Wednesday, June 22, 2016

What’s Your One Thing?

If you could name the one thing that would make you happy, what would it be? 

Money? Health? Success? A husband, wife, child?

Kind Solomon tried all of these and more in his search. Gold was so abundant during his reign that silver was considered worthless. He built himself a throne covered with ivory and overlaid with pure gold. He was considered the wisest man who has ever lived and people came from far away just to ask him hard questions. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines (which seems to contradict him being so wise).  His gardens and building projects were beyond compare. 

Yet, over and over in Ecclesiastes—the book that tells the story of his search—he repeats the phrase, “Everything is meaningless.” He doesn’t reveal the one thing that filled the void until the end of the book. But he finally found the meaning of life.

In the New Testament, when Jesus and His disciples dropped by Martha’s place for dinner, she went into hyper drive. She hurried and scurried to get food ready for 13 men and it fried her grits that Mary wasn’t helping (Luke 10:38-42). When she couldn’t take it anymore she complained, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

Surprisingly, Jesus didn’t encourage Mary to help, but told Martha, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.” The one thing Martha thought would make Jesus proud was serving Him; being a good hostess. But it, and the worry and anger accompanying her busyness, was what kept her from the one thing He values most. 

Later on, a rich ruler came to Jesus to ask what “one thing” he needed to do to get into heaven. Jesus asked him if he had kept the commandments. He said he had since he was a child. Then Jesus pointed out that in order to find the one thing, there was one thing he needed to give up—his riches (Luke 18:18-30).

It seems there’s only one way any of us is ever going to find true satisfaction in life. We must release our grip on the one thing that poses as the answer, but does not satisfy our deepest need. And we must pursue the one thing that will fill the ache completely. 

For the rich ruler, his love of material wealth kept him from putting God first in his life. The first commandment is conveniently left out of the ones he lists as having kept. When Jesus told him to sell everything and follow Him, the man went away sad. He couldn’t let go of earthly riches to gain what would last forever. He left without finding his one thing.

Jesus pointed out to Martha that Mary put Him and His teaching first, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Martha apparently took that to heart since she, Mary, and their brother Lazarus (whom Jesus later raised from the dead) remained His followers. She found her one thing in Jesus. 

This doesn’t mean that money, keeping all the commandments, hospitality, serving others, and all these pursuits are not good things. They’re just not the one thing. The one thing is Jesus, and He’s the only One who can fill us up and make us whole. 

#meaningoflife #can’tgetnosatisfaction #purpose #whatmakesmehappy

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Visionary Faith

Thomas Edison was already famous by the time he hit thirty, for inventions such as the phonograph, incandescent light bulb, and one of the earliest motion picture cameras. What motivated him to try one experiment after another until what he envisioned in his mind became a reality? 

Somewhere deep within, he had confidence that he would eventually hit the right combination of elements. It obviously worked, because in his eighty four years, he patented 1,093 inventions (some collaborated efforts). That’s visionary faith at work.

Antonio Gaudi, the architect of the La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, had a vision of a grand cathedral depicting scenes from the Bible both inside and out. Though he died before it was finished, the work he began in 1882 still continues, because others have caught the vision. 

I’ve recently been inspired by two visionaries in the Bible, one in Luke, one in Daniel. Have you ever thought about how much faith it took for the criminal on the cross next to Jesus to believe in Him (Luke 23:39-43)? Like Jesus, he suffered the agony of being beaten and whipped. Nailed through his hands and feet. Slowly suffocating to death. 

His nakedness was exposed to the elements and onlookers—the curious, jubilant, horrified, and grief stricken. He heard the same sounds—jeers, weeping, curses, the noises of the Roman officers doing their grisly work. And breathed in the same stench of death, urine, blood, and sweat.

Yet, when the other criminal, in a last act of hatred and defiance, hurled insults at Jesus challenging Him to get them out of their mess, this man showed visionary faith. He turned and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (v. 42). Not, “I’ll follow you if you save my life,” or “I’ll believe in you if you leap down from your cross and wipe out the Romans” or even, “I’ll be your disciple if you really have a kingdom somewhere.” He said WHEN you come into your kingdom. And his faith was rewarded that very day.

Then if you jump back to the Old Testament you’ll find three visionaries in the line of fire—literally. These young men, probably 19-20 years old, had been ripped from their homeland by the king of Babylon and forced into service at the palace. But he expected too much when he set up a giant idol and insisted they worship it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said “No.” (Daniel 3)

They respectfully declined.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Dan. 3:17-18, italics mine). 

They had faith to see that even though they served a foreign king in a foreign land where idol worship was the norm, God was still in charge. He had the power to rescue them. But here’s where their visionary faith comes in—they knew sometimes God chooses not to rescue His people from suffering, because He has a greater purpose in mind (i.e. the saving of thousands, so others will come to know Him etc.). Therefore, they resolved to stand firm and leave the decision up to Him.

How many of us today feel like we’re nailed to a cross of our own making? No matter what, we can’t escape the consequences. 

How many of us are being asked/forced/commanded to bow to things that contradict our beliefs? 

In both of these cases, God rescued the visionaries—the criminal to be with Him in Paradise, immediately following his death; His three children He joined in the fire and brought them safely out. They didn’t even smell of smoke!

Visionary faith has as many faces as there are followers of Jesus, and a variety of endings. But for all who have the eyes to see, and the tenacity to keep at it day after day, the rewards are out of this world.

#faithintheunseen #trustingGod #standingfirm #daretobeadaniel #walkingthroughfire #testsoffaith