5/21/23 A Note From Paster Ben

Friends and Family,

I love seeing so many friendships among the people of First Baptist. One of the greatest gifts we can receive on planet earth is friends. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and
a brother is born for adversity.” We need authentic community. We need friends. We need people who will have our back, people who will call us out when we’re wrong, pull us back when we stray, pick us up when we’re down and spur us on toward love and good deeds. We need friends.

Unfortunately, good friendships seem to be lacking in our society as we are experiencing a so- cial and relational crisis. We are more detached as a society than any society in the past:
• 45% of Americans over 45 are chronically lonely.
• 8% of Americans report having meaningful conversations with their neighbors.
• 32% of Americans say they trust their neighbors (only 18% of Millennials).
• Depression rates are rising. Mental health issues are rising. Suicide rate has risen 30%
since 1999. Teen suicide rate has risen by 70%. • 45,000 Americans kill themselves every year.
• 72,000 die from Opioid addictions.

We’re more “connected” digitally than ever, and yet we’re more fragmented from each other
like never before. We have more freedom than we’ve ever had, but freedom can be a curse. Freedom from any and all commitments will not lead to a flourishing life. David Brooks said, “The unrooted man is the unremembered man because he’s uncommitted to things. Freedom is not an ocean you want to swim in, it’s a river you want to get across so that you can commit and plant yourself on the other side.” To have a friend and to be a friend isn’t easy, but it’s a blessing. Friendship, like all things in this fallen world, is broken. There’s only One who is a perfect friend, and it’s Jesus. There’s an old hymn that says, “Jesus! What a Friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul; Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole. Jesus was mocked for being a friend of sinners (Luke 7:34). Charles Spurgeon once said, “Oh! To be able to say ‘Christ is my friend,’ is one of the sweetest things in the world.”
Do you know Christ in this way? Is he your friend? Do you look to him as the great model for friendship—he came in the fullness of grace and truth, speaking the truth in love, bearing bur- dens without complaint.

First Baptist, let us cherish old friends, make new friends, be a good friend, understand that there are only a few deep friends you can really have, and there’s only one perfect friend—Jesus.
- Pastor Ben

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