I don’t like to think of myself as a materialistic person but driving away from the Highway 12 East storage complex last week I could hardly come to any other conclusion. For nine years I had been paying almost $40 a month to store things I hadn’t used in nearly a decade. Still I continued to hang unto them. Not because I had any attachment to them but because I had no way to get rid of them. We donated several things to people we knew could use them. For instance we gave a newly wed couple a dining room set and a chest of drawers. A few months later I invited a pioneer pastor to meet me at the storage facility to see if there was anything he could use in setting up his church office. He selected a desk and some office equipment. We loaded the things he had chosen into his pick-up but I had no idea what to do with the rest of the stuff. It was junk mostly – a couple of battered book cases, a metal storage cabinet, and several boxes of things that we had carted all over the country in our forty-two years of marriage. There was no organization in our area that would take the stuff so I kept paying rent to store it. Brenda finally decided enough was enough and called a dumpster service to come out and haul it off. That cost me $290! Add it up – nine years at $444 a year comes to $3,996 in rent plus the $290 to haul if off. $4,284 to store and dispose of junk! Now that’s a true “white elephant” and hardly what I would call good stewardship.
Thinking about it as I drove home three things came to mind. The first was the parable that Jesus told about a rich man. He said, “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ' "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:16-21).
What a tragic picture and a prophetic one at that! The rampant consumerism of the twenty-first century is unparalleled in the history of mankind. People live in huge houses with three car garages but have to park their cars in the driveway because their garages are overflowing with things they can’t get in the house. Our addiction to things is further evidenced by the fact that one of the fastest growing businesses in the United States is storage rental. More and more people are renting off site storage to store all the things they “own” and for which they have no place and often no use. “...But God said to him, “You fool!’”Category: July 2008
"...the way to know God is relationally, the way a child knows his parents or the way a man relates to his sweetheart."
The moon is full and high in the sky as Nicodemus approaches Gethsemane, causing the trees to cast deformed shadows on the ground. Entering the garden he pauses to listen. At first all he can hear is the sound of his own breathing, loud in his ears. As he grows accustomed to the stillness of the night he begins to discern sounds – the breeze in the trees, a small animal rustling in the brush and the noise of insects. Faintly he hears the sound of a man’s voice, the words indistinguishable to his ear.
Following the sound, he arrives at an opening in the trees. In the clearing a man is kneeling, his face lifted toward the heavens. Obviously he is praying, but it is unlike anything Nicodemus has ever heard. There is no posturing, no careful turning of a phrase. Instead there is a camaraderie, an intimacy in his prayer that generates a hunger in Nicodemus’s own heart, an ache really. Involuntarily he finds himself thinking, Would that I knew God the way he does.
He cannot bear the thought of intruding on such an intimate moment but before he can slip away Jesus senses his presence. Rising from the place of prayer he moves across the clearing toward him. Recognition fills his face and he takes Nicodemus by the shoulders and greets him with a kiss.
“Nicodemus,” he says, “how good of you to come.”
The warmth of his greeting causes Nicodemus to pause. It’s almost as if Jesus were expecting him. Yet, that could not be for he had discussed his plans with no one, not even his wife. For a moment he is at a loss for words, but with an effort he recovers his composure.
Reading many of today’s “Christian” books is like eating fish – you have to watch out for the bones.
Let me begin today’s blog with a confession. By nature and temperament I tend to be a critical person. It is something I have fought all my life and with God’s help I am doing better. Still, if I let my guard down I soon find myself reverting to my earlier judgmental attitude. That’s what makes writing this blog so challenging. I don’t want to be a critical person and I certainly don’t want to be judgmental, nevertheless I feel compelled to address this issue so here we go.
Some years ago I read “God, Man and Archie Bunker” by Spencer Marsh. He begins the first sentence of the first chapter, “In the beginning Archie created God in his own image, in his own image created he him.” Upon first reading I found his statement clever and attention grabbing. Upon further reflection I find it both profound and prophetic – an apt description of our postmodern culture with its freewheeling spirituality. Faith has become private, a personal subjective experience not accountable to any objective standard. What many believe about God is based on personal “spiritual” experiences (think whims) rather than on the revelation of Scripture.Category: July 2008