Who Do You Have A Friend In?

Posted on July 15, 2012. Filed under: Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Cover of "Toy Story: An Original Walt Dis...

Cover via Amazon

My nearly 2-year-old son has fallen in love with  “Toy Story.” I’m thankful that the kid has good taste, considering I’ll probably be watching it a lot over the next few years. There’s great characters, an original story line, (clean) adult humor, and pretty catchy tunes. I’ve actually had “You’ve Got a Friend In Me” in my head for the better part of a week now, which got me thinking, who should I have a friend in?

Friends are interesting creatures. The meaning of the word ‘friend’ has always been somewhat ambiguous. There’s your ‘friends’ that you’re friendly with but don’t really know too well. Then there’s the ‘just friends,’ which is usually someone of the opposite sex that you want to be more than friends with. Or the ‘friend’ that sat three rows behind you in Anthropology and you didn’t even know their name until they ‘friended’ you on Facebook. And then there’s the people that genuinely enrich your life.  All of these people are defined as ‘friends.’

But what does a biblical friendship look like? How do we know who we should be friendly with and who should be our companions in life?

We intrinsically know that friends are people you enjoy spending time with and usually share something in common with, like a love of a sports team or where you went to school together. The books of Amos echoes this: “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” (Amos 3:3). Yet, Amos takes our basic understanding of friendship to the next level by suggesting friends need to have their destination and the way they are getting there in common.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I don’t think Amos meant my girlfriend and I need to agree on how we get to frozen yogurt shop, though that’s also important. Friends communicate and agree on where they want to go in life and equally important, how they plan to get there.

Most people don’t give too much consideration to where they want to be or how they are getting there. But Christians have a friendly tour guide and road map, which give us direction. Christ himself laid out who his BFFs were when he said, “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14).

While part of me wants to pretend a friend is someone who does whatever I command, I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus meant here. Instead, his words lead me to believe a true friend is someone who is doing will of our Father, someone who confides in and knows Him. I realized, a friend is someone who brings you closer to your final destination, being with God.

Look at some of the best examples of friendship in the Bible: David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naoami, Elisha and Elija, Balaam and his donkey. In each of them, both parties knew they wanted to follow God by obeying his words. Through assassination attempts, deaths of loved ones, and other life trials, these friendships endured because these people (and animal) weren’t focussed on pleasing themselves or even the other person. Rather, they were focussed on God.

This may sound like a simple concept, not too many of us are friends with murderers. But it can be difficult to sever relationships, platonic or romantic, with people who drive us from God rather than bring us closer to Him. We might even be tempted to think God ‘placed them in our lives.’ But verses like 2 Corinthians 6:14 and 1 John 2:15 lead me to question if God would want me to confide in someone who doesn’t agree on my life’s route or destination.

I’m blessed to have the friends who will ensure I check myself befo’ I wreck myself  (Proverbs 27:17). It’s my prayer that you’ll take the time to reflect on the relationships you surround yourself with to ensure they are drawing you closer to your destination. Hopefully, these are the people who will be with you from now to infinity and beyond.

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Marriage Expectations

Posted on September 10, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Jane Austen

Image via Wikipedia

A reader recently recommended a topic for me to address: what to expect in marriage. Entire blogs and books are dedicated to this topic, but those usually unnecessarily beat up on men. I’ll try to make this one different.

Marriage in one verse: It is good for a man not to marry ( 1 Cor 7:1). There – done. I write that in jest but in all seriousness, I believe Paul wrote that because marriage is hard, but especially so if you are a Christian.

Why do people get married? Because we fall in love? Because we find someone we just cannot live without? Someone who makes our heart skip a beat and looks really good in a dress. I’m pretty sure one of the reasons my husband married me was so he would never have to unload the dishwasher. But as much as he loves this perk, we know that as Christians (and Jews) we are called to marry to become holy. It is an institution that God, not a priest, a judge, or Jane Austen created in which man and wife become one in spirit and in body (Mat 19:4-6).

