What is bigger?

18 05 2013

I heard about a great website, iamsecond.com.  It has videos of a variety of people who declare “I am second” with God being first.  The videos are powerful and for those of us who are Christians they make perfect sense.  For those who are not Christians, I think the site does a great job of building a bridge and encouraging people to consider the possibility of being second.

When we look at the world, we see the ugliness of sin.  The escape of three women who had been held captive for a decade is one extreme example.  Each one of us have personal stories that make us cry or make us so mad we want to scream at the world.

That is where I found myself Friday afternoon.  I sat with a group of leaders wrestling with an ugly situation involving some of our people.  There was sorrow, anger, frustration…and the big question “why did this happen?”  Good leaders take it personal and look in the mirror to see if it was something they did or didn’t do.  They blame themselves and desperately want to fix it.

The easy answer is to tell everyone to become a Christian.  Of course the recent story of a Christian musician being accused of trying to hire a hit man to kill his wife might make some skeptical.  I prayed Saturday morning needing answers and thankfully God nudged me.

When we are focused on something larger than ourselves, we seem to get it.  If some catastrophe hits a city there are two choices.  Those who chose to focus on their community come together and great things happen and amazing stories are told.  Those who chose to worry about themselves loot.

I have a bias.  Jesus perfectly demonstrated what it meant to live a life focused on something bigger. It is amazing to mediate on the idea of God making our well being bigger.  Jesus didn’t have to die for us.  He chose to die for us.  He lived a life saying “not my will but your will be done.”  Even non-Christians are humbled by his life and point to his example.  Everyone can agree he lived for something bigger than himself.

When do Christians get it wrong? When we start worrying more about ourselves and stop caring about those around us.  When our needs and sadly often our wants become bigger.  We need to remember the one we follow.  He set the standard and promises to help us meet it.

This seems to be a universal principle.  I played through a variety of situations.  When we are focused on something bigger than ourselves, we act appropriately.  When we are focused on ourselves, we hurt others.  You can apply this to marriage, work, friendship…any area of your life.

Monday morning I will have the opportunity to sit back down with this group of leaders and offer my contribution.  It will need to be something that can be understood by everyone regardless of their faith.  It will need to be tangible.  I think I have the seeds of something good.

For those of us who are Christians, the world desperately needs to see that we are “second” and we are focused on something bigger.  For those who are not Christians I would ask you to consider what is bigger in your life.





Is my love selfish?

14 12 2011

Have you ever noticed how quickly we can become dissatisfied with what we have? We could really want ice cream. Once we get it, we start wanting particular flavors. Once we have a variety of flavors we want a variety of toppings. Heaven forbid we ever go back to not having any ice cream and just have to hope for it. We have this tendency of having our desires fulfilled only to have them become expectations that need to be met. When they are not met, we become frustrated and angry even if we really don’t need it.

The real danger is when this perspective seeps into relationships with people we love. One danger is we only love the person if they do what we want. As long as they are meeting our needs, we will love them. What is more common is placing expectations on a relationship that should be unconditional. In either case, as my needs are met I slowly increase my expectations. Even if my needs are met I become dissatisfied and have more needs. Life is drained out of the relationship.

In Exodus 15:22-17:7 you see this happen in the relationship with the people of Israel and God. First, they have bad water; God makes the water drinkable. Then, they are worried about starving; God provides them bread called manna. Next, they want meat; God provides them quail. Back to needing water, God once again comes through and provides them water. This all happened after they watched God do incredible miracles to get them out slavery. They grumble and complain and damage their relationship with God.

It is easy to pick on them but I am guilty of having the same perspective in both my relationship with God and those around me. I can find myself asking, “What have you done for me lately?” As faithful as God has been, I can still forget when I am frustrated by a current situation. It is even worse in relationships with other people because they are humans which mean they make mistakes and sometimes don’t know what I need or expect from them. Either way I drain life out of the relationship. It makes me ask the question: do I really understand what unconditional love is suppose to look like?

What do I do?

It starts with my relationship with God. We see God’s incredible unconditional love for us. It makes us ask if we are giving it back. Do I only love God if he answers my prayers the way I want them to be answered? Am I willing to follow God no matter what my circumstances are? Can I see God’s faithfulness in my life and am I truly grateful? I hope there are even more questions that are coming to your mind. Take the time to pray about them and look to see what the Bible has to say. It may also be really good to talk with someone who is spiritual mature and you respect. I believe this is the foundation that helps us look at unconditional love in all our other relationships.

I will just briefly touch on three key relationships.

In marriage, we have it the easiest. (It is okay if you find yourself smiling because it may be the hardest.) In marriage we have one person we can focus on loving and making sure their needs are met regardless if our needs are being met. The reason it is easy is because if each of us is focused on the other person, then both of our needs can be met.

In parenting, we have the opportunity to freely give love. Let’s face it. A six month old child is going to be very needy and not be able to do anything about our needs, especially our need for sleep. Sadly, many parents place expectations on their children to meet needs they are not capable of meeting. When there is unconditional love, parents have a profound influence on their children and children have an opportunity to truly honor their parents.

In friendship, we have the opportunity to support and encourage one another that helps us grow. Ideally, our churches should be places where deep unconditional love for one another is nurtured and developed. In fact Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

I encourage you to take some time and really be honest about how you are showing love. If you find you are being selfish and are expecting the other person to meet more and more needs, then stop, ask for forgiveness if necessary, and learn how to be unselfish and unconditional in the relationship. You may need to have a serious talk about expectations and the health of the relationship. You may find that you need to talk with someone else to help you. It will cause you to be more transparent with who you are and what you need. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. As I learn more about unconditional love, I fall more in love with God and a foundation is laid for me to fall more in love with the people around me. Trust me, it is incredibly rewarding.