Our Need For Companionship

Four times in the first chapter of Genesis, God looked at his creation and “saw that it was good.” Then, in verse eighteen of chapter two, He considered Adam’s aloneness and said “it is not good” (emphasis mine).

At first it might seem that when God evaluated his creative efforts He realized He had made a mistake or left something undone. Adam was alone and it was not good. Had God simply forgotten to create woman? Was Adam left to play a life of solitaire because God had overlooked something? Of course not!

God had a purpose when He allowed Adam to begin life without companionship. Just before Eve was created, God caused all the animals to pass by Adam (Genesis 2:19-20). Adam saw that throughout the animal kingdom there was male and female. Only he had no counterpart.

God wanted Adam to realize he was alone so he would place greater value on Eve when she was provided for him. From the very beginning, human nature has caused us to have greater appreciation for a blessing if we have spent some time without it. (We don’t realize the value of water until the well runs dry.)

We, like Adam, have a God-given, built-in need for human companionship. He intentionally put within us the need to communicate and fellowship with other people. This need is evident in all stages of life. The infant that stops crying instantly when his mother picks him up and the child who cries out “Mommy, mommy, watch me” are responding to this aspect of being human. The herd instinct that drives teens is evidence of its presence. Wedding vows are exchanged because of it – and sometimes repudiated due to the lack of it. The elderly can lose the desire to continue living if they don’t have it.

Satan recognizes this need and uses it to harm and tempt us. He tells us that we can never be happy until we find a human companion. He leads us to believe we are alone because we are somehow unworthy or unattractive or socially deficient. He tries to make us feel we are incomplete if we are alone.

And often, in response to Satan’s prompting, we begin to base our life on the search for a person whose presence will fill our emptiness. We evaluate others on the standard of “Do I want this person to be my companion and friend?” If we feel they do not somehow measure up they are rejected and the search goes on, often in the wrong places.

How does God want us to deal with this need until He provides us with the companions He has chosen for us? First of all, we must understand that such companionship does not necessarily contain a sexual component. Companionship can come from either gender and does not require the breaking of the seventh commandment.

We must learn to look to Jesus as the perfect companion. In John 15:13-15 Jesus offered us his friendship. And in John 14:23 Jesus said he and the Father will come and live with those who love and obey Him. How’s that for companionship?

Jesus wants us to make him Number One in every part of our life. He will provide all we need in this endeavor because He is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20)

Becoming Christlike

My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I love every person in my life all the time.
My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I want to help every person I love.
My growth as a Christian will not be complete until I learn how to express my love to people as individuals, not just as a group.
None of this growth will take place until I yield to the influence and power of the Holy Spirit.
     God sends us into the world with a trunk full of love to give to others. We are to dip into that trunk and scatter love to everyone we meet. That love takes the form of listening, sharing, teaching, patience and forgiving. (That short list is not exhaustive.)
     That trunk has compartments that contain all the forms of love. He also gives us the wisdom to use the most effective form of love with each individual we meet.
     When I find myself running low on the motivational drive to be a "love scatterer" I must remember how empty my trunk was before He filled it, how small my qualification was to be a receiver of that love, and how much better my life is now because of that love.
     The best, most effective, most accurate way I can glorify God is to let the Holy Spirit make me like Jesus. "God...decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son." (Romans 8:29, The Message Bible)
     The Holy Spirit will do the shaping of the way I am. My role is to allow such changes to happen and then behave in ways that exhibit my new shape.
     Do we Christians spend more time, money and energy trying to change our physical "shape" into the way the world says it should be than we do allowing the Spirit to alter our spiritual shape into the way God wants it to be?

Teaching On The Way to Emmaus

     The episode on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-36) is beautiful to me because it is so instructive.
     Just a week before, these two men believed they had found in Jesus the answer to all their political and spiritual questions. But their hopes that He would "redeem Israel" had been dashed. They were confused and disappointed followers of Jesus. (Don't know about you, but I've been there and done that.)
     But Jesus specifically and intentionally went to them in their struggle. (And He finds me in mine.)
     After walking with them for awhile He started to leave them with only a partial understanding. They asked for more teaching and He obliged. (He gives me more when I ask.)
     In verse 27 Jesus used the scriptures to teach about himself. What Scriptures? The Old Testament, because that is all they had.
     I would love to have been there and heard Jesus tell about himself and his relationship to those Old Testament writers. He could have said "I know exactly what Isaiah and David meant because I was right there with them when they wrote those words." That is really teaching with authority..." (Mark 1:22)
     And then they went and told others.

Attitudes and Actions

In Matthew 5:20 Jesus called his disciples to a spiritual level higher than that of their religious leaders. He was asking the disciples to grow beyond those who led their times of worship and taught in their synagogues.

To the disciples this must have sounded impossible. Those religious leaders very carefully followed the law of Moses and the many interpretations thereof. They were the theologians and seminary professors of their day. They wrote the Sunday School literature and scriptural commentaries. They tithed, attended all the festivals, gave special offerings, prayed three times every day, fasted several times each year, and sacrificed at the correct times and in the appropriate manner. How could these “working stiffs” ever exceed such righteousness?

