to extend grace. In some situations, I found myself taking advantage of a teachable moment to help friends understand ways they could serve a grieving brother or sister.

3. Anger – it may surprise you.

If you’ve ever studied grief, then you probably know that anger is often cited as one of the “stages” of grief. I knew this. However, I assumed it meant you were mad at the person responsible for the death, the person who died, or maybe even God. I found that I was angry, but not at anyone in particular. I found I had a very short fuse and became angry at the most ridiculous things – like the bank teller being too slow. Knowing this aspect of anger during grief can help one understand the actions of the grieved and react with grace and care.

4. Be honest about your feelings.

I think a natural tendency for most people is to hide their feelings. How many times have you been having an awful day and yet you respond with, “I’m fine” when asked? I found it helpful to simply say, “I’m not doing too well today, but thank you so much for asking,” or “I’m really struggling with sadness today, would you pray for me?” This does two things. First, it helps you to tell someone when you are hurting, not to elicit some response or action from them, but to simply acknowledge out loud how you feel inside. Second, friends really do care, and telling the truth about your feelings gives them insight as to how they can pray for you and be a better friend.

5. Meal delivery gift cards are a remarkable gift.

I grew up in the South and was taught the “right” way to minister to someone who is grieving is through food. While I do love a tasty casserole, I experienced the beauty of calling for a meal when I needed it the most, such as when I felt immobilized in my grief and could not get off the couch. Not every day is the same when you are grieving; some days are just harder than others. The meal delivery gift cards were incredibly helpful on those days.

Grief will come to all and for a variety of reasons. I hope this article has been helpful for you both personally and as you serve your brothers and sisters.

Denise has served as the Director of Women’s Life and Assistant Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where she taught graduate courses in ministry to women. Prior to serving at Southeastern, Denise was a student there and earned both her MA in Biblical Counseling and Doctor of Education. Currently, she serves as Director of Counseling Development. Denise and her husband Rod have been married 46 years and have two married daughters and six grandchildren.

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The Witness of Imagination

The Witness of Imagination

I love fiction. While many people enjoy watching “reality” shows like The Amazing Race or The Great British Baking Show, I prefer stories set in galaxies far, far away. As comedian Jerry Seinfeld quips, “When men are growing up and they’re reading about Batman, Spiderman, Superman … those are not fantasies … they’re options“. I appreciate a good imagination and storytelling that is full of possibilities. Whether we like reality shows or high fantasy novels, we all have an imagination, and God created us with the capacity to imagine things other than they appear.

C. S. Fritz writes, “Imagination is simply the ability to visualize that which is not visual, to see the unseeable”. A vital part of belief is the ability to imagine. For example, the Apostle Paul encourages us to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2). This requires the ability to imagine—to see a world under the perfect reign of King Jesus in our mind’s eye.

Take another example: When a father brought his son to Jesus to be healed and said, “But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus, ever merciful and patient, replied to the scared father, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:20-24). This anxious dad needed to see, to imagine that Jesus could do it, that he would do it, that he is who he says he is.

Can we envision—can we imagine—God saving someone else by using us to share the gospel?

In his book, The Arts and the Christian Imagination, professor and apologist Clyde S. Kilby shares about the Christian imagination:

“Can the Christian ever be a true witness to his neighbor until he comprehends the sin which captivates his neighbor, until with some vividness he imagines his neighbor different from what he is now? And is it not this very process of creative imagination which enables brotherly love to move forth dynamically in relation to another human being? In fact, apart from such imaginative participation, will not one’s neighbor become mere object-to-be-saved, to whom a formula of regeneration is indiscriminately spoken robot-fashion and apart from genuine sympathy and love?”

Kilby encourages us to use the gift of our imagination to visualize our lost neighbor as someone different, someone redeemed, someone brought into the grace of the Lord Jesus. Our imagination allows us to see that person, in all their uniqueness, transformed by the gospel.

Can we not imagine our neighbor as other than what he is? I’m not saying that we use our imagination to will something to occur. Instead, as Kilby argues, imagination fuels movement and action. When we do not conceive of the glorified, eternal soul redeemed by the Savior, we do not feel the importance of sharing our great hope with them. Imagination becomes a power for our evangelism because we “see” what is possible and know that our God can do it.

We too often share the gospel for our own sake—to ward off the shame or fear of not speaking when we know we ought. “Well, I tried,” we say after a robotic presentation disconnected from the uniqueness of the person standing in front of us. But to share for their sake—this specific person’s sake—requires seeing them as they are and imagining them as God desires them to be.

Do we believe that he can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power at work within us (Ephesians 3:20)? Imagine the demons shuddering; imagine the sick healed; imagine the dead raised to life. And imagine this person before you, not as a project but as a possible recipient of God’s transforming gospel.

