Longing to Belong

FriendsWhere did this come from–this desire for connectedness with other people? There may be several reasons, but the one that trumps all others, to my way of thinking, is this: God is highly social, and he created us in his image.

The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have never been alone. They always have each other’s company, and thrive in it. The strong bond of love and partnership that exists among them stands out to me in examples like these:

  • Twice, when Jesus was on earth, the Father spoke from heaven, “This is my beloved Son.”
  • John 3:16 does not say: “The Son so loved the world that he came, so that whoever believes in him should not perish . . .” If I had written it, that’s what I would have said. After all, Jesus loved us so much he volunteered to die for us. But Jesus highlighted his Father’s love: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son“–showing amazing empathy for how hard it was for his Father to send him.
  • When Jesus described for his disciples what the Holy Spirit would do for them, he said,  “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me” (John 15:26). The Holy Spirit’s whole passion is to help us know Jesus better.

The three Persons of the Trinity are each other’s greatest fans. They know what a rich relationship is all about. It shouldn’t surprise us that such a social God would say:

“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).

God sets the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6).

 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Why do we crave connectedness to God and to people? We were created for close, supportive relationships–relationships full of delight and satisfaction. Don’t be afraid to talk to God about your social needs and challenges. He will help bring health into that part of your life.

I Belong to Somebody

A pesky fly kept hovering around my three-year-old granddaughter Nikki and me as we glided back and forth on the porch swing. I brushed it away a few times then began singing a folk tune:

Shoo, fly; don’t bother me

Shoo, fly; don’t bother me

Shoo, fly; don’t bother me

For I belong to somebody.

Nikki & Connor

Nikki & Connor

Flippantly, I asked Nikki, “Do you belong to somebody?”

She nodded vigorously.

“Well!” I thought, “I wonder what she’s thinking.”

I soon found out. In a tiny whisper, she said, “Mommy, Daddy, Baby Connor.”

She had a warm, secure sense of belonging.

Some of us don’t. The good news is: regardless of the breakdown of human relationships, we can all feel special and connected–because of God’s overwhelming love for us.

There are some statements in the Bible that melt my heart.

You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself (Exodus 19:4 NIV).  The Lord is talking here about how he rescued the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and brought them–not “to Mt. Sinai,” not “to the the Promised Land,” but “to myself.”

As Jesus rode in Jerusalem a few days before his arrest and crucifixion, he said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37 NIV). 

During Jesus’s last prayer in the company of his disciples, he prayed first for his disciples then for all who would believe on him. In that part of his prayer (which includes me, and hopefully you) he said:  “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory” (John 17:24). It wasn’t good enough to finally be returning to his home in heaven–he wanted to take his beloved followers with him.

Such is the tender affection of God toward us! Such is his desire to gather us into a relationship with him that will heal our hearts and put us on the path to total fulfillment.

I just re-read today some words by Francis Frangipane, founder of River of Life Ministries in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He said that “everything that defines us” is influenced by what we believe about the true nature of God. “If we do not believe God cares about us, we will be overly focused on caring for ourselves. If we feel insignificant or ignored by God, we will exhaust ourselves by seeking significance from others. However, once we realize that God truly loves us . . . we can find rest and renewed power for our souls.” *

There’s not one of us who cannot “belong to somebody”–to God, our maker, our shepherd, our redeemer, our Father, our divine friend. What if you want to believe that, but you’re just not feeling it? Read the Bible, looking for his care and his affection. Think deeply about it. Talk to him. Tell him you want to really know him.  You want to know he loves you. He has been waiting for you to ask.

 Come near to God and he will come near to you (James 4:8 NIV).

___________

*Francis Frangipane, And I Will Be Found By You, (Cedar Rapids: Arrow Publications, 2009), p.83.

 

EASTER: How Could He?

This Saturday, it will be time in the United States to set our clocks forward to Daylight Saving Time. In Kentucky, I have already spotted lawn care crews at work. Spring must be around the corner.

And . . . Easter is only four weeks away. My blogs during these weeks will be about the tumultuous events preceding and following Jesus’ crucifixion. I say “my blogs,” but only two of these essays are mine–the other two were written by my father in a devotional book we co-authored in 2007. . . . This week I’m sharing one of my father’s.

Judas

Judas’ Defection

Read John 13:18-20.

“The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born” (John 13:24).