They could love their neighbors!

Jesus did not fault the actions of these leaders. Their actions were impeccable. But He knew their hearts (Luke16:15). He called his followers to a set of attitudes that were more pleasing to the Father. He called them to love others. 

If God were to call us to judgement today, would we want him to judge us on our actions or our attitudes? Which come closer to the meeting his standards?

What should be our primary attitude toward God? Love! (Matthew 22:37)

What should be our primary attitude toward people?  Love! (Matthew 22:39)

What actions should we take to show God we love Him? Obey Him! (John 14:15)

What actions should we take to show others we love them? Serve them! (John 13:4-5)

Love All Others

It was early in the morning. The day was clear and clean and new and fresh. I was alone with God.

I asked Him, "Father, what do you want me to do today?"

He answered, "Love others."

I thought for a minute and then said, "OK. Which others?"

"All others," He replied.

"Wait a minute," I said. "You don't really mean 'ALL others,' do you?"

"All others," He repeated.

"But Father, there are a lot of 'others' in my life that aren't very loveable. Some of them don't deserve being loved."

"All others," He said again.

"But Father, I don't even like some of the people I'll be with today."

He answered, "I didn't say like them, I said LOVE them."

"But Father, some of them certainly don't love me. Can I wait until they love me first?"

"No, my child. Love them first. Show them that you love them. All of them. Starting today."

"But Father, they are really not worth loving. No one can love all of them."

"I do," came the reply.

At that point I had no more objections. I left my devotional time still unsure I could love as He was demanding, but I knew I had to try.

Miracles or Signs?

During His stay on earth Jesus did many things we call miracles. John, in his account of Jesus’ life here, called them signs. Which term is correct? Both!

To us they seem to be impossible. Our knowledge is so limited we cannot explain or understand them.They remain a source of confusion for those who seek scientific explanations of Jesus’ accomplishments. And they were miraculous.

Jesus intended to ease the pain and suffering of those who were sick, hungry, frightened and demon-possessed. He cared about their conditions and He had a desire to help.

However, each of his actions had a larger, more eternal purpose. They were signs to show his followers, then and now, that He was God incarnate. Only the same God who had created the universe and instituted the laws that govern it could alter those laws whenever He chose. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary and Joseph, was Jehovah. The miracles were signs of that truth.

When we read the gospels if we understand no more than the earthly results of his actions, we miss the message He intends for us. The outward, physical results were temporary. Each of the people He healed eventually died. But the larger ramifications lead us to eternal issues.

If we are not born-again children of God we have a spiritual sickness as real as the physical ailments of those Jesus healed. He offers to heal us of that sin-sickness and welcome us into his family for eternity. And that is the most wonderful miracle of all.


God wants my life to be a miracle that shows his power and love to the world.

THE SCARED CHURCH

On the evening of the first Easter the disciples huddled in a closed room and bolted the door to keep out the world. They were so frightened of the people outside they had to use doors and walls to separate themselves from outsiders.

Today our churches still seem afraid of the world. We hide behind our stained-glass windows, choir robes and Sunday School literature and preach about the evils of homosexuality, drugs and pornography.

The message of such behavior is “We are scared of Satan and his world of evil.”  We meet to share time with other frightened Christians and have a few hours each week of “holy huddle,” fervently hoping the world will not physically or emotionally intrude.

We say “Our church doors are open. All are invited to worship with us.” We even send out visitation teams to persuade people to come to our church next Sunday. But are our hearts as open as our doors? Are we careful to invite only the “right kind” of people from “correct neighborhoods” to join us in our sanctimonious ceremonies?

If new-comers do not dress correctly or wash frequently do we secretly hope they will search for God somewhere else? The world that many people face every day is dirty, mean and dangerous. Many of the people that live in that world tend to be unkempt and rough, with an unpleasant odor. Do we as long-time members really want them to be a part of our worship.

The addicted and abused, the frightened and confused are not urged to attend the 11:00 Sunday morning, suit and tie, heels and hats, upper room gathering of the faithful. They frighten us. We do not want them to disrupt our services, offend our sensibilities and upset our routine. My goodness, one of them might actually sit in my pew.

Even worse, some of these down-and-outers might require some of our own personal time and assistance. They might become a bodily, practical expression of God’s message “unto the least of one of these.”  After all, if we don’t intend to individually go “into all the world” we for sure don’t want the world coming to us!

Daily Footprints

Last night we had a two inch snowfall in my community. Everyone who walked in the park behind my house left footprints, a temporary record of their passing.