Imagining the Kingdom is more than conceiving the streets of gold upon which we will one day walk. Imagining the Kingdom is also about imagining our lost neighbor as a citizen of that Kingdom, a partaker of its ministry, and a unique and beloved creation of God.

What shall we do? As Christians, it’s important to cultivate what many refer to as a sanctified imagination—an imagination shaped by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. Theologian Kevin Vanhoozer shared in an interview two simple ways to begin cultivating a sanctified imagination:

  1. Reading. Vanhoozer writes, “Reading, then, is a kind of strength-training that flexes the muscles of our imagination. Those who read widely are often those who are able to employ metaphors that connect ordinary life to the wonderful real world of the Bible.”
  2. Viewing myself as part of the ongoing action that the Bible recounts. We seek to view the world and our participation in it through the lens of the gospel. We also view our relationships through this lens—we are part of God’s redeeming work in the world, fleshed out in numerous ways in every interaction we have.

Jesus is the hero of the Great Story and, by his grace, we get to participate with him in his saving work. May we cultivate our imaginations so that we can see the possible in the lives of those we seek to reach with the gospel.

Trevor is originally from Oklahoma and serves on staff at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Mid-America Christian University as well as a master’s degree and a doctorate from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a fan of good coffee, bookstores, and superheroes. Trevor and his wife, Ashley, raise their daughters in Wake Forest.

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The Messy Beauty of Gospel Community

The Messy Beauty of Gospel Community

Over the past decade, the term “gospel community” has grown popular. But what does “gospel community” actually mean? It’s become one of those phrases that we may hear a lot or even say a lot, but do we know what it means? As we live life alongside one another in the local church, we need to grasp what the Bible tells us about how we live well with one another.

Gospel Community Defined


First, when we talk about being a gospel community, we mean that we are a community that is formed and sustained by the gospel. In Titus 2, Paul writes that Jesus Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14 ESV). The Apostle Paul points to the gospel—the good news that Jesus gave himself to redeem and purify a people for himself. Those who respond in faith to that good news are made part of God’s people. We are literally brought into the family of Jesus Christ.

By “gospel community,” we also mean that we are a community that is centered on the gospel. The good news of Jesus Christ is our focus. We look to Christ, follow Christ, and are excited about Christ. Everything we do comes back to Jesus and points to his life-changing message.


Why Gospel Community Matters


Once we understand what it is, we can understand why it matters. Why does it matter that God has brought you, Christian, into his people? Why is the church so important?

We see the answer clearly in 1 Timothy 3.

“…if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)

Paul describes the church as the “pillar and foundation of the truth.” God uses his church to uphold and proclaim the gospel to the world. He sets them on a mission in the world. The manifold wisdom of God is made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. God’s people declare to the world the glory of the Lord Jesus. Through this gospel community, God’s love is made manifest, God’s mission is accomplished, and God’s people are transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus.



So it matters that we are saved into this thing we call “gospel community”—the church of God—because God reveals his glory to his people and through his people.


How We Live as Gospel Community


How does God reveal his glory in and through his people? Through the ways we live with and relate to one another in this community of faith.

Perhaps one of the best pictures of this is the early church found in Acts 2.

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-27)

This devotion to one another is counter-cultural. It’s a devotion to one another fueled by the gospel and a love for Jesus. Therefore, the first way we should live as a gospel community with one another is to cultivate our own love for God. Adoration leads to transformation; the way we live with one another is transformed by growing awe for the Lord.

The second way we should live as a gospel community is to love one another in both word and deed. We should actively live out the “one another’s” of Scripture. The New Testament contains around 60 “one another” commands given to Christians. For example:

  • In John 13, Jesus tells his disciples to love one another, explaining that their love will testify to the world that they are his disciples.
  • Romans 12:10 urges us to be devoted to one another in love.
  • In Galatians 5:13, Paul instructs the Galatians to serve one another in love.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:18 and 5:11 repeatedly call us to encourage or build up one another.

These “one another” commands are more than just nice ways to relate to each other. Going back to Jesus’ words in John 13, these “one another’s” are about neighbor love. They are about displaying a Kingdom ethic to one another and the world. As Christians, we have a different way of life and a different way of relating to one another in how we unite around the gospel. When we forgive one another, it points us to God’s ultimate forgiveness through Christ. When we serve one another, we are reminded of Christ who came to serve. 

The “one another’s” are also a means of neighbor-love to those who are not followers of Jesus. In John 13, Jesus explains that the way we love one another is a testimony to the world about our Savior and Lord. It is a radically different love displayed through radically ordinary means. This love on display invites the watching world to come inside, follow Jesus, and become part of his family.

For an extended list of the “one another” passages, see this page.


