Thursday, February 27, 2014

It is Not Good to be Alone

Modern Americans enjoy unprecedented access to wealth and technology.  As it turns out, this wealth and technology is making us more and more isolated.  More than ever, we are able to navigate life without other people.  We create relationships through Facebook.  We shop through vending machines and computers.  We enjoy the arts and athletics through flat screen televisions, neatly hung behind closed blinds and locked doors.  We are able to do it all, all by ourselves.

This is influencing our relationships and wellbeing. The Atlantic published a great article describing the positive effects relationships have on the brain and the negative impact of isolation.  It says, “We volunteer less. We entertain guests at our homes less often. We are getting married less. We are having fewer children. And we have fewer and fewer close friends with whom we'd share the intimate details of our lives. We are denying our social nature, and paying a price for it. Over the same period of time that social isolation has increased, our levels of happiness have gone down, while rates of suicide and depression have multiplied.”  According to the article, people need one another.  Marriages, families, neighborhoods, communities, and the institutions that support them, are good for us.

Genesis describes this need very clearly.  God creates Adam and says, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  It is not good for people to isolate.  It is good for people to spend life together.  We need one another.

As you go through the coming week, make time to connect with people.  Invite friends over for dinner.  Go to church.  Turn off the TV and play a game with your family.  As you do, you will be blessed in ways the Bible and science celebrate.  You will also experience some of the good God created you for.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Not Safe, But Good

In C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, four children meet a couple of talking beavers during a visit to a fantasy world called Narnia.  Mr. and Mrs. Beaver tell the children that the King of Narnia, a lion named Aslan, has returned.  Aslan has predicted that four children will help overthrow a witch who had cast a spell on Narnia.  The Beavers insist that the children meet Aslan so they can fulfill the prophecy.

One of the children, Lucy, is reluctant: ‘"Is - is he a man?" asked Lucy.  "Aslan a man!" said Mr. Beaver sternly. "Certainly not.  I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion, the Lion, the great Lion."  "Ooh," said Susan, "I thought he was a man. Is he - quite safe?  I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."  "That you will, dearie, and make no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver; "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."  "Then he isn't safe?" said Lucy.  "Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe.  But he's good. He's the king I tell you."’

It can be hard to distinguish between safe and good.  We like to think that good things are always safe.  Safety gives us a sense of control.   Safety makes us think that we are in charge.  Naturally, we think that being in control (and thus safety) is always good.

But, that isn’t the case with Jesus or the Christian life.  Like Aslan, Jesus calls His people to give up control.  Jesus comes into our lives, on His terms, setting His agenda.  It is often far outside our comfort zone.  By trusting Him, we learn how incredibly good He is – albeit not always safe.

This week, recognize that Jesus isn’t necessarily safe, but always good.  Serve Him in a way that steps outside your comfort zone.  Introduce yourself to a stranger and tell them God has a great plan for their lives.  Invite a co-worker to dinner and tell them Jesus cares about them.  Give in a way that requires sacrifice in other areas of your budget.  As you do, you will see Jesus at work in powerful ways.  You’ll learn, “Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good.  He’s the king I tell you.”

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Fighter Planes and Faithfulness

During World War II, U.S. bombers often flew under the protection of fighter planes. When enemy planes attacked, American fighters would retaliate and try to draw enemy planes away from the bombers. This left the larger, slower bombers exposed and vulnerable to other enemy fighters. As a result, they were shot down at alarming rates.

The famous Tuskegee Airmen employed a different strategy in protecting bombers that proved to be much more successful. It was simple: never leave. Tuskegee fighters would engage the enemy, but never chase the enemy away from the plane they were protecting. Their first mission was to stay close to the bomber. As a result, hundreds of bombers were saved while only a handful was lost on their watch.

The airmen and their innovative strategy illustrate the power of faithfulness. We are safest when those protecting us stick with us. Our well-being depends on our protector’s commitment to remain at our side.

This is true of God as our spiritual protector as well. We are kept safe by the fact that God is with us and will never, ever leave us. Deuteronomy 31 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” God’s faithfulness gives us confidence in our well-being.

As you go through the coming week, invite the Lord into your everyday life. Ask the Lord to draw close and rest assured that He will never leave you. As you do, you will find courage for the battles of life. You will also find an assurance in Christ that cannot be shot down.