It is now evening and I have just finished living another day. Like strollers in the park, I also left a trail to show where I went.  I left emotional footprints that show how I affected other people. Did I successfully follow Paul’s admonition to live peaceably with all men? (Romans 12:18)

I left intellectual footprints which attest to my wise or unwise choices. When I lacked wisdom did I consult God?  Did I try to be an attentive student and learn all God wanted to teach me? (James 1:5)

In such sloppy weather I tried not to track snow onto the clean floors of my home. But I was unsuccessful and dirt ended up inside. Was I as concerned about keeping undesirable thoughts out of my mind, which is God’s home? (I Corinthians 6:19)

I left communication footprints. What did I talk about? What did I listen to? Did I speak of and point to Jesus? (James 3:1-10)

Most importantly I left spiritual footprints which attest to my priorities as I went about my assigned and chosen tasks? Did my life point to eternal issues or temporary concerns? (Colossians 3:2)

Tomorrow I will again leave a record of my presence in the lives of others. God calls me to walk so that those impressions will honor and glorify Him. I pray that with the help of the Holy Spirit I will be successful.

Eating from Trash Cans

A woman had three sons, each of them married with children of their own. All three were scheduled to arrive at her house at 11:00 for lunch on Thanksgiving Day.

For days she carefully planned the menu. Most of Wednesday was spent cooking desserts. She put the turkey in the oven at 5:00 Thanksgiving morning.  The table was adorned with her best dishes and gleaming, polished silverware. By 10:45 everything was ready. She had done her best and she was pleased with her efforts.

Then she heard voices and strange noises from the area behind the house where the trash cans were stored. When she looked outside she could hardly believe her eyes. There were all three of her boys, along with their families, sitting in a circle around the trash containers. They were eating from the trash cans.

Using the can lids as serving trays they were eating potato and apple peels, carrot tops, and orange rinds. As she watched they scraped out what was left from the discarded vegetable cans and frozen food boxes.

She rushed outside, horrified at their behavior. “All of you come into the house this instant,” she cried.” This is crazy. I have a wonderful meal for you in there. Why would you want to eat garbage out here when I have turkey and mashed potatoes and hot rolls and apple pie on the table in the kitchen?”

The oldest boy replied “I’m sure you have a good meal inside, but we don’t deserve any better than this. We have neglected you lately and this is all we have a right to expect. It’s good enough for people like us.”

The middle son also refused. “This is really not so bad, Mom. If you’ve never tried it you don’t know what you’re missing. Would you like to join us?”

The third boy confirmed the decision to stay outside. “I’ve talked it over with my family and we don’t believe you really have anything any better inside. You can’t prepare a meal like you described. We think you are lying to us.”

The foolish, ungrateful  behavior of these children causes us to feel outraged. But we act in similar ways toward God when we refuse the banquet of blessings he has for us and accept, instead, the trash offered by the world.

God prepares a menu of blessings for us every day.  (Psalm 23). He knows we don’t deserve it but He continually offers us the best He has. Of course we don’t deserve his goodness, but He chooses to bless us anyway. To say He cannot bless us is to deny his power. To say He has not or will not bless us is to contradict his word. When we live in guilt, ignorance and denial we are as foolish as the three sons.

A Visit To The Grand Canyon

When we visit the Grand Canyon we approach it with some degree of reverence and look cautiously into it’s depths. We are impressed with the beauty, majesty, size and age.  We realize we are engaging only a small part of the canyon with only a small part of ourselves. After a short visit we walk away, get in our car and move on.

But that is not experiencing the Grand Canyon. We don’t go to the bottom and allow ourselves to be surrounded by it.  We don’t permit all our senses to become attuned to its sounds, colors, scent and sights. We don’t explore the side canyons and hidden pockets of splendor. We don’t sit still in the deepest recesses and view the animals and wild flowers. We don’t return throughout the year to view the seasonal changes.

If we really wanted to know the Canyon intimately we would read books about it and hire a guide for each visit. We would physically discipline ourselves to become strong enough to hike from one end to the other. We would stay there for days at a time.

But we don’t. And as a result of our look-over-the-edge-and-move-on visits we know it about like we know God.

We hurry into and out of God’s presence, perhaps impressed with a limited sense of his wisdom, majesty, beauty, size and power. We commit a small part of ourselves to peer cautiously into his Word, all the time knowing there is more. We stop short of a full sensory encounter then walk away content or even feel a little proud of our efforts.

We do not take the time and make the effort to experience God. We do not immerse ourselves and surround ourselves with Him. We refuse to explore the lesser-known facets of his personality.  We do not develop the stamina and self-discipline necessary to know his heart. Expecting immediate answers and solutions, we visit Him and then move on before some of his most beautiful, valuable truths can be received. We do not allow the Holy Spirit to be our guide. We may feel his presence for a few minutes but we don’t become intimate with him.  We approach God with a tourist mentality.

How can we correct this? We must make forming an intimate relationship with him the number-one priority of our lives. This will require a commitment of our time. Such relationships can not be rushed. We must establish regular times of prayer and Bible study, disciplining ourselves to concentrate of spiritual matters. The joys of experiencing God are available only to those who long for more than a quick, easy, occasional visit.