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

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What History has to Say

It’s the simple joy you get when looking at the measure of a man! There’s nothing better than a good biography, a retrospective view at the sum total of ones contribution to community or the arts… their gift to humanity. Consider someone like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi or past US presidents like Lincoln, through the reading you get to pull apart the decisions and environments that shaped who they were and what they did.

What would a modern day biography of Jesus look like today? Walk with me through something I like to call The Son of Man.

Jesus Christ, on the surface, an enigma. He was born into royalty. His bloodline dated back to King David, arguably Israel’s most favoured king. His lineage though runs much deeper than the house of David; historians have shown that it can be accurately traced back to the beginning, Father Abraham. He can boast proudly of the family tree, a royal line of the nation’s forefathers, kings and priests of the highest order. In Israel this is currency that you can trade on and leverage off.

By all accounts He had a rough start to life. Like every kid who was just a little bit different, Jesus had to navigate a lineage that dated back generations, right to the beginning. This, mixed with the strangeness of His birth, a story clouded in myth and speculation. Later this son of man

would claim to be the son of God peaking the interest and attention of the religious leaders of the day.

His place of birth, a stable. He filled his crib under the loving gaze of young parents and curious farm animals. This however should not take away the relevance of His royal stature for in the distance royals of a different kind came in search of Jesus to celebrate His birth. They were men of wisdom and stature, surveying the night sky they studied the stars, educated men, astrologers known to the Greeks as the magi.

They came to herald a King, they came with gifts fit for a King, they came to welcome Him, to honour Him.

The arrival of your first born is an amazing experience, as mother and child settle, as your baby takes in every breath of new life filled with possibilities. There’s a bonding period that begins in the early days. This process is a critical part of the child’s development, but not for the boy Jesus. With barely enough time to finish his first bottle He is rushed off to Egypt for His own protection.

Plagued by insanity Herod was a Jewish king filled with insecurity, he seeks only to please his Roman emperor in order to protect his thrown and maintain control. Tipped off by the wise that a new king was born he responds with genocide, kill every boy child under the age of two’ is his formal decree. Joseph and Mary were right to flee!

With a strong sense of irony just like His ancestor David, Israel’s rightful king is forced to run.

Enough time had passed and Herod died. It was now safe to return from exile, Joseph and his family return to Israel, Nazareth is where Jesus would spend His younger years.

Time would pass, He would come to meet John and be baptised in the waters of Galilee, the river Jordan. Central to this experience was the validation that the heavens would give, ‘this is my beloved Son who pleases me’. Add to this forty days of the darkest wilderness you could ever imagine and you would witness the launching pad that thrust Jesus into the annals of history, scholars and theologians today still marvel at His magnificence. Like then, today the multitudes still ask ‘who is this man?’

He would build a band of brothers known as ‘the disciples’, a fitting word for a group of men that would spend the next three years in training, watching every step. Not everybody would make the cut, some would falter and some would fall…in this game only the strong survive.

In the Greek Decapolis, otherwise known as the ten cities, Jesus would find a hillside to launch one of the greatest sermons ever preached. He famously starts with a message that points back to the creator himself, Elohim. “Blessed, happy and fortunate is he who recognises his need for God.” From here He speaks and instructs those that stopped to listen, life permeated and filled every word, His ability to connect was mesmerising, unparalleled, yet all could understand, no one could touch Him.

His words alone would set Him apart for generations, but His ability to dazzle didn’t stop there. It wasn’t like He worked the crowd, this guy actually stopped to listen to the common man, He would eat with those you wouldn’t share a seat with, and He walked with the kind that you would cross the street to avoid yet He seemed to like them.

He would speak in parables, riddles really, and then go further to explain them, and it all made sense in the end. He would build an illustration of a mustard seed and then segway to faith that can move mountains, hidden treasures and pearl merchants. No one who came to hear, not just listen, ever went away empty save those who sought to finish Him, the religious folk.

He healed without impunity, He touched with no regard to the person, no matter how dirty they were, He loved without condition and cared always.

In courts you need the burden of proof to convict for one’s crime, if He wasn’t the Christ, then the Christ simply doesn’t exist.

Furthermore, a life devoted to His cause would only equal a small measure of reasonable service (Romans 12:2) in light of His sacrifice. Though we today know without any shadow and any doubt that Jesus was the Christ, I am moved to suggest even in my own view and experience that if what Christ did for me on the cross had only paved the way for salvation, a promise of heaven and eternity with my God and Saviour, than salvation would be enough.

Whatever your view of heaven is in your imagination, based on the picture that the Gospel paints, whether there are golden streets, pearly gates or even mansions, I recall the words of a great ole timer: “I don’t care if those golden streets are nothing but muddy tracks a foot deep, and if those pearly gates are nothing but wooden slats that swing on leather hinges, and if those mansions were nothing but cardboard shanties, if Jesus is there, it will be heaven for me.”

Another quote I have always been fond of, though from where I heard it first I can’t recall, is the quote that salvation is free to you today, but it didn’t come cheap! It cost Jesus His life! Though

we can’t take away that this was His mission! Hebrews says, “For the joy that was set before Him (that’s you and me) He endured the cross.” Therefore, I am moved to argue that Hebrews really did promise “so great a salvation” and that’s more than enough!