Friend or Flow

15 03 2012

Do you obey the speed limit? We see speed limits more like guidelines. We prefer to just follow the flow of traffic. If someone goes faster than us they are dangerous and if someone actually obeys the speed limit they are crazy (of course this is after we look to see if a police officer is nearby). We all agree speed limits are important. They set boundaries. While we are frustrated when we get a speeding ticket, we assumed the risk when we decided to violate the law.

Think about obeying the speed limit and apply it to other areas of your life. At work if there is a rule or regulation but it is not strongly enforced what happens? People will go with the flow and get frustrated at the person who goes overboard or the person who actually obeys the rule. If binge drinking is glamorized in your circle of friends the laws on drinking age or drinking and driving become fuzzy. When there are black and white laws and rules but I don’t follow them I am making a statement. I am demonstrating how much I actually respect the law and ultimately the one who made the law.

We see this when we look at times we are willing to submit. If we have a personal connection or passion about a certain area it is easy for us to follow the rules. For example, if I have been personally affected by drunk driving, I will submit to the law and look for the people around me to submit. If we have a passion for equal rights we willingly submit to the laws and regulations ensuring them.

We also follow the rules when there is a personal relationship. If we know the person responsible for the rule or regulation we follow it out of respect for the person. This makes sense. Not too many of us know who drafted the speed limit law. Therefore, we are casual about it.

This gives us insight into what we really think about God. If God is distant and abstract then we will go with the flow. If God is personal then I am more willing to submit. There is an interesting dynamic. God has established boundaries. People tend to live within those boundaries because of one of two reasons. First, they have a personal connection or passion because they have been hurt by someone going outside of God’s boundaries. Second, they have a personal relationship with God that is growing. (I am ignoring the legalist because they are not following God. They have created their own rules and boundaries apart from God.)

Please take a look at this statement by Jesus: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:12-15)

There is an expectation of mutual respect. Jesus sets a standard for his followers. It is the same standard he sets for himself. He also offers transparency. There are no secrets in the relationship. What you see is what you get. He invites us to be friends with an understanding that we would honor that friendship by respecting him and following his commands.

Imagine if the President of the United States was your friend. He (or, one day, she) would hang out with you. He would share the struggles of the office and talk about his family. If you were truly his friend you would honor that friendship. You would also have a deeper appreciation for your country and the role your friend played in the world.

I encourage you to really look at your relationship with God as a friendship. The natural consequence will be a desire to obey his commands. Why? As you get to know him your respect will grow. As you begin to grasp the depth of his love you will want to honor him by living within the boundaries he set. You won’t just go with the flow of traffic. You will be a good friend.





Blessed by God

1 03 2012

What do you think when you hear “God bless you”…besides sneezing.  What does it mean to be blessed by God?  Does it mean you have an easy life or all your dreams come true?  Are you wealthy or happy?  I think it is safe to say we like the idea of God’s blessing but what does it really look like.

I was reflecting on the blessing God gave Aaron to use for the Nation of Israel.  It is found in Numbers 6:22-26.  It says:

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (NIV)

It is an amazing blessing at a lot of levels.  Typically we think of a blessing as a gift.  We give gifts (hopefully) that are valuable and meaningful.  If God gives valuable and meaningful gifts, what does God find valuable and meaningful?  I believe God values relationships above everything else.  If that is true (and I think I can make a pretty good case for it) then those things that draw me closer to God and you would be a blessing.  We tend to see this naturally.  We look for meaningful relationships.  A good friend is better than all the money in the world.

When life is going good, if I were honest, I don’t focus on my relationship with God or you.  I tend to be selfish.  I tend to be more concerned with my comfort rather than how I treat people.  It is actually when life is difficult or I am facing a tough situation that I focus on my relationship with God and others.  It is when I am forced to decide what I truly value that I appreciate my relationships.  The result is my relationships become richer and more meaningful.

If that is the case, do I want to attribute bad situations to God?  If God is good then that doesn’t make sense.  As a Christian, I believe bad situations are a result of being in a fallen world.  This is not the way God intended things to be.  God has no desire to see us suffer.  God is not happy when we struggle.  Ultimately that is why Jesus comes and faces suffering and the cross.  God’s desire for a relationship with us drove him to face suffering so that we might have a full and meaningful relationship with him.  This unique perspective gives God the ability to work through times we are suffering and struggling and bless us by adding depth to the quality of our relationships.

This is why we can always be blessed by God regardless of our situation and in fact be even more blessed when things are hard.  In order to see this we have to have a perspective there is more to life than what we have here.  The Apostle Paul said it best when he said, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all people.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)  Paul said this in the context of talking about a risen Jesus Christ.  If Jesus did conquer sin and death then we have a lot of reason to hope.  We also have a very different perspective on our current circumstances.  They are temporary but our relationship with God and the people around us are eternal.

How do we apply this to our life?  When life is going good, we need to be cautious.  We need to intentionally guard against being selfish or focusing on things that really don’t matter.  We need invest fully and completely in our relationship with God and each other.  When life is hard, we need to take a deep breath and grab a hold of our relationship with God and others.  We find who our true friends are during these moments.  We tend to experience God’s presence in powerful ways and appreciate the depth of God’s love and mercy.

I am not sure what your day will bring.  I am not sure what circumstance you will face.  I am confident I can ask God to bless you.  If at the end of the day you are closer to God and the people around you, you are blessed.