Wednesday, 25 September 2019

The Cost of Abundance

Luke 12:48

“I forgot why I don’t like shopping here,” she muttered as we stood at the checkout stand. “You have to bag your own groceries.”

I laughed, “Well, at least it isn’t Costco where we have to haul out heavy boxes.”

She chuckled then shook her head, “We are so privileged.”

She was right. We finished packing our bags and parted ways. I walked to my car thinking of the privilege it is to be able to buy giant boxfuls of food.

Opening the trunk to my car, I realized I had no space to put my food because I hadn’t taken the bags of clothes we had just cleaned out of our closets to Goodwill yet. A trunk full of too many clothes left me with no room for my shopping cart full of food. Quite the first world predicament.

I checked my grumpy attitude I’ve had the last few days as we’ve been working to declutter (why is getting rid of so much abundance so exhausting?) and thought about all this. God put me here, in Canada. I could have been born in a third world. I could have even been one of the less fortunate in my own city, but here I am staring at my car filled with surplus.

God says much will be required to those of us who have plenty. (Luke 12:48) Based on the space in my car I’m in the “plenty” group, and I'm fairly certain a car, empty or full, is enough to land me in this category. And yet, how many times have I missed an opportunity because I’ve been grumbling over what I have? Have I missed a conversation God needed me to have with the sales clerk because I was too busy bagging my surplus of food like it was some sort of hardship? Did I miss a chance with a stranger because I was in a hurry for my kids dance lesson forgetting that sports aren't a need in God's kingdom? Did I absentmindedly miss someone in need on the street corner because my gas tank was low and I was too busy comparing which stations had the cheapest gas rate? 

Have my privileges distracted me from God’s needs?

God needs us in the ordinary. He need us to look up from the plenty we have and notice those right in front of us. It is a privilege to buy groceries, to have our kids in sports, to drive cars (just to name a few). Those privileges perfectly take us to places where God needs us to be. He needs our mouths to be ready to speak for Him, our hands to be ready to help Him, our feet to be ready to move for Him, and our ears to listen attentively like He does for us. 

Today wasn’t just a reminder to be grateful for all that I’ve been given, it was a reminder to look up and to look around instead of falling prey to being stuck in the privileged routine of an ordinary first world life. It was a reminder that I have been given much at the hand of God, but that that requires much from me. There is joy far greater in serving God than in any earthly abundance anyway. 

Someone around you today needs you to stop fussing over the privileges and abundance of everyday life and bust into their world with words and actions like only God can do. Will you look up?


photo credit:

Thursday, 5 September 2019

The Weakest Terrain of the Believer

The Christian Mind

I have a weakness. I absolutely looooove, yes love with five “o’s”, cinnamon buns. I love their fluffy dough, the way the cinnamon, sugar, and butter mix together in a syrup of gooeyness. I love the way the cream cheese drips down the outside of the warm bun. I love the perfect middle swirl that I save for my last bite after it’s been soaking in all the richness of the cinnamony (pretty sure that's a made up word) tastiness. 

Some of your mouths may be watering right now and you may be considering Googling the closest Cinnzeo (Canadian code for ultra-yummy cinnamon buns) for a mid-day snack. Others of you might be wondering right about now what’s with all the hype over a bun? Though I don’t share your underwhelming attitude over the best dessert ever, it’s perfectly acceptable to not share in my same desire to fill your face with a tasty pastry (Can we even call it a pastry? I prefer paradise for your mouth). 

Here’s the thing, for me it’s the cinnamon bun, but for you maybe something else is your weakness, maybe you love the sound of a juicy steak sizzling on the grill. Perhaps you love the way a piece of chocolate melts in your mouth. Who’s getting hungry? (hint: me)

I realize that cinnamon buns are not the root of all evil (though whomever is forced to share a room with me later may disagree...yeah I went there...clearly I have no shame). Think for a moment what your weak spot is. Shopping? Food? Social media? Intellectual debates? Alcohol? Sex? None of these things on their own are evil, but certainly used the wrong way they can threaten to consume our minds.

James puts it this way:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15 emphasis my own)

Enticed by your own desire. Your desire. Whatever that weak spot is (spoiler alert: we all have more than one weakness), is the place where your biggest battles will be fought. It's not likely that it's as simple as a weakness for buns, though it makes a fair point. Each of us will be drawn in a unique way to that one thing we think we must have. Lustful thinking, the need to be right, gluttony (food or otherwise), anger, selfish get the idea.

Notice that verse 14 starts with the word “but”. Let’s just back up a little and we will see why.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. (James 1:12-13 emphasis my own)

The trial that we all must face and be steadfast under is the trial for our mind. There is a battle for our minds and it comes from temptations. The "but" in verse 14 serves as a reminder that is not temptations given to us by God to test us, He doesn’t use evil to do his job. BUT, it is the temptations that come when we are “enticed by (our) own desires.” 

I have noticed in my own world the temptation to be anywhere other than the presence of God. To look anywhere other than the word of God. To spend time focused on anything but God. Anything but God. It’s the trial we face every second of every hour of every day, some days less, some days more. 

In 1746 during the Battle of Culloden, the Duke of Cumberland’s army pursued the ragtag army of Scottish clansmen until the two militant groups came to a head on head at Culloden. It was on this ground that the terrain became a weak spot for the clansmen’s military tactics. The war was over within an hour killing thousands of Scottish soldiers. 

It is in the arena of our own bodies that Paul warns us to take extra care to guard.

Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:13)

Much like the terrain at Culloden, our minds are the weak terrain of our battlefield. Our battle, our trials, our temptations are whatever it is that is seeking to shift our focus away from the truth of God and turn our gaze towards our own indulgent behaviours that ultimately lead to the gate of death. Like mud on a battlefield, Temptation creates a slippery terrain where footings are easily lost. We are to not only to guard our bodies (and minds), but fight for them with the words of God as our weapon so our footing can remain on solid ground and our mind focused. 

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:4-8 emphasis my own)

Next time you find yourself in a moment of temptation (and yes, probably more than just the desire for a cinnamon bun) shift gaze away from your desire to indulge in your cravings and emotions and ask God to help you focus on these things...

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil 4:8)


photo credit: Ray Bilcliff @