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Level 4 Friendship

Hey, good morning, men. I had a major heart attack as most of you know, in May, so, it’s no small thing when I say I’m really glad, I’m really proud to be here looking at you. Hey, Luther Strange. He was a kid in a Young Life club I led years ago at Shades Valley High School, and then I saw him up in Washington. We had a group at the Metropolitan Club with Brent Hume and a bunch of people. And he came walking in, and I’m like, what are you doing here? He said, what are you doing here?

He got in the group and then told me he wanted to run for something. I said, don’t run for anything up here yet. You don’t know what you’re doing. Go back to Alabama and try to do something for your state. Then we lost touch and then I heard he was Attorney General. I said, dog gone. You know, he’s come quite a way. I don’t know if you know it, but Luther played basketball at Tulane and Luther sparked them to an eight and 18 season his sophomore year. (Laughter)

After the season, the coach said, Luther, I don’t think we could have lost without you buddy. You’ve come a long way, son. So, I’ve promised him if he makes it up to DC, I would be his office chaplain, which would be a privilege.

You know, it’s been clear in this election than in any other time, the nature of Washington DC, which those of us that live there have known all along. But I was on a speaking trip recently with a general and he was flying the plane and I was in the other seat up front, like the co-pilot is supposed to be there, and of course I’m figuring out if he has a heart attack, could I land it? You know, so, I’m looking at the controls and all of that kind of stuff. I figured I had no chance. So, I said general, you’ve been in DC a long time. How would you describe Washington DC? He said, Jerry, it’s kind of like a log that’s just being swept at breakneck speed down a raging torrential stream. And the top of that log is covered with ants and every ant on that log thinks he’s the one driving the damn thing.

And that’s true. Everybody thinks they’re so self-important and part of my job is to remind men of who they are and who God is.

Charles de Gaulle said, “Graveyards are filled with indispensable people.” Now, I want to do something for 60 seconds and I’ll explain to you what I want to do. You know, Christ rebuked people for their lack of hospitality. Holly and I were speaking; we spent Thanksgiving at a buddy’s cabin down at Rosemary Beach, you know, that stretch of 30A down there on the Panhandle. And we noticed instantly how friendly people are in the South. And they look at you and speak to you and stuff like that. You go in a store, a restaurant, they call you hon, and all that, and ask you how you’re doing, and they wait for your answer, and they’re not joking.

So, I want to comply. Christ rebuked people for not being hospitable. So, I want us to take 60 seconds and give each other one of the most people building greetings in the world of people around where you are and it’s from our cousins up in New Jersey and New York. There’s a lot of those where I live. I love that accent, that Jersey accent, how ya doin’? I heard a comedian talking about, it took the military nine years to find bin Laden. He said, “I know two guys from Jersey that could have found him in two days. Hey bin, how ya doin? Give me the baseball bat, Vinnie, get the rugs. Let’s go.”

But they have a great greeting in New Jersey. They walk up to each other and they say, this, “Who’s better than you?” And then they get in an argument about it. The other guy goes, “you are”. “No, you.” “No, you.” “You.” “You.”

Let’s take 60 seconds, New Jersey style. I want an attitude and I want an accent. Stand up 60 seconds. I’ll time it and greet everybody New Jersey style. Show some Jersey hospitality. Who’s better than you? (Laughter, greetings)

All right. Who’s better than you? Man! I felt the energy go up 10 times in the room. How y’all, I’m going to do that next time I speak in New Jersey. That’s a great idea.

You know, there are some things you better not be on the wrong side of. You might’ve heard this before, but it never fails to get the point across. It is crucial that you’re on the right side of something. Not that you’re sincere. You can be sincere on the wrong side, but that is not going to get the job done. I’m sorry, brother. I see you right in that sunlight, but also know you chose to sit at that table. So, suck it up. I’m glad you’re laughing.

