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March Newsletter: Jack

Friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.  CS Lewis

This past December at our Very Merry Christmas Tour I got an unexpected surprise. Just prior to the concert, Newsong’s drummer came up to me and told me this was his last NVMCT that he would be doing at the civic center. I was stunned! Jack (whose real name is Raymond and I have no idea why we all call him Jack) Pumphries has been drumming for the band for 26 years. We did our first Newsong concert on May 3, 1996. Since that beginning we’ve done 22 concerts with the band. Stunned does not really translate all the emotion and passion that that conversation brought to my heart. Jack (and Mark Clay, called ‘Poe’ for some reason, the band’s road manager and bass player for the past 25 years) have been like brothers to us. They’re cut out of the same ministry cloth to us. I really can’t explain why, I have no idea how, but each December when the band comes to town it’s like someone in my family is stepping off the bus and coming back home. We go from December to December and it seems like it’s from Monday to Tuesday. There doesn’t seem to be a clock or calendar to our appreciation for one another. That night, Jack and I shared every word we could possibly say to express our feeling to one another. I think I saw a little tear in the corner of his eye, I know there was one in mine. As we tried to find the words and compete with each other to find those words, I discovered that there were really no words to meet the challenge of Jack not coming next year. Lying in my bed that night after the concerts I was trying to put together why this ‘road-guy/ drummer man’ had come to be so valued by me. What had happened in those many, many years to make us so compassionate about the other’s life? We were such friends without ever really spending much time together. It’s not because we’ve shared very many experiences, never met Jack’s family or friends, no hunting or fishing trip together, no childhood memories. Simply, just a deep appreciation for how he cares, speaks, remembers so many moments with us.

What makes those kinds of friends so important, so special to us? I have a few people, dear friends that know me better than most other people. My wife knows me better than anyone else, but there are a few people that for some reason have tapped into being more than just acquaintances. Simplified, they are people that you have no fear being around. I guess there’s a trust that comes into play. And those kinds of friends always seem to be willing to encourage and support. They’re the kind of people that would cross over traffic to get to the other side of the street to greet you rather than turn their head and miss the opportunity to say ‘hey’. Most of those kinds of friends check on you on the days of your doctor appointments or emergency room visits, just to make sure all is ok. My really best friends smile and laugh when something wonderful happens to me; they share my joy when they see joy in my eye. I think most importantly, the friends I think of the most, are the ones I laugh with the most. Bottom line, those few best friends know me in some different way than other people know me. They don’t seem to struggle to forgive me often. I need that with my many personality weaknesses.

It often seems that friends are spiritual gifts to us. My very close friends, I think, were given to me and not made by me. In many ways I don’t deserve them. I don’t ever send them Christmas cards, seldom call them, never write them, don’t text them very often, but more importantly there is a heart connection rather than a Wi-Fi one. You can’t group my friends by things we all have in common. They are all over the place in occupations, interest, faith, age, and temperament. Some of my best friends have far different favorite things and many have slightly different expressions of the Gospel than I. For the most part, it’s like they just showed up in my life and volunteered to put up with me. In fact my really, really dearest friends are people that I can’t figure out why they are my friends. I can’t even remember how those relationships happened, when they started or what started them. It seems like neither side of the relationship necessarily needs the other but rather they just prefer one another.

Scripturally, Abraham was the first to be referenced as a friend of God. In 2Chronicles 20:7, Jehoshaphat expresses Abraham as God’s friend. James restates that reference in Chapter 2: 23. Chapter 33 of Exodus says that God spoke to Moses as a man speaking to a friend. Imagine Abraham and Moses being considered friends of God. Neither was perfect; both were flawed. They made mistakes, probably as many as the things they got right. Abraham was a moon-worshiper from the Chaldees. Abraham, a 100 year old man that fell flat on his face and laughed when God told him he and Sara were still to have a child. I’m sure what Abraham was thinking, doubting in his heart no doubt, as God declared he would be the father of many nations. Abraham’s claim to fame is for being put to sleep so God could do His thing for Abraham. Moses seemed to have an excuse for not accomplishing everything God asked him to do.

Our friendships, which much of the time can’t give rhyme or reason to justify the relationship, are small images or pictures of how our relationship with God works. Many of our friends chose us rather than us choosing them. (Sound familiar?) With God, who has impressed Him so much that He would be attracted to that person? Who is justified apart from the Blood of Jesus to stand in His presence? Yet, God stays, encourages, cheers us on, and delivers Mercy and Grace to us. He touches our sicknesses, anoints our head for the ministry, and permits us to be an ambassador of His giving Himself to us and others. He lives in believers’ hearts and walks hand in hand into our journey and our lives. As we have friends in our earthly journey, He steps into that circle of our relationships and joins with us daily.

Here, I was going to refer back and ask you to re-read the second paragraph in this letter and put Christ’s name in it, but I’ve decided to make it easy for you: In the presence of Jesus Christ you have no fear being around Him, He’s to be trusted because of His characteristic of being trustworthy. As a Friend, He’s the kind of friend that always seems to be willing to encourage and support, in fact, being present for that very particular purpose. He’s the kind of Friend that would cross over traffic to get to the other side of the street to greet you rather than turn his head and miss the opportunity to say ‘hey’. Actually, He crossed the whole universe to get to you and even more than saying ‘hey’, rewarded us by building a bridge to His Father and Their eternal Life. He’s not only aware of the days of your doctor appointments or emergency room visits, He’s there to comfort, to intercede and be present in our hopes, our fears and our prayers. Jesus finds Joy and pleasure when something wonderful happens to us; He shares my joy just as if it were His own. I think most importantly, at least for me, I image God with us always and I see Him smiling and enjoying the time spent with each and every one of us. Bottom line, He knows me the most, knows me inside, and forgives some of the things that go on the outside. I have often quoted the scripture in Acts that says: ‘I know you kick against the briars.’ He knows the difficulties and the struggles of this post-Adam life. And, amazingly, He does not seem to struggle to forgive me often, to forgive me good. Jesus teaches (John 15:13) that there is no greater love than that a man would lay down his life for his friends. That’s what He did for us; you are who He was talking about!

All gods proclaim dominion and often holiness. Our God goes much farther than that. Not only does He proclaim Holiness, but He’s established Holiness in the earth in/by/thru Christ Jesus. Even more astonishingly, our God equates His Holiness with a claim of Love and relationship, purposed in His friendliness toward us.

The Old Testament pattern of salting the sacrifice (Lev. 2: 13) before offering it to God was establishing and referencing His friendliness toward His people. E. W. Bullinger writes in his Greek Lexicon: ‘Salt is the emblem of perpetuity, and especially of friendliness perpetually preserved…The salt with the meat-offering betokened the reconciliation of man and the friendliness of God. All who have now made a covenant with Him by sacrifice are reconciled to Him.’ The whole Gospel, the whole incarnation, pivots on that Reconciliation. It first appeared in the sky as angelic on the night of Christ birth, ‘Peace on Earth, Good Will toward men’. That sounds pretty friendly to me.

Jack has been a gift from God to me. Actually, Jack, Poe, Eddie, Billy, Russ, and Rico have all been friends from God to our community of believers known as WBVN.

Posted on by Laura Posted in Newsletters

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