What does friendship with God look like? (Good Gifts 5:2)

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has long been the standard for understanding human needs. From the basics of life – water, food, shelter, safety – to the needs higher up the pyramid – love, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. I have been encouraged to see some amount of research across recent years that acknowledges a flaw in this concept. Maslow’s hierarchy is useful but, like everything made by the hands of man, imperfect.

We may not be able to survive without food, but, to some extent, what kind of survival is that without connection, without someone to share it with, without friendship? We know as Christians – connection matters most and it is basic to our survival.

When we worked with a feeding program as part of the holistic mission of Ministry in Mission in Haiti, the children didn’t just come for the food and juice. They came to be loved on. They came to sing songs together and to see what Hope looks like from people who shared Jesus with them, and to share hope with one another. I’m positive they would have shown up without the food offered, because connection is just as much what they needed. And it’s true for each and every one of us. Why?

Because we were created by a Good Good Father for connection with Him above all else.

We mostly think of friendship and connection within the horizontal realm, in our friendships with one another. What we believe about God, that vertical friendship, affects how we believe, think, and we act in our friendships with one another. Why? Because He created friendship, and He created everything to be shared in relationship with Him, never apart from Him. So, if we want quality friendships with one another, we need to understand our friendship with God first.

For this, James sheds a little light on the subject. Let’s open to James 2. If you have your Bible out, please take a minute to read the entire chapter for a fuller context. Here, let’s look at James 2:1 alone –

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.

Impartiality is founded in the person and work of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Friendship is just that, offering impartiality, offering safety and care, extending the hand of fellowship enough to know someone more and to say,

“You too?!”

“Tell me more.”

“You are worthy of time and energy.”

Jesus Himself identifies the root of our friendship with both God and one another as His work and His Word active in our lives, through His sacrifice. Read John 15:12-15-

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

James points us to more. Read James 2:19-23

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.

Even the demons believe -Yikes! We don’t just have belief; we have friendship with God in Christ. Praises! Abraham’s story is rich and full in the Old Testament, but let’s look at just a piece of it. In Genesis 18, Abraham was blessed to meet with God. Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and the benefit of His Word available to us daily, we also can meet with Him at any moment, every day. We could easily only hear James’s recurring phrase “Faith without works, faith without works, faith without works…” in our head, but the “works” can easily be summed up in this – relationship.

Read Genesis 18:1-15 and see what kind of relationship God offers us, now through His means of grace, as He offered it to Abraham so many years ago.

The Lord visits us

Genesis 18: 1-5 –

And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

Just as God did not find it offensive to visit Abraham’s tent, partake of Abraham’s food, and rest in Abraham’s company, so He does with us. We need only open His Word, or share around the Word with His people to be visited by the Most High God. He, in fact, wants to visit with us, makes time for us, and invites us to His table to share His meal with Him.

We converse with God

Genesis 18:9-15 –

They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” 10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

I LOVE this exchange. It tells me that I don’t have to have it all together to meet with God. It tells me that He’ll straighten me out in His Truth and His Love. He welcomes me to the conversation for the delight of relationship, and in Him I find restoration for my soul.

We are given great and precious promises

More on these promises tomorrow. But for now, look at what Abraham and Sarah received! Surely we would list the seed which is Christ Jesus, promised near those oak trees long ago, but goodness the promise of the conversation alone is notable.

Come, Lord Jesus. Eat our food. Be our Guest. Rest in our homes with us. Recline at our tables in Your open Word. Make full our hearts and lives in conversation and friendships centered on you.

I am a friend of God.

You are a friend of God.

Discussion:

What is the most inviting or caring thing a friend has ever done for you?

What qualities do you look for in solid friendship?

How does God fulfill all the qualities of friendship we could ever desire?

Bonus for fun and connection: What would you serve the Lord if he came for dinner? Give us your favorite food or best recipe!