This is a transcript from a Naval ship with the Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland, October 1995. The Americans radio from their ship. “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.” Canadians: “Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.” Americans: “This is the captain of the US Navy ship. I say again, divert your course.” Canadians: “No, I say, divert your course.” Americans: “This is an aircraft carrier. The USS Abraham Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers, and numerous support vessels. I demand that you change your course 15 degrees north, that’s one five degrees north or counter-measures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.” Canadians: “This is a lighthouse. Your call.” (Laughter)

You know, there are moments in life where we need to divert our course. I’m going to ask you to do something today. At the end of my talk today, I’m going to mention a journey I’ve been on. May 11th, when I was dying, I got up to the finish line and the Lord let me peek just for a second through the veil. You may be of any persuasion. I spoke to 700 people yesterday and gave them this same talk in DC, all professionals, high-tech. Our speaker was the managing director of Accenture, one of our speakers, and I emcee it. I open it and then I’m the closer. And we had Muslims and Hindus, confused people, atheists, Christians, Buddhists, everything. Washington’s like London, Dubai, Paris. It’s one of the cities that’s the crossroad of the world. It’s like you’re on the foreign mission field and you never leave town. But I asked all of them to open their heart because all of you have a calling upon your life. You’re here for a reason. So don’t come here just to listen to a speech today, open your heart, and allow God to search you at the deepest level. This is your life we’re talking about. Your life.

Now there’s one thing, if you have it, it’ll make your life. And if you don’t, it will break your life. Tragedies and hardships will come. But if you don’t have what I’m going to talk about in the first half of this talk, you probably won’t make it. You probably will not fare well. And that’s friendship. Our relationships to God and our relationships to people. Christianity, and a lot of long-time people who would tell you, ‘I’m a long-time Christian’ have never logged on to this. And a lot of people in the ministry have never logged on to this point. At its center, Christianity teaches that the most important thing, everything that has to do is what with what is real and what is valuable, at its essence, is about relationships. You think of every scripture, how to be a better Christian. I can just give you a synonym for it. It’s how to be a better friend. It’s all about friendship. Now, I want you to examine yourself today. What kind of friend are you?

There are four levels of friendship. And one of the amazing facts when you read through the scripture is one of the last things Jesus said to His “boys” before He was arrested and brutally murdered, He said, “I call you guys my friends”. That’s a nuclear bomb.

There are four levels of friendship and if you have people you love, if you have children or grandchildren, you need to teach them this. I had all my kids when I felt they were ready, and I reserved a day when my youngest came home from college for Christmas break one year. And I said, now I know you’re going to want to go be with all your bros and all that, but you give me an entire day. I’m going to take you to the Smithsonian. There are some pieces I want to show you and then we’re going to sit on a bench.

Your old man has something to teach you.

And I took him through these four levels of friendship, because if you can’t discern that, you don’t know who you are and you don’t know who the people around you really are.

The first level of friendship is an acquaintance. Now an acquaintance, you may know all your life. Now, a lot of guys have acquaintances. Yeah, that’s my friend. No, they’re really an acquaintance. Technically, it’s a friend, but it’s level one. Now I had an acquaintance at the University of Alabama, Ms. Purdy. Ms. Purdy was the lady at our cafeteria at Bryant Hall and she had a spoon and a plate and she had complete power and decision over what you got and how much you got to eat. I always had a good word for Ms. Purdy. She loved seeing Jerry Leachman walking in the cafeteria because she was going to hear something nice.

Now to me, she looked like a goose. She waddled like a goose and that’s all I really knew about her. And I knew her the whole time, but I never knew anything else about Ms. Purdy. She was just an acquaintance, but I still remember her. The next level up is a team member. That trumps an acquaintance because you’re on a team, a colleague at work, teammate in sports, your buddy in your unit in the military. And that trumps an acquaintance because at least you’re together with a group of people trying to accomplish something. Level three is a social friend. Now this is above a team member because a social friend, you choose to spend your discretionary time with. You want to go to the game. That’s yes or no. You don’t have to. Want to go to the movie. That’s yes or no. You choose to be with them. Now I want you to know, as I give this lesson, I’ve given it to a lot of men all over the country. Most men have no friendships above level three, and many of them are under the illusion that a level three social friend is a friend like the word “friend” that Jesus used when He saw the disciples, my friends. They weren’t just social friends. That’s not what He was talking about. That’s not the friendship He’s looking for in people.

