Tag Archives: love

Jesus is my friend (and Heaven is my home)

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I just returned from vacation. Not your typical vacation full of exotic places, beaches, resorts, or theme parks. No. I spent a week visiting friends – hopping from one guest room to another. And I have to tell you, I have the very best friends in the entire world. Seriously, no contest, it’s not even close. As I reflected on the week with these wonderful people, I realized that there are some commonalities among my friendships that make them so rich and meaningful.

My friendships are full of laughter. Time with friends is always characterized with quick, witty comments and side splitting antics. My friends are fun and funny.

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My friendships are familiar and comfortable. The houses have changed and there are now husbands and children, but one thing has remained – I’m at home when I’m in their presence. None of my friends even flinched when I informed them of my intentions of paying a visit. All would have been offended had I even thought of staying at a hotel. The comfort and hospitality  so great that there’s no hesitancy to raid the fridge when hungry and in need of a late night snack.

Capt Sundae's then (with Amy)
Capt Sundae’s then (with Amy)
And now (with Hyatt)
And now (with Hyatt)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My friendships are authentic and honest. My friends speak truth to me, even when that truth is difficult or not what I want to hear. My friends challenge me and sharpen me.

My friendship are full of genuine love, care, and acceptance. My friends have loved me when I wasn’t very lovable and stood by me when I couldn’t stand on my own. My friends have attended sporting events despite a true disinterest in sports, learned more about Iowa than they ever thought possible, and continue to pretend to care about my dog as much as I do.

Sunitha has attended more sporting events than she cares to count with me. And she doesn't like sports.
Sunitha has attended more sporting events than she cares to count with me. And she doesn’t like sports.

My friends know me. My friends are excited to connect with me -whether it’s daily or it’s been four years, whether it’s a text message of a favorite line from FRIENDS or a treasured hand written letter. My friends pray for me. My friends cheer me on and believe in me. My friends weep and cry with me.

Back "then" - Meeting Warren Barfield.
Back “then” – Meeting Warren Barfield.

As I sat in church last Sunday, it was this experience of friendship that led me to realize something regarding my walk with Jesus. My pastor is currently speaking on eternity – the reality and truth about heaven and hell. I often have a longing for heaven, an ache that echoes deep in my soul. However, my understanding of heaven is so vague and lacking. I have often wondered if I simply choose heaven because of a fear of hell. Then it hit me… my longing for home is natural for this world is not my home, but what makes heaven home? I stayed in three lovely houses during my vacation. What made them special was not the architecture or the furnishings, but the people who dwell there – my friends. Heaven is home because that is where Jesus is. And Jesus is my friend.

John 15:13-15 says, “13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 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.

However, what I realized sitting in church made me sad. I realized that I don’t treat Jesus like he’s my friend. I don’t have the same inside jokes, comfort, authenticity, knowledge, or genuineness with him as I do with my earthly friends. Oh, he has that with me, but it is often so one-sided as I rarely reciprocate. No, instead, I tend to approach Jesus like a celebrity I’ve been able to meet. I look at him with star crossed eyes, hoping to get an autograph, and brag that I’ve met him without actually growing close relationally or emotionally. But Jesus is more than a celebrity who happens to know my name.

JESUS IS MY FRIEND! And he longs for me to act as such. He wants to share laughs, inside jokes, and playful pokes. He wants me to know him as intimately as he already knows me. He longs to spend time with me, long or short, silly or serious. He wants me to be most comfortable in his presence and not feel bashful about raiding his refrigerator. Heaven is exciting because I literally get to hang out with Jesus, not as a fan adoring a celebrity but as intimate and genuine friends. Jesus said so himself.

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And so my new prayer is that I see Jesus as He sees me, as a friend, and that my relationship with him reflects that truth. Only then will I be able to truly bring heaven to earth and only then will my longing for heaven truly make sense. What keeps you from seeing Jesus as your friend? How do you hope grow closer and become more intimate and comfortable with Jesus?

10 things family is…and one thing it is NOT!

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So it’s great to say that you and I are children of God, that we are adopted into His family. But what does that really mean? Our earthly families are so broken that it is sometimes difficult to know what it really means to act like family. Here are the top 10 things it means to be part of a family:

1. Family defends one another. My sister and I didn’t always get along growing up, which I’m sure is fairly typical of many sisters. However, no matter how mad we were at one another, we always stood up for one another. No one picked on her without dealing with me too and no one messed with me without messing with her too. We had each other’s back. We too need to have God’s back by standing up for the things that matter to him. We need to stand up and defend the poor, the widow, and the orphan. We need to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8). We need to love everyone and judge no one.

My brother and sister - they've always got my back,
My brother and sister – they’ve always got my back,

2. Family encourages one another. In all of my endeavors, my family has always been my number one cheerleader. Whenever I doubted myself, they would believe in me all the more. In the Bible, Paul seemed to be constantly encouraging the churches and communities he visited. He modeled encouragement and he repeatedly urged Christ followers to follow his example and encourage one another in their faith. We too need to spur one another on in love (Hebrews 10:24).

3. Family accepts one another. Every family has a variety of personalities. The crazy uncle (I have many of those). The nerd (I am one of those). The jock. The fill in the blank. In my family, I was usually too serious for my own good. My sister was known as the chatterbox. And my brother kept us all laughing. My dad is always late. My mom is always trying to get us out the door. We all have our quirks and roles. And we are all accepted in spite of them. God’s family is no different. We are loved and accepted just as we are. Romans 10:12 says, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.”