Jesus’ final Passover with his apostles in the Upper Room was one of the most sublime experiences of his life on earth. Yet in the midst of his jubilation, he had to deal with at least two very trying problems. The worst of these was the defection of Judas.

Judas’ betrayal has always been puzzling to earnest Christians.  How could a man who had walked with Jesus and worked miracles in his name turn against him? Some have argued that he always planned to betray Jesus and joined his company to learn his habits so he could do so. Others feel that he was predestined for this purpose and could not help himself.

The most likely explanation is that there was a gradual deterioration in his relationship with Christ and the other apostles.  He seems to have been somewhat of an outsider, the only disciple from Judea among a group of Galileans—men from the hinterland—that he probably considered uneducated and unsophisticated. He became dishonest, appropriating money from the common purse for his own use. He became critical of Jesus and took offense when the Master chided him publicly for his condemnation of Mary when she anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. The final tragedy was that he allowed Satan to enter his heart.  It was then he sought occasion to betray his Lord.

But Jesus did not give up on him! Even as he prepared to partake of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus made one final appeal. “Don’t do it, Judas!  Better never to have been born than to commit this deed!” It was too late for Judas. Satan had already taken control.

Should we not pause to reflect on this tragedy? A traitor is not made in a moment. Most people who abandon their Lord do it little by little, almost unconsciously: a little neglect here, a slip there, wounded pride, spite, anger – they can build up until Satan finds a way to lead us astray. But still the Master pleads. Don’t ignore his love and his call.

Are you ever tempted by selfish ambition, pride or jealousy to forsake your Lord or put him to the test? Beware, lest Satan finds a way to enter your heart and destroy your faith.

–F. Burleigh Willard Sr. 

From Streams of Living Water: A Daily Guide to Devotional Meditation on God’s Word  by F. Burleigh Willard Sr. and Celia Willard Milslagle.

 

 

4th OF JULY: Home Is Where the Heart Is

I did not grow up in the United States.  My parents were Free Methodist missionaries, so I grew up on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola—on the Dominican Republic side. When I was thirteen, our family relocated to Nogales, Arizona, on the Mexican border. It took me a while to sort out where I belonged. I counted two very different cultures as “home.” I loved both the Latin American island life of my childhood and my new life in the U.S., but I also saw flaws in each culture.

What finally settled the issue for me had nothing to do with which culture or nation was “better.” What it boiled down to was the fact that my parents had passed on to me their love for their country. To this day, the United States feels like home, because that is where my heart is.

Does this “blind nationalism” make sense to me? No, it doesn’t. But knowing where we belong touches a deeper place in us than reasoning can reach. God created us with an innate capacity for relationship and belonging.

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18 NIV).  

“God sets the solitary in families” (Psalm 68:6 NKJV).

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people (Jeremiah 31:33 NIV)

The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspringforever (Genesis 13:14-15 NIV).

God wants us to belong to him in a loving relationship. And he set us in other groups—nations, families, and friends—to enjoy and care for each other.

 

Making It Personal

  • What do you love about this land? (If you are not an American, what do you love about your country?)
  • Do you have a firm sense of belonging to a nation, city, family, neighborhood, church, etc.? If not, you can turn to God for his acceptance and love—and placement in supportive “families.”

 

I Belong to Somebody

Several years ago I read a newspaper article about two remarkable young women. One—a paraplegic—was confined to a wheelchair. The other was mentally challenged. The two women shared an apartment and cared for each other. The first young lady made the decisions and explained to her friend how to take care of their business. Her friend took care of most of their physical tasks. They liked to say that between them, they made one whole person.

It was not until recently that I realized their life was really pretty wonderful. What they lacked in independence, they made up for in relationship. It reminds me of the folk song:

Shoo, fly, don’t bother me . . . / For I belong to somebody.

We can all have that kind of connection. God factored it into the plan for our lives by ensuring we would need each other.

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.. . 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. . . . God has put the body together . . . 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other (1 Cor. 12:12, 17, 20, 24-25)

Making It Personal

  • Do you usually do things yourself because it seems easier? Might there be benefits to letting others in on your projects? Benefits such as: new ideas, less work for you, and the pleasure of companionship?
  • When working with others, it’s easy to become annoyed with the way they think or do things. How about showing appreciation for their strengths? Friendship might happen!
  • God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do everything as a team. Do you suppose God wants you to discover the joy and fulfillment of close, helpful relationships?