Level four. And I call this level four franchise player friend. I put a franchise tag on it because that’s what men get. If you’ve got a friend — our quarterback in Washington, Kirk Cousins — we have a franchise tag on him. He’s making $24 million, and he can’t be traded. When you have a friend and they are a level four franchise player friend, they’ll never be traded off your team. You will vacation together from time to time, you will communicate together. You will pray together. You’ll probably carry each other’s caskets together. That’s my wish for all my level four friends. Some of you in the room, I hope to one day, carry your casket. Sorry. (Laughter)

Like they say in Alabama, I may be dumb, but my Mama didn’t raise no fool. Right, boys?

Now I jotted down on the plane on the way down here some — I normally don’t use notes, but I have to today because I’m still a little scattered — they have me on like eight medicines and maybe they’re going to reassess me in December and maybe cut back. But here are some characteristics if you want to know what you’re looking for in a level four friend.

Now first, don’t ask me, how do I get a level four friend? I’ll just tell you that up front. Before you can have a level four friend, Jesus said in Matthew 7, whatever measure you give, that’ll be the measure you get. You could answer this. Before you can qualify to possess a level four friend, what do you have to be first?

A level four friend; that kind of caliber of man.

Here’s some characteristics that I believe Christ would put on the franchise tag. A level four friend will never leave you or forsake you. It’s a covenant for life, any load, anywhere, anytime, whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, I’m in. That’s a level four friend. Now here’s the juxtaposition that’s in our culture today. I do a lot of counseling. I even hear husbands and wives going, I didn’t sign up for this. I go, yes you did. You absolutely did. Did you get married by a justice of the peace or in a church where a minister or a priest? Well, in a church. Well, it’s whatever your liturgy was, somewhere along the line, it says, do you solemnly swear before God and these witnesses, did they say something like that? And they go, yeah. Well, when you say, when you make a vow the word vow in Hebrew means debt. You become a debtor to that person. When are you not a debtor? When the debt is paid. Because it says, “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, ‘til death do we part,” that’s a level four friendship.

Now, ministers and theologians call that a covenant relationship. People go see covenant so-and-so church, but they have no idea. That’s a covenant. That’s a level four. So, when Christ said, “I call you My friends,” there’s the first thing he was talking about.

Here’s the second characteristic that’s a result of a level four franchise player, friendship. It brackets evil in your life. You think of Jonathan and David. Jonathan’s father, King Saul, was so jealous, insanely jealous of David, he tried to murder him six times, but Jonathan said, I got your back. You will suffer no harm from my father. Jonathan was the legal heir to the throne. He was next in line, but he saw God’s anointing on David, gave up his place on the seat of that throne, and did everything in his power to make sure David got that seat. It bracketed him. David never would have made it through that stretch of his life without his level four franchise player friendship with Jonathan. They talked about their friendship. Jonathan said, I’m a soldier. If I get taken out, would your kindness never leave my house? What did he just say? Would you take care of my wife and kids if I get taken out? I’ve had that talk with my level four friends. They’re going, we got it. We’ll take care of your kids and smoking hot Holly will always have a place to live.

Richard’s got a smoking hot Holly, as well, as you know. That’s money in the bank. I’d rather have that than a lot of money in the bank. That’s an ongoing dividend.

The other thing ties into this. A level four friend will honor you and they’ll honor your family. Jonathan did get taken out in battle and years later, you can see this story. King David’s at his prime in the palace in all his glory, and he says to one of his assistants, is there anybody from Jonathan’s family we haven’t taken care of? And his assistant said, let me check that out, King, I’ll get back to you.

He comes back to King David and said, yeah, there’s a kid named Mephibosheth. He’s kind of semi crippled. He works down the road on a farm. He said, and that’s Jonathan, my friend, Jonathan, that’s his boy?

 Yes, sir.

You tell him he’s having dinner at the palace with the king tomorrow night.

When the boy walks in the palace, he drops on the floor to worship. The king says, get up. Your pop was my friend. You will dine with the king in the palace the rest of your days, son. Where do you work?

Well, at this farm down the road.