My family
My family

4. Family grows together. Although we are all accepted, we also long to grow into better people. People that look more and more like we were meant to be, more like Jesus. My parents walked along side me as life taught me tough lessons that formed my character. And when life didn’t do a sufficient job, my parents and other mentors would come along and gently encourage me in the way I should go. Proverbs 22:6 states, “Start children off in the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.” And as our Heavenly Father, God promises to discipline us and mold our character to look more and more like Christ. In Psalms God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you (32:8).” And though discipline and character formation is not always easy and does not always feel good, when it is housed in the security of God’s love, it leads to great blessings!

cousins then...
cousins then…

5. Family delights in one another. Many of my favorite memories growing up include shopping with my family, especially my mom and sister. We wouldn’t always purchase, but even just walking around the mall provided plenty of entertainment for the three of us. On one particular trip, we ended up laughing so hard that my mom began to cry and couldn’t see and almost put the car in the ditch. My family truly loves being together. My cousins are my best friends and we laugh until our sides hurt when we are together. My aunts and uncles have invested in my life. Family delights and celebrates with one another. Family laughs together. Family enjoys being together. The Psalms repeatedly urge us to delight in the Lord and to shout for joy. The New Testament is full of examples of Jesus followers celebrating and rejoicing with one another. One of my favorite examples is when Jesus shares the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15. When the shepherd finds the little lamb, “he joyfully puts it on his shoulders” and returns to the rest of the flock (Luke 15:5). And Scripture tells us that angels throw a party whenever someone chooses to follow Jesus. As His children, God delights and celebrates us!

and now...
and now…

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6. Family also mourns together. When tragedy strikes, family comes together to cry with one another. Ecclesiastes 3 states that there is a time and season for everything, including mourning and weeping. When Jesus receives word that Lazarus has died, he stops and he weeps (John 11:35). And after Jesus’ death on the cross, the disciples gathered together to weep and mourn all that had taken place. Family supports one another and grieves with one another in the dark times.

7. Family works together. Admittedly this isn’t always the fun aspect of family, although my dad did try to make picking up walnuts in our backyard more exciting by seeing who could get the most in the bucket. 1 Corinthians 3:9 says, “For we are co-workers in God’s service…” and in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul reminds us that just like every part of the body is needed for the whole body to work well and be healthy, we all need to work together for God’s kingdom.

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Some of my Heavenly family I’m honored to work alongside.

8. Family forgives one another. This truth is probably one of the main reasons we tend to treat strangers we don’t know with more kindness than our own family. We know there is always grace and forgiveness from family.

9. Family represents one another. Your last name represents your entire family. Good or bad, how you conduct yourself reflects on your family members. Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches” and Ecclesiastes 7:1 compares a good name to fine perfume. When we decide to follow Jesus and become part of God’s family, we bear HIs name and represent Him.

10. Finally, family loves one another! What does it mean to love someone? It is difficult to define! I know that it is more than a warm, fuzzy feeling towards another person. Loving someone means a willingness to care for them and meet their needs at the expense of your own. 1 John is full of commands to love each other. 1 John 4:7 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” So if we claim to be part of God’s family, we must love others the way God loves us!

Family is an interesting thing. We don’t always get along with them but we love them all the same. Some of us have wonderful, loving families. Some of us have distant, hurtful families. But even the most broken earthly family should not deter us from understanding what family is supposed to be. If we are truly children of God, that makes us family. In fact, the blood of Jesus should be stronger than any earthly DNA. Unfortunately, even though we are family, so often we do not treat one another like family is supposed to treat one another.

The one thing being family is not? EASY!! Being family is hard!

However, as part of God’s family, as His beloved, we are entrusted with representing the family name. We must act like a family towards one another and we must share God’s love with those who have not yet received His offer of grace and forgiveness because that’s what our heavenly father wants us to do.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list! What does family mean to you?

What’s in a Name?

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Have you ever thought about your name? There is a lot of meaning and a lot communicated in a name. I have spent much of my life living in small towns – like really small. I had 75 students in my high school graduating class. My parents have lived next to the same neighbors for over 20 years. And in my small hometown of 2000 people, my last name communicates a lot. It connects me to others that have the same name. Whether you are proud or ashamed of your last name, whether your name carries positive or negative connotations, your name means something.

When you accept your identity as a child of God and become part of God’s family, you receive a new name. Now you bear God’s name and now you represent Him. What is that name? Many might say, “Christian” is your new name, except that Christian is rarely mentioned in Scripture. I believe God’s family name is actually “love”.

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1 John 4:7-17 says,

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

13 And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14 Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16 We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17 And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

Wow! Did you catch that? Through God’s ultimate expression of love – Jesus’ death on the cross, we can become children of God. If God is love, that means you are beloved! But we must love others in response to God’s great love for us. Bearing God’s name means representing God’s love in the world. Loving others is how God becomes real and “seen” in this world. You have experienced God’s love and grace, that is how you were adopted into His family as His child. Now it is your calling to share that same love with the world so that the world can see how real God’s love is.

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This is not as easy as it may sound. Loving others is risky business. There is no guarantee that others will love you back. And God knows this truth better than anyone. Loving others requires giving sacrificially of ourselves. Jesus sacrificed everything for us and bearing God’s name means being an example of Jesus to the world through sacrifice. When we love others well, we bring glory and honor to God’s name.

Christ is counting on you to live out your faith in this world. To do so effectively, we must count on Christ for the strength we need. What keeps you from sharing God’s love with others? What are some ways you’ve shared God’s love with others?