In Him

In our last post ‘When God Is Not Enough’ we explored the dangers of placing God on the side when He wants to be in the centre. In the context of the prodigal son we see the danger that lurks in our dreams and desires when they don’t include or need God.

In Acts 17:28 the Apostle Paul is preaching Christ in Athens, a city steeped in mythology and tradition. Sharing his God-story to anyone who would lend an ear, the apostle has caught the attention of the educated, philosophers known as the Epicurean. Lovers of the high-life, pleasure seekers who indulge in anything and everything, the problem is Paul is preaching a radical idea that conflicts with their world view. Athens worship idols, gods of carvings and totems, statues that stand tall but empty.

Paul introduces them to the ‘…God who made the world and everything in it. Since he is Lord of heaven and earth, he doesn’t live in man-made temples.’ Acts 17:25

Have you ever considered the idols you’ve built along the way that don’t have room for God to live in? Those temples made by human hands, our hands that capture too much of our interest, affections and time. What’s worse is we can often mistake these ventures and our efforts as good and maybe just maybe it is, but it’s not God.

The apostle makes an interesting observation when he calls to the people of Athens stating “I see that in every way you are very religious…”, and here lies the problem. We do a lot of things that are religious but not Christian. I’m fond of a quote from Christian author and pastor, Timothy Keller who wrote “Religious people find God useful, Christians find God beautiful.”

The truth is Paul’s warning to the people of Athens serves as a cautionary tale for you and me. A reminder of how easy it is to get caught up in things that don’t really matter. Sometimes the things we chase are not worth holding.

In a recent blog on the Daily Nudge, writer Karl Faase referenced a study on materialism; the pursuit of stuff doesn’t actually make us happier, in fact it has the opposite effect. To quote directly, the study found “that those focused on materialism have a greater risk of depression, physical irritations, drug abuse and poor personal relationships.”

All those idols that those very religious people built in Athens can sometimes reflect the same idols we build today.

When God is not in our centre but is pushed to our sideline we usually make the same mistakes of the prodigal — when God is not enough we build idols chasing things that leave us feeling empty.

Is it any wonder that Paul preached “In Him, we live, and move and have our existence.” Not an idol to build but the one true God to worship!

Nathan

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When God Is Not Enough

It’s not a spelling mistake, I haven’t left a word out. I didn’t mean to say, ‘When God Is More Than Enough!’ Through the observation of others and my own personal reflection I’ve noticed that we can often time feed our relationship with God out of convenience over necessity.

In the Beatitudes Jesus starts out with “Blessed are those who recognise their need for God.”In a recent devotional journey on prayer I had to ask myself how much of my prayer life is motived by what I want rather than my need for Him. It’s an interesting exercise to look from the outside in and ask yourself questions that probe motive and measure character.

In the Gospel of Luke chapter fifteen, Jesus is talking about lost things; sheep, coins and misguided youths. The story of the prodigal has always captured my imagination and attention. Consider Rembrandt’s famous painting The Return of the Prodigal Son or the writings of great and inspiring theologians, poets and philosophers let alone gifted preachers that have put words to this narrative in a way that I can’t come close to reaching.

We catch the story with a demand, ‘Father, give me…’ and there it is! The tell-tale sign of a relationship that is built on ‘want’ and not ‘need’. Where demands are placed for what can be gotten and not what should be given. The young son is on a road that leads to destruction and he doesn’t even know it.

Let’s flesh this out some more…

Though Jesus is speaking a parable, a story using imagery to convey an important point, here he gives us the cautionary tale, a son and a father, a request and a getaway plan. It reminds me of a West Wing episode titled ‘Somebody is going to Emergency, Somebody is Going to Jail’. It is Jewish custom that a man leaves an inheritance for his children, of legacy, of wealth attached to his name. Here, the young son wants what’s his early. As Christians we also like to rush God, prod Him just a little bit with prayers that sound like this — God, have you forgotten me? Or statements whispered in our hearts or to our closest friends — it just feels like God doesn’t hear me! Mostly though it’s just our human condition filled with impatience and an inability to wait!

But there is a deeper issue here at work. The boy has enjoyed all the blessings of his father’s house, a home, a coat for his back, a ring for his finger, feet shod with sandals and a life filled with servants. At this time and in this place in modern day Israel the boy has all that he needs and everything he could ever want, made possible by his father. But it wasn’t enough!

Short sighted and foolish, he decides to leave his home for distant lands and reckless dreams. Now don’t misunderstand me, there’s a lot to like about this boy and in no way do I want to speak against ambition, I don’t want to kill your drive and the inner entrepreneur, but this story isn’t that.

The cautionary tale for me is the danger that lurks in our dreams and desires when they don’t include or need God except when they go pear shaped. So often then we become sons and daughters who chase the hand of God rather than the heart of God. When our motivation is fueled by trouble and not relationship. A relationship when God is not enough!

So many times, we have God on the sideline and not in the centre. God needs to be at the heart of our decisions, our relationships, in our finances and career choices, in the centre of our dreams and desires.

Acts 17:28 says, ‘In Him we live and move and have our being.”

Dorothy was onto something when she whispered ‘there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home!’

Here, one thing is evident, God is always enough!

Nathan