Well, you tell them they work for you now. That was your grandfather’s land. I’m giving you back all the land that belonged to your grandfather.

You know, it’s so touching to me, even if I know of two franchise player friends, when they, they could see, they could see the other’s child or grandchild in Central Station in New York and go, Judy, what are you doing here, honey? I’ve lost my ticket. What do you need? You can have anything I have. Their father may be dead or may be halfway across the country. And they’ll love that child just like it was their own.

That’s a franchise level four friend. It has passion. You know, if you don’t have passion, you’ll never have a level four friend. Did you know that? You have to have life passion. C.S. Lewis called it that “you, too?” moment. If you don’t have passion and you’re on a journey to nowhere, you will have no fellow travelers. You can’t lead them to nowhere.

I love passionate friends. I fan passion in kids, even if it’s sports because they’ve done studies. If a person has passion, once their faith in Christ gets a hold of them, it transfers over to their faith, to their friendships, to their family, to raising their kids. But you got to have fire. I know it. I coached at the high school level, i have spoken to college teams all over the country. And I was in the NFL for 15 years. If a player doesn’t have fire, you can’t coach them. They have to want it. They have to want it.

A level four friend will let you inside. A user won’t. There is a cost analysis thing you probably learned in business school. It says as long as you can meet my needs at a cost that’s acceptable to me, I’m in, but when you can’t meet my needs and the cost is too high for me, I’m out. That’s a cost basis analysis in business. And it’s good for capitalism, good product at a fair price. If the product’s bad or the price is too high, I’m out.

As sociologists say, 50 years ago, that axiom was only used for business. In the last 50 years, it’s been transposed in our culture, in the United States to relationships and it has been devastating. People only stay in them as long as they can get the benefit and the cost is not too high. That’s not a level four friendship. A level four friendship will suffer for you. They’ll lay their life down for you.

You’re better off for knowing, you know, there’s another thing. I had one of my mentors telling me said, you know, Jerry, have you ever noticed there’s guys when you’re around them, it’s easy to be good. And there’s other guys, when you’re around them, it’s easier to be bad. I said, yeah, I do. He said, seek guys out in your inner circle that it’s easier to be good around them. That you’re better off just for having known them. They will defend you. They’ll pray for you and your family. I have my prayer book with me. I carry it everywhere I go. It’s not rocket science, but I’m not very organized. And I have right there my family, children, and grandchildren on page one. They are level four friends to me. I’ve dedicated my life at being a level four friend. And I pray for them every day. I get on the floor and pray for them. I think it’s the most important thing I do. Now. You could say, well, gee, you spoke to 700 people at the high-tech prayer breakfast, MIT, and Harvard people. Well, you know what? I’m over it. God can get anybody to give talks. Who else can be smoking hot Holly’s husband? Who else can be the father of my children and the grandfather of my grandchildren? You? No. Me.  

Now, our family mottoes — two. We have two family mottos. Winners take responsibility, losers blame others. I’m responsible. I accept it. I’m on point. Our second family motto is you can fake caring, but you can’t fake showing up.

That’s the next stage of a level four friend. They show up. They don’t just call you on the phone and go, I’m with you. They show up. Now I tell all my kids and grandkids, every time I talked to them, they call me Pop Red because of Alabama. Got my letterman’s ring. My son-in-law’s father played at Arizona. So, they call him Pop Blue. When I have the grandkids alone, I say, you know, he’s Pop Loser, right? I’m Pop Winner. (Laughter)

I don’t say that. Come on. We’re dear friends. But I tell them, the most important thing I do kids, is I pray for you, all you’re mine, whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, any load, anywhere, anytime. And I get on the floor a couple of times a day. I am not a good prayer. I have no gift of praying. I just love them. And I know at the end of the road, only Christ can do anything for them. All the people we people please and kiss up to, they can’t help you at the end. I’m going to talk about that in the second half of our time together. I said, so, you might as well just text me your prayer request because I’m praying, Pop Red’s praying for you anyway. And they did. It’s a treasure in my life to have a level four franchise player friendship with my own family. They pray for you. They point you towards Christ.

