Sunday, October 25, 2009

All This and Coffee Too

Readers who communicate electronically will most likely identify with lists of questions we receive in order to let others “get to know us better.” Like you, I’m often called upon to respond to such questionnaires. Recently, in answer to the question “What is the one thing you cannot live without?” I replied “COFFEE!”

I was joking of course. My life would not cease to exist if I never had another cup of coffee (maybe), but do you ever stop to ponder what you can and cannot live without?

Aside from the obvious – we all need food, clothing, shelter, etc. – what do we need?

In the tenth chapter of Luke, Jesus told Martha that her sister Mary understood the one thing that was needful. While Martha worried about making sure everything was taken care of and tending to many details, Mary demonstrated her faith by sitting at the Lord’s feet learning all she could from Him. She forgot about everything else that “needed” her attention when she was in His presence.

Matthew 6 talks about the things we need in this life and makes it clear our Heavenly Father knows we need these things (Mat. 6:32), but once again we’re reminded that only one thing is needful. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mat. 6:33).

I return to this topic again and again, because most of us (including me) can’t seem to hang on to the knowledge that we need God. We need to seek Him and to know Him. We need to put everything else aside and label it “rubbish.” We need to sit attentively at His feet, willing to learn from Him and receive everything He has to give us.

And then, He promises us, we will have everything else we need – like coffee.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hangin' with the kids

As I write this column Sunday evening, I’m very tired. My kids were around this weekend, and I let them keep me up far too late. Even though I knew I’d suffer for it the next day, I couldn’t pull myself away from them as long as they wanted (or were willing) to spend time with me. I love to hear their stories, whether they’re reminiscing about their childhoods or filling me in on what they’re doing now. Even if we’re only watching a movie together, I love being in the same room with them, having them near by.

I would feel bad if my children came to see me only out of a sense of obligation. I hope that they want to spend time with me.

If I as an earthly parent delight that much in my children’s company, imagine how much our perfect heavenly father delights to spend time with us.

This is a point I think most of us tend to forget. We think of our “obligations” as Christians: I should go to church; I should pray; I should read my Bible, and so forth. We forget that God is our Father, and He very much wants to spend time with us. (1 John 3:1a; “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”)

The God of the Universe has brought us into an intimate, parent-child relationship with Himself! Perhaps because it’s such an immense thing to grasp, we’re always losing sight of it and need to be reminded.

As children we learned “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” – a simple yet profound truth that we tend to forget as adults.

Let’s be sure to nurture that relationship with our heavenly Father, because it is the most fulfilling bond we’ll ever experience.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Come to Me

There was a man on his way to the throne of God. He carried several bundles of “baggage” with him, and as he traveled, he dropped them one by one, hoping to rid himself of them before He reached God’s throne. As he came closer to the throne, he suddenly stopped. He hung his head in shame and did not continue his journey because, alas, he still carried some of the bundles and was too ashamed to come before Almighty God.

Then there was a second man, also on his way to the throne of God. This man too was heavily laden with many bundles of baggage. However, rather than ridding himself of the baggage as he progressed toward the throne, he paid no attention to his burden. Instead, with steady determination and a firm forward gaze, he pushed onward to take his place before the Lord.
He came before the throne of God and saw an alter between him and the Lord. He said, “I’m sorry, Lord. I have nothing to offer you but my problems – my anger, my insecurities, my … sin.”

The Lord nodded toward the alter, and without hesitation, the man piled his burdens there, where they were consumed in holy fire, and he breathed deeply the sweet air of freedom.

Are you like the first man, trying to clean up your act before you come to the Lord? Or are you the second man, saying, “Here I am, Lord. Take me as I am with all my baggage, all my problems. I’ve carried this heavy load long enough, and I can’t take one more step unless you take it from me”?

You know what God’s going to say, don’t you?

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Mat. 11:28–30).

Golden apples

I was checking this year’s sparse apple crop on the trees in the backyard the other day. It’s disappointing to see how few we have in comparison to last year’s crop. I’m guessing I won’t get more than two or three pies out of those apples, and that’s a shame, because we love apple pie!

Proverbs 25:11 tells us, “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” I might have a disappointing apple crop, but what I do have is worth gold to me, and that’s you, my readers who encourage me. I want to use this week’s column to thank those of you who thoughtfully make the effort to tell me you appreciate this column. Whether you’ve emailed me, sent letters, or stopped me on the street, your exhortations mean so much to me.

Without your remarks, I don’t know if anyone is following the column, and I get discouraged. I feel silly admitting that because, as I tell myself, I’m writing for the Lord, not seeking man’s approval.

But the truth is, if you’re a writer, you need an audience. And if your audience never responds, you feel your efforts are fruitless. Aha! You see how this is tying in with the apple trees and “words aptly spoken”?

All kidding aside, everyone needs encouragement, and our Heavenly Father knows that. Verses like Ephesians 4:29b tell us, “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” And 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.”

Encouragement. It’s a gift that costs nothing but has great value.

I hope you have people in your life who build you up along life’s journey. If not, let God Himself encourage you with His Words of life: 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”