 

Notes:

*Ministry in Mission has Easter crosses, designed and handmade by Haitian artisans. Funding raised goes to support the very feeding program I spoke of. Check them out at this link…

Ministry In Mission – Feed The Orphans – Buy a Cross

*For more on the challenge to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, see this helpful overview by Forbes.

 

Fattened Hearts and Faithful Lives (Good Gifts 4:5)

In this week’s video lesson we examine James 5:1-6 and dig into what makes for a fattened heart in our relationship with God and one another. We are imperfect believers in an imperfect world, but He is an ever Faithful and Perfect Father with Good Gifts for us! We also bounce around Scripture to discover God’s gift of a wide open heart through our Lord and Savior.

What gifts does He give us for stretching our hearts wide open for Christ Jesus?

Good Gifts Week 4 – Fattened Hearts and Faithful Lives

11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. 12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. 13 In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

2 Corinthians 6:11-13

Share the graphic today or download the image as a phone wallpaper.

Let’s pray this prayer together- Lord, open wide our hearts for You and Your people.

Video notes:

James 5:5 – “You have fattened your hearts…” Greek notes: http://biblehub.com/greek/5142.htm

James 5:6 – “He does not resist you.” Greek notes: http://biblehub.com/greek/498.htm

2 Corinthians 6:11 “our heart is open wide…” Greek notes: http://biblehub.com/greek/4115.htm

 

Hello my name is and genuine friendship

Friendship makes the world a better place. It’s a fact. Even Jesus calls us friend, rather than minion. Life is better with people to share it, to cry over it with, to laugh over it with, and to sometimes grumble over it with.

And Bible studies are always better with friends. Have any of you ever had the privilege of sitting around with a group of friends, laughing about toddler antics or teenage antics, crying over the weight of a loss, eating too much dessert, eyes wide open to discovering something new as God peels off another layer of our hard hearts and we start to see real and living changes in our lives.

It’s a thing. Maybe you’ve never had it. Maybe you’ve had a shadow of it and you want the real deal- gathering around the Word, eating together, giving grace for lessons missed and words unread, sharing mercy when someone admits they yell at their kids and someone else admits that they don’t really like their church. It’s an open place, with lots of sharing. There is truth to show us our sin and grace so that it doesn’t destroy us.

People around the Word in real and genuine love for one another creates actual life change. Marriages aren’t easier but they are stickier. Lives still have struggle, but it’s less lonely. Relationships aren’t perfect, but there is tender care, mended fences, and growth.

I want more places where my life looks more like…

real

genuine

authentic

growth

care

gathering

community.

And I don’t think it’s asking too much of one another.

Who is one other person in your life that you can share this kind of real friendship with?

Maybe they are close by, maybe you can sit around coffee and talk through a week of study together. Maybe they are far away and you can get creative and still sit around coffee and talk through a week of study together, or type through a week of study together, or text through a week of study together.

Our deep desire for friendship is from God. We were created for community, we need each other. And He will help us to create it together, someone takes the first step, and another comes along. That is His Spirit doing some of His best work, helping, comforting, connecting.

We start our Good Gifts study of the book of James on March 6th. Create your group now- in person, on Facebook, google hangouts, texting, whatever! Or invite just one friend to join you, invite one neighbor to join you, or invite one stranger to join you and start with step one of friendship- inviting them in.

Step 2 – let’s be genuine together. You will all be in my prayers as I write and plan this study, especially those of you struggling for friendship. I have been there. Walking that road is hard, but you aren’t alone. I hear from so many women seeking just one good friend. She may just be sitting next to you.

Let’s reach out and across.

“Hello my name is….Would you like to join me to study?”

Join in on any I Love My Shepherd study! Find information about ongoing and print studies available on the Studies Available page. Invite a few people to your home or the local coffee shop or park for even a half hour together each week. Let’s be genuine…let’s start something genuine. Let’s find and give real friendship.

“Hello my name is…”