The last thing I’ll mention, move on to the next addendum, showing up. Isn’t a lot of life just showing up? When I had my heart attack on May 11th and went down, I have a level four friend here at Birmingham. I hope he doesn’t mind, but I’ll mention his name. All his boys are like my godsons, Dan Roberts. And I’ve known Dan since he played football at Mountain Brook High School. He said when I was at Alabama, came and spoke to their team and scared the hell out of them. I said, well, good. We need the hell scared out of us sometimes. And we’ve been friends ever since. When I went down, I was as good as dead. I did cross over the line a bit and they brought me back.

Dan was playing golf at the Vestavia Country Club when he heard and said tears came into his eyes and he said, there can’t be a world without Jerry Leachman. He got on a plane and came straight to Washington. They had to paddle me twice to bring me back from over the edge. I didn’t realize that but when they paddle you, I had a famous doctor, a guy in one of my groups, he told me, he said, Jerry people don’t realize, when they paddle you, that’s a hail Mary pass with no time left on the clock. Then I almost had another heart attack when he told me that. I was in a coma for three days. And when I woke up, Dan was there. I later found out he Christian conned his way into the intensive care unit. I call it Christian con because they said, oh no, Mr. Roberts, only immediate family can go in here. He said, well, I am his immediate family. I’m his brother. Well, you know, same father, different moms, that kind of thing.

That’s what I call a Christian lie worth telling. Dan came in and fasted, which is not his nature — that’s a real sacrifice — until I woke up. You know what the moral of that is that you can’t fake that. That’s not rah-rah idle talk. That’s showing up, that’s running down on the kickoff team and getting your ass knocked off if that’s what it takes. You show up, you run down the field, and whatever happens, happens. How important is that? I just read about two soldiers in World War I that were lifelong franchise player friends. One of them was out on a sortie, they had all that barbwire, and his buddy was looking out of the trench, you know, trench warfare, and he saw his dear friend go down. He told his captain, I have to go after my brother, my friend, the captain said, don’t do it.

And the kid jumped out of the foxhole, and he went and got his friend. He carried him back. When he got back in the hole, it turned out his friend had died, and he had been mortally wounded and was in the last few minutes of his life — the friend who went after him. The captain said, I told you not to go. I knew he was dead. I knew he wouldn’t make it. What a waste. He said, captain, it wasn’t a waste. Because when I got there, before he died, he looked in my eyes and said this, I knew you’d come.

Now, I want to tell you something that happened to me where I changed course like the captain of that aircraft carrier. I was a trader commodities trader and I had different jobs and owned a business and one time we were in a staff meeting and I was just, kind of had enough of one of my colleagues. I felt like he was a people pleaser and we had to clean up his mess as he couldn’t just, he agreed with the last person he talked to, and couldn’t seem to take a stand and that bothered me. And in our staff meeting, I absolutely denigrated this guy. I destroyed him. And when he left that meeting, nobody thought he was a criminal but his reputation as somebody you could trust was zero. He was a good man. He was just a people pleaser and couldn’t help it. But I had no mercy. I destroyed him. I was raised by an airborne ranger. My father was in the 82nd airborne, June 1944, Omaha Beach. I was taught you don’t have to have love; you don’t have to have mercy or compassion. All you have to do is be right and you can shoot them between the eyes if you’re right. That’s not the way of the cross is what I later came to understand. And the next day our vice president called me, and I thought I was going to get a raise and a promotion. He said this, and he was a man of God. This was masterful. He said, Jerry, before I start this, I have something to say to you. And I think you’re the kind of man that can hear what I’m about to say.

I said, okay. He said, you know, in that meeting yesterday, you destroyed that man. But you were right about everything you’ve said, and I’ve watched you. You don’t get into battles you can’t win. You’re shrewd. And you’re always right. Everything you say is the truth. And I’m thinking, so what’s the problem. I’m on course. You said, no, you’re not. And this is what he said. It was a life-changing moment for me. This was a rebuke from a level four friend. They’ll tell you the truth. And he said, Jerry, if you don’t let God put some mercy in your heart and some compassion in your heart, you’ll have a moment when you fall, and no one will come to help you up. You’ll be alone. And fear, fear immediately filled me. I don’t fear being broke. I’ve been broke before and I made it. Now at 66, I don’t want to get broke again. You know, I need green fees and stuff like that.

