Friday, October 29, 2010

More Than Enough

Do you have everything you need?

Let me put that another way: do you get enough to eat; do you have a place to live; do you get adequate medical care; do you have enough clothes to wear something different every day for three days? If you have access to a computer to read this, chances are your answer to each of the above is "yes."

Now, do you really need all those other things you wish you had? What defines "need" anyway? For that matter, how much is "enough"? John D. Rockefeller, who had more than most of us ever dare wish for, is credited with having answered, "Always a little bit more." He was in a position to know; he's said to have nearly killed himself--literally--worrying over whether this or that decision was a waste of a few dollars.

But it's not just over money or possessions that little voices in our heads can drive us to the intensive care unit with their constant nagging that "You don't have enough.... You don't have enough." Take it from someone who never seems to get rid of the habit of frantically running to catch up with life's tasks, trying to outrace the fear of not having enough time. And what about people who starve themselves to skeletons out of obsession with the idea they aren't thin enough to be good-looking?

Is there any escape from the fear of not having "enough"?

Jesus offers a--no, the--way out: "Seek first [God's] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Mt. 6:33). "All these things" not necessarily meaning everything we want, but everything God knows we need. Like it or not, He may require us to give up--perhaps forever--some things we really wish we had. But only when we reach the point of being willing to say--and mean with all our hearts--"Lord, whatever You give me is enough for me," will we ever know true satisfaction.

Because, ultimately, God Himself is the only real "Enough."

Oh, the human life is a hectic life,
Filled with “doing” and “buying” days,
Filled with tasks and “things” and a thousand goals
That we chase in a thousand ways.
As we fill our hours with unending chores
And our houses with endless “stuff,”
Nothing seems to suit us or satisfy,
Though we have far more than enough!

It was so with peoples of ancient times,
It’s been so for uncounted years;
For since Adam’s sin cursed the land with thorns,
Human lusts bring no end of tears.
And it seems no different in luxury
Than on paths that are steep and rough;
We may sleep on dirt or on sheets of silk:
Nothing ever seems quite enough!

We were made to walk with the Lord of All;
When we choose our own ways instead
And cement our souls to more fleshly loves,
Fear of loss fills our hearts with dread.
Let yourself find rest in the God of Love;
Lose your cravings for earthly fluff:
We must seek His Kingdom and Him alone—
He alone is more than enough!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rocks and Water

The time-management speaker set two wide-mouthed glass jars on the podium and dumped jumbo marbles into one until they reached the top. "Is this jar full?" he asked his audience.

"Yes, it is," they replied.

"Are you sure?" He produced a bucket of sand and poured that in around the marbles until it reached the top of the jar. "You can see there was room for more. Is the jar full now?"

This time, the audience eyed him suspiciouslyand silently.  

"You're right, it still isn't full." The speaker picked up a pitcher of water and tilted that over the jar. The water poured in for several seconds, then began to trickle over the sides. "Now it's full. What can we learn from this?"

"No matter how full your life is," someone called, "you always can manage to squeeze in more than you think!"

"Are you sure?" The speaker turned to the second jar and tipped the pitcher again. In flowed the water, rising and rising until it hovered around the brim. "Is this jar full?"

A moment's nervous silence passed before someone ventured, "It probably is."

"You're right, and here's proof." The speaker dropped in a marble. Drips of water immediately escaped over the rim and trickled down the sides. "Now, what can we learn by considering both jars together?"

The room was quiet for a full minute. Finally, a hand shot up. "I know! If you don't put the big things into your life first, your life will get so full of little things that you'll end up with no room for the big ones!"

What do you put into your schedule first? Big things, such as prayer, Bible study, and serving your neighbors? Or little things such as household cleaning, television, and e-mail?

Try it both ways and see which leaves sufficient room for the other.

Fill a jar with rocks and pebbles, space will yet remain around;
If you pour in sand between them, room to hold a cup is found.

Fill a jar with sand and gravel, it’s still not quite full, you know:
Add a quarter cup of water, and it will not overflow.

Fill an empty jar with water, get it rising to the brim,
And it sloshes on the table when you drop a pebble in.

Fill your life with things important, and the basic tasks still fit;
Fill your life with mindless actions—and that’s all you’ll ever get.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Open the Book

The adage "familiarity breeds contempt" is perfectly illustrated through the privileges we take for granted. One generation suffers decades of struggle and abuse to win its people the right to vote; its great-grandchildren can't be bothered to go to the polls on election day. A young man from a poor rural country puts years of determination and sweat into getting a decent education; his wealthy North American counterpart lets Dad foot the bill for the best schools and then grumbles about being expected to study.