And here lies the problem. From the onset, we are reminded that contrary to everything our culture tells us about marriage, it is not about us – it’s about Him. While men and women look for any reason under the sun to break this bond from ‘falling out of love’ to ‘I deserve better,’ the only reason Christ defines as acceptable for divorce is adultery (Mat 19:9).  After hearing this, the disciples conclude that it’s better for people not to marry all together (Mat 19:10), which may be where Paul was coming from too.

Humans, but especially Americans, are into themselves. It’s all about me. Sometimes that works well for us. It created a society focused on individual rights, the freest nation in the history of the world. It created a market place full of products to meet even the most obscure individual desires – the shake weight, really? But in a marriage, this attitude is destructive. We’ve all heard the statistics that about half of marriages end in divorce, even among Christians. But of those that don’t end in divorce, how many marriages would you actually call ‘happy,’ even less ‘holy’?

In Malachi, God reminds us that we are all tempted to break faith with our spouse, even while we are still married (Mal 2:14-16).  Break faith – what does that mean? Maybe ‘forgetting’ list of things she wants you to do around the house. Perhaps convincing yourself that you ‘deserve’ a husband who will ‘want’ to (insert chore/task here).

Breaking the faith, I believe, means feeding that self-centered desire we have to get our way and make ourselves happy. Keeping faith with ourselves rather than our spouse. Forgetting, or worse ignoring, the fact that God has united us with one individual to make us happy, holy, and whole.

So, what to expect in marriage? Expect to learn what real love is, to be awed, and gain insight into our Lord. But expect to find challenges, especially when your expectations are focused on yourself. Jane Austen may have written some ‘lovely’ books about the perfect love, but she had no idea what she was talking about. After all, she was never married.

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Eye Contact or iphone?

Posted on August 17, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

iPhone vs. iPhone 3G

Image by Ricky Romero via Flickr

Is staying connected keeping you from connecting with others? According to a survey I recently read, 26% of smart phone users admit to regularly using their phone while at dinner. I don’t think it’s because they are making phone calls. Nope, I’m pretty sure that this is evidence that more and more Americans desire to stay connected with the digital world. The exclamation point and the word “you’re” aren’t the biggest casualties of social networking; our social lives are.

Would Jesus use email, Twitter, and Facebook (cause let’s face it, He wouldn’t be using MySpace)? Sure, why not. But I don’t think He’d be using His smart phone to check for Lazarus’s latest tweet during the Last Supper. Instead, I think He’d be focusing on whom He was with, giving that person His undivided attention.

At the end of Chapter 10 in Luke, Christ and the disciples went to the home of Martha and Mary. While Martha was busy with preparations for the meal, Mary sat by the Lord, soaking up the time she had with Him. Naturally, Martha protested that Mary should be helping her instead of relaxing while Martha did all the busy work. Jesus gently corrected Martha (don’t want to upset the chef before meal time) by proclaiming that Mary was in the right and that Martha had lost sight of the most important part of hosting: the guests.

Okay, so Martha wasn’t exactly texting while JC was telling the latest parable. But if something as understandable as preparing for the Son of God to enter your home is considered obsolete, how much more would emailing work be? Let’s face it; no matter how important we think we are, we aren’t that important (Gal 6:3). When we start to believe our lives are more important than spending quality time with our “loved” ones, there will be consquences.

The Parable of the Great Banquet in Luke’s chapter 14, tells the story of a man who prepared a great banquet (as opposed to a lame one) and invited all his favorite people. One by one his guests gave the man a seemingly legitimate excuse for why they couldn’t come. The man became angry and decided to invite the not so great people who would appreciate him to the banquet instead. While this is a parable about the Kingdom, I believe it still speaks truth to our subject at hand. If we would rather stay attached to smart phones and work emails rather than connecting with those in front of us, we shouldn’t be surprised when they “de-friend” us.

The friends’ latest work out of the day can wait. The text message will be there in an hour. The political junkie will put up another rant in 17 minutes (I promise, I will). So let’s free ourselves and our company from the iphones, droids, and blackberries. After all, which banquet guest would you rather be remembered as: the guy who missed out on the greatest feast in town because he was busy with his ox (Luke 14:19) or the blind guy sitting at the head of the table with the drum stick?

PS-Please post this blog to your Facebook status

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