So, I’m like, God, I hope I learned all those go broke lessons. Cause I need some money now. How about that for a plan? But if I go broke again, I’ll be fine. Do you know what I fear? Being alone, having a fall and no one come to help me up. And I’m telling you, I was like Scrooge. I was not the man that I once was before that phone call. I got off the phone quickly. I called that guy who I destroyed. They didn’t have caller ID back then, so the poor guy had to pick up the phone. I said, do you know what my office looks like? He said, yes. You know where my desk is, by the way. Yes. Can you picture the left side of the desk? Yes. Picture this. I’m on my knees. He said why? I said to ask your forgiveness. And I put my hand, the rest of my life at helping that man succeed at anything he puts his hand to that’s noteworthy.

I decided at that moment, I want to be George Bailey. I don’t want to be old man Potter. I don’t want to be a user. Users aren’t friends. They’re networkers. When you meet a user at the party and you shake their hand, they’re sizing you up by your race, your gender, your network, your net worth. And they’re going to make the decision need you, don’t need you. If they make a decision quickly that they don’t need you, have you ever had this happen? You’ll be at this club or somewhere, and you got their hand and they’ve already decided you’re not that important. While they have your hand, they’re looking for somebody that may be of use to them. And, and you’re like, offended. Like you’re joking, right? You can shake my hand or not, but you still got it and you’re looking around for the next guy. That’s a user. They’re not your friends. They’re just networkers.

Now a wise man knows that. And a wise man knows when they’re being flattered and when they’re being complimented in an honest way. So, I set as one of my goals to be a world-class friend. That burns within me every day, I try to develop skill and being the best friend. And if you have Jerry Leachman for a friend, by God, you got a friend. That’s on fire inside of me. Cause I get it. My relationship with Christ, I want to be a friend with Him. I’m proud of Him. I want Him to be proud of me because my family, I want them to be proud of me. That’s why I’ll do anything it takes to make them proud of me. I’m not winning their love; I already have it. I want to validate their love and honor it. Treasure by making them proud of me.

Well, that was a lifesaving rebuke for me. I want to say a few words about our friendship with God. You know, everything, all religions agree on is this because I live in a place that’s not the Bible belt and it’s very secular and very worldly. And so, what I’ve grown to understand is this, every religion would agree on this. Man is down there and God’s up there where that light is. And we have this big gap in between us. Now, what they do is all their, each religion starts writing in on paper or however they do it what they think will close that gap to God. Wear a turban, burn incense, go to church. My mother was a Southern Baptist. Don’t drink and smoke. That’ll close that gap. Now, if you forget who the Baptists are, they’re the ones when they baptize you, they hold you under the water till you scream the word “tide”. You know, remember those guys? God bless them all. Christ leans over the embattlement of Heaven and says, you’re joking, right? Do you really think all that little puny religious stuff is going to close this gap? You’ve tremendously underestimated the length of this gap totally.

Now through the Hubble you’ve heard me speak before. You probably heard me make reference to this. We have understood how much we have underestimated the gap between us and God. There’s stuff out there we didn’t even know was there. The sombrero galaxy. It’s 38 million light years from earth. That’s how far a beam of light, 186,000 miles a second could go in 38 million years. That right there is incomprehensible. The smartest guy in here. You don’t get it. It’s 50,000 light years across. There’s more of a than a billion stars and that single galaxy. Now, every scientist it’s patched into the Hubble worldwide, no debate. They say just in what we can see with the Hubble, they know they don’t believe, they know, there’s 150 billion galaxies. The Bible says repeatedly Christ created all that stuff. You know the guy they spit on, you know, the guy whose name they take in vain when they miss a three-foot putt, are you kidding?