And in the United States, where freedom of religion is standard and Bibles are sold in every town, fewer than half of Christians read Scripture with any regularity, and over ninety percent admit there are passages they never have read at all.

It makes no sense to have a medical prescription filled and then leave the bottle on the shelf unopened. The wisdom in the Scriptures is God's prescription for defeating worry, healing emotional pain, and finding meaning. A daily dose will vastly improve the life of anyone who approaches it prayerfully and humbly.

May all of us learn to say with the Psalmist, "I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.... Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.... The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold"  (Ps. 119:16, 18, 72).

God’s Word holds the greatest of treasures
For those who take time just to look;
It breathes reassurance and wisdom—
But first we must open the Book!

The Bible holds purest refreshment
To fill up each soul’s inner cup,
A fountain of nourishing knowledge—
But first we must open it up!

If you leave the Scriptures unopened,
Its riches no more can abound
Than if you could read not a letter,
Or never a Bible had found.

So many of us, though called Christians,
Are keeping one foot in the night,
Too lazy to look into Scripture—
Our Bibles and hearts closed up tight!

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Wind Blows North and the Wind Blows South

In the original Biblical languages, the words for "breath," "spirit," and "wind" are the same. Indeed, God's Spirit is likened to the wind several times in the Bible, the best-known example being John 3:8: "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." The ancients lived in awe of the wind's power, and it was a short step to equating it with the power of gods. (See "Wind" in the Holman Bible Dictionary for additional insights.)

Even today, the wind often seems as mysterious as life itself. We have learned what causes wind, but we still can't see it. We can predict its behavior and effects to some degree, but only to some degree. We can harness some of its power, but we have no control over its strength or direction. And as any hurricane or tornado survivor knows, the wind can be one of God's best tools for reminding us how flimsy our delusions of grandeur are.

When God asked, "What is the way to... the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?" (Job 38:24), He wasn't giving a science quiz but reminding Job that human beings don't know enough to dictate how the world should be run. When a wind you don't like--literal or metaphorical--blows through your life and leaves a mess behind, it doesn't help to complain about the unfairness of it all.

What does help is remembering that the One Who does know where Earth's winds come from and where they go--Who, in fact, controls the whole process--is also big enough to direct the "tornadoes" in our lives for ultimate good.

The wind blows north and the wind blows south:
No one sees it or knows where it flies,
But we feel its full force
As it drives on its course;
And the leaves that it flails
And the clouds that it sails
Are as clear as the light to our eyes.

Our God moves swiftly to do great works:
No one sees Him or knows all His mind,
But the world He has made
All before us is laid;
And the strength that He weaves
In each heart that believes
Is as simple as asking to find.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Little Things

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds" (Jn. 12:24).
Jesus spoke the above words in reference to His then-imminent crucifixion. A single seed of grain is a small thing; likewise, the Passion seemed at the time an insignificant event to the world at large. Shattering as it was to those close to the situation, thousands of "troublemakers" were subjected to the same sort of brutal execution in the first century. Nothing seemed all that exceptional about Jesus's death; it was His Resurrection that turned Christianity into a world-encompassing movement. Still, it didn't take His followers long to realize that the Crucifixion had tremendous significance of its own; without atonement for the sins of humanity, Jesus's coming back to life would have been a noteworthy miracle, but His people wouldn't have been much better off eternally for it.

Obviously, no other human being can redeem the world singlehandedly--and anyone who sincerely believed God had given him or her that assignment would quickly be referred to a doctor. Still, many Christians seem to think that only "major" accomplishments "count"; and too many of us turn bitter or develop inferiority complexes if God gives us only "small" assignments. "This woman wrote fifteen bestselling Christian books; I just enter visitor addresses into the church database." "That man is an internationally known preacher who's converted thousands; the only person I've ever led to Christ is my seven-year-old daughter." The complaint comes in a hundred forms, but its basis is always the assumption "God must not think much of me; He never gives me anything important to do." Or we may turn that attitude on others: "He's only the church janitor.... She's too disabled to do much for God.... How can anyone get into a real seminary with just an inner-city background?"

We'd do well to remember Someone who was only a carpenter, had a hick-town background, and, once upon a time, didn't seem very important to the higher-ups. He may be doing great eternal works through the "little" deeds of the church janitor; He wants to do great things through all of us.

Drips and drops of water,
Falling from the sky,
Grow to floods and oceans
As the hours pass by.

Little, ticking seconds,
Passing by ignored,
Grow to hours so quickly,
Soon a squandered horde.

Little acts--of kindness
Or of selfish greed--
Set whole lives' directions,
Written in each deed.

Do not scorn things tiny,
Nor despise the small:
They may grow to great things,
Touching each and all.