The Glory of Gospel Community


This is why gospel community matters. God has saved us into a family, so let us be family. May we seek to be “one another Christians” who display the love of Christ in the way that we love and serve one another as a gospel community. Not every family is perfect, and the church on this side of eternity is no different. But we have a perfect Savior who is actively working in us to transform us—together—from one degree of glory to another.


Trevor is originally from Oklahoma and serves on staff at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Mid-America Christian University as well as a master’s degree and a doctorate from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a fan of good coffee, bookstores, and superheroes. Trevor and his wife, Ashley, raise their daughters in Wake Forest.

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Working for the Weekend?

Working for the Weekend? How to Find Purpose in Your Work


Raise your hand if you like your job. Raise your hand if you like your boss. Raise your hand if you like your salary. Chances are, you didn’t raise your hand three times. Work isn’t always what we want it to be. We see in Genesis 3 that one of the effects of the Fall is that work is hard. Whether we are talking about our vocation or the other daily tasks that demand our time and effort, frustrations and difficulties are likely the norm and not the exception. Sometimes we want to complain. Sometimes we want to check out. Sometimes we want to give up.


In Colossians 3:22-24, Paul lays out some important principles to influence and guide the way we work. As you read, consider whether your pattern and approach to work mirror what we see in the Scriptures.


Principle #1- Fear the Lord 

“Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.”

Paul warns us against a dangerous way to approach our work: Caring more about the opinion of man than God. While the context of our work isn’t the same as the context Paul is writing in, we also experience the temptation for our work to be “eye-service.” You know what this looks like. If your boss isn’t around, you don’t work as hard as you would if he or she were sitting right next to you. When they come near, you kick your efforts into high gear. Only working hard when someone is watching you isn’t really hard work. It’s eye-service. Your greatest concern is the opinion of your boss. In that moment, you are operating as a people-pleaser instead of a God-pleaser. Paul says that we should work with a heart that is motivated by a fear of the Lord. If you only work hard when the eyes of your boss are upon you, your heart (effort) will lack the appropriate fear of the Lord that should be evident for those in Christ.


Principle #2- Believe the Lord

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”

For servants or slaves, you can understand where the temptation to work in a way that pleases people comes from . What benefit would they have for working hard all the time? They weren’t getting paid. They didn’t have the same freedoms that our jobs afford. No 401-k on the line. No promotion or salary bump to motivate them. So why bother? Paul tells them: your reward is in heaven. There is a better reward than simply making it through the end of the day with some fuel left in your tank. Work with all your heart, not for men, but for God. This is how all of life is meant to be lived–unto the Lord. Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our mind and with all of our strength (Mark 12:30). Surely work is not an exception. Notice that our circumstances don’t negate this command. We don’t love God with all that we have and work for him with all our heart as long as we like what we are doing, or as long as our boss is nice, or as long as the parameters of our job are fair. No, we love God with all that we have and work with all of our heart because of Him! God is worthy of our love. God is worthy of our work. Additionally, God holds out a greater reward than pleasing a master or boss. “You will receive the inheritance as your reward.” God’s job is to make promises and deliver on them. Your job is to believe and obey. If you experience a lack of motivation or desire to work hard, consider your level of belief in God’s promises.



Principle #3- Serve the Lord

“You are serving the Lord Christ.”

This is a good reminder. One of the most practical things the gospel does for us is reorients our way of thinking away from ourselves and toward God. We have a tendency in our sinfulness to make everything about us. But the gospel reminds us that nothing is about us. Your job isn’t about you. Paul reminds us that we are serving the Lord Christ. Earlier in this chapter, we see that everything we do is meant to be done in the name of Jesus (vs 17). In his name means for his name. Who receives glory and honor and praise for the things you say and do? Does the manner in which you work aim for the glorification of self or the glorification of Christ? Do you seek to promote your name and your fame in how you do your job or do you seek to promote the name and fame of the Lord Jesus Christ? Whether we like our job or not, we should remember we are working to serve Jesus. Whether we have a fair and just boss or not, we should remember that we are working to serve Jesus. Whether we make the amount of money we want to or not, we should remember that we are working to serve Jesus.


As you think about the work you will do today (vocational or otherwise), my hope is that you will seek to be a God-pleaser and not a people-pleaser. Remember that you are serving Jesus. Remember that your reward is in heaven.


Kent is a native of southern Illinois and a graduate of the University of Illinois. He holds an MA in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He met his wife Hope at a Christian sports camp in Pennsylvania in 2007. They got married in 2010 and have three kids: Silas, Anna, and Grace. He is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and loves talking about the intricacies of the golf swing. As a pastor, he loves having a front-row seat to watch how Jesus transforms people’s lives.

Blog AdminWorking for the Weekend?