The Voyager left the Earth’s atmosphere in the late seventies, did a loop around Mars. It left the solar system three years ago; it’s traveling at 38,600 miles an hour. That’s 38,600 miles an hour. It’s now navigated to just the closest star to our little planet. It’ll do a fly by and the fly by will be very close. One light year away from the planet. Do you know when it’s scheduled to do the fly by? 38,600 miles an hour? 40,000 years from now. You’re saying Jerry, you’re making us feel small. No, I’m not. You are small. I’m small. We need to just understand the only way that gap could be closed. Christ said, I’m coming your way. I’m parachuting in, but He; here’s where I think it gets off the rails. Christ didn’t come to start a new religion. Christ didn’t come to start the best religion. He came to end religion.

Religion says we can close the gap. He says, no, you can’t. And you know what He’s offering us? Friendship. He wants to say to each man out here, I call you my friends. But before He can do that, you have to desire to be a level four franchise player friend with Jesus. Now, if you think you have better friends than that, because Jesus Christ is and always has been the best friend in the universe for all history. This is a nuclear bomb that He would stick his hand out and offer us His friendship. How do you walk away from that?

You know, on May 11th, when I got severe heart pain, I thought I had indigestion. My wife was teaching women in Arlington, and you know how women just seem to know something? She left that group and came flying through our door in Great Falls, Virginia. I was slumped over the dining room table. She called 911. She saved my life. I wasn’t going to call anybody. I told her the other day, I said, you know, honey, you saved my life. She’s very humble. She said, well, God allowed me. I said, I know, but you know, anything you ask for in the future from me, the answer is yes, right? She said, really? I said, I just have one request. Could you at least pray about it before you ask me, you know, to do things? Then these sturdy EMT guys came through my door, threw me on the floor, started hooking me up to everything, and they kept me alive until I could get to Reston Hospital. That second time I feel like my life was saved. And then when I pulled in, Dr. Geloo — in the DC area, he’s an airborne ranger, a cardiologist interventionist. He’s the man. He knows he is. Everybody else knows. He is. He’s waiting for guys — he’s an airborne ranger in medicine — he’s waiting for guys with no chance like me to come through. He started working on me and he’s so notable, three other MDs pulled off what they were doing just to be in the room with him. And then the other staff. I had 10 people working on me, the perfect storm to survive.

You know, people ask me, did the Holy spirit speak to you? I said, it did. Three words, “calm your spirit”. And I was thinking in the ambulance, calm my spirit? That’s it. But I obeyed. And I was able just to calm my spirit. When they were working on me, I was in the dark and you know what?

I was alone. My family wasn’t there with me. People I know weren’t there with me. I didn’t own anything. I didn’t have a network. I had no influence. I had nothing. At one point, I couldn’t see anything. It was total darkness, but I could hear the staff. They kept asking me questions to see if I was lucid. And at one point they said, I can’t believe he’s still answering our questions. Doctor, he’s at 30. My pulse rate was down to 30. When you get in the twenties, you’re dead. And so, I thought I was about to cross over. Then I heard a doctor say, doctor, this man’s going down. And then I heard another one said he has no anxiety. And then I thought of the command of the Holy Spirit to me, calm your spirit. Well, I felt like the Lord didn’t want me to cross over kicking and screaming like there’s no God. When he said he’s at 30, he’s going down, I thought I was about to cross over. I’ve given thousands of talks as you all know. I’ve had a long career all over the country, different parts of the world, but I could only think of one prayer. Only one thing came to my mind in that moment. I kept saying, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus have mercy upon me.

I never asked to come back. I never asked to go. I was just asking for mercy either direction. You know, I was kind of surprised that that’s all I could think of. But I told the kids when they flew in and got around my hospital bed, as I survived and was convalescing. Now I’m thinking that’s the go-to prayer. The scripture says he who calls upon the name of the Lord.

Now I have a message for you today as I close. And it’s a hard message, but it’s the best one you’ll ever hear if you change course. I had a sensation in that moment. I really think I crossed the line because I saw a light I can’t even — I don’t — it’s beyond words. I can’t describe it to you. And I came back, and I feel like I came back to give you this message from the edge of eternity.

I kept thinking about Luke 16, where the rich man fared, sumptuously, every night and a poor man named Lazarus was at his doorstep. He could have changed that guy’s life, but he never did a thing for him. He just lived for himself. Maybe he was religious and went to the temple, but he lived for himself. That guy died and woke up in hell. Now Bible scholars think that this probably wasn’t a parable because Jesus uses proper names in this story. Every other parable in the Bible, he just says there was a man. There was a woman. He names names in this one. So, the scholars think this actually happened according to Jesus, unless you think you know more than Jesus, that guy woke up in hell and he said, I’m in agony. Send somebody to just touch my tongue with water. And Christ says this, the Lord says this, oh no son. Remember in your lifetime, you had all the best things. Now you’re here and there’s a chasm fix. Nobody can come here, and you can’t go anywhere else. That’s a black hole. It sucks everything in, and nothing escapes. That’s hell; forget the torture and the fire. Can you imagine being in total darkness, no light? The Bible calls it the outer darkness, for eternity, with your memory. That is hell for me and it scares the hell out of me.

I knew in that moment; I had this thought when I thought I had seconds. This is ultimate reality, Jerry, this is ultimate, and every human being is going to come to this point in their life. You got to go back and tell them; I’m not being morbid. I’m not looking for attention. I’m appealing to you to let God. Now you may even be a minister here and not have a level four friendship with Jesus.

I have a woman I know who speaks six languages. And I asked her to do a word study for me on the word “perish” because that’s the word Christ used in Luke 16.

The word means this: “to be in solitary isolation, increasing continually multiplying; abundant aloneness forever.” When Christ used that word “perish”, that’s what it meant in the Aramaic. It’s what scientists call a black hole. The opposite of expanding life. It’s eternal. It’s imploding. It’s impairing. One scientist said this about black holes:

“A black hole represents the ultimate triumph of gravity in its role as the regulator of a star’s life. When a massive star dies, gravity becomes so strong that the star cannot possibly hold itself up. What happens next? We don’t know. One possible end is a total collapse. The black hole. It can still feel the gravity in the hole, but gravity prevents light, even light from escaping from the star surface. Black holes contain the strongest gravitational forces. Nothing can escape from a black hole. Not even life. No one in a black hole could communicate with the outside. He would be cut off from the universe by the event horizon. A black hole is a dead star. It’ll never be anything else. It just sits in space. Dark, menacing, swallow up matter that comes too close.”

I want you to know when that moment comes for you, if you don’t have a friendship with Jesus, I think you’re going to be all alone in the dark completely by yourself. I just thank God that some of the people in this room helped me become a level four friend to Christ because I realized boys, and I speak to you as friends, in that moment, I had nothing but Jesus and the prayers of my friends. I couldn’t fight for myself. People try to over-hero me sometimes. And one of my men in DC said oh, Leachman you’re tough. We knew you’d be fighting. No, I had nothing guys; I had nothing, a hundred percent at the mercy of God. And all I could say was Jesus, I want you to remember that prayer and you will. Some of you are going to be on an ambulance ride. You’re going to have a crisis so big it’s going to overwhelm you with pain and anxiety.

Say the name Jesus. We should always have that name on our lips, the King of Glory. I’m going to tell you two things and I’m going to turn it over to Richard.

If you have a level four franchise player friend, as your chaplain for this morning, boys, call him. When you get in your car, if you have a phone, you call them and you bless them and you thank them. Next time you’re with them, you talk about what your friendship looks like, like Jonathan and David did. You sharpen up your commitment to each other. Ask God to put a fire in you, in your heart, that you’d be a man of fire and passion. That you would love the people you’re supposed to love with everything you’ve got. I loved coaching, guys. It just had snot coming out of every hole in their head, tears out of their eyes. And they’re like, put me back in. I love kids like that. Be a friend like that.

Now the King of Glory is offering us friendship. Who is this King of Glory? Listen to Psalm 24, “Lift up your heads, you gates. Be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of Glory may come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty. Lift up your heads, you gates, lift them up, you ancient doors that the King of Glory may come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord almighty. He is the King of Glory.”

The King of Glory is offering you His hand as I stand here and speak. This is not my best guess this morning. Where I’ve been and back, I’m telling you the truth. He’s offering you friendship. How do you walk away from that? Your call, your call.

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Reflections on the Existence of God

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