Thursday, February 11, 2010

Through the Looking Glass



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They say the grass is greener on the other side—so you hop over the fence and look back only to see... that the grass is greener on the other side! Things are not always what they seem.

We dream about what it would be like if only we had money. We look at others and think, if I had their job, their house, their looks—things would be better.  We would be better. Is this wise? Is it even true? There are lots of people in this world who seem to have everything. You want what they have, but then the next thing you know, they’re going through a messy divorce; they’re dying of a sickness; their family wants nothing to do with them or they are hopelessly addicted to drugs. They have everything and yet it’s not enough to make things better, nor are they happy.

I mentioned (in an earlier post) a man who worked himself to the bone in this life. When he died, his wife fixed their crumbling home and his children spent his money. When he was alive, he could have lived in a nice home, he could have gone on a vacation now and again. Instead he spent his spare time going through garbage bins to make some money on the side, though he was a millionaire. Somehow he was not able to enjoy the abundance that he had. Why is this?

“...for apart from Him, who can eat or who can have enjoyment? For to the man who pleases Him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy:” Ecclesiastes 2:25,26 RSV

You are probably wondering why God would give someone something, but withhold the ability to enjoy it. I just want to point out that God gives good things to the good and the bad alike. That is His love at work. We are on this earth to learn something and God gives us what we need to learn it. When He withholds something, and I know you’re not going to like this, but-- it’s for our good. It is so that we can learn what He is teaching us.

 “For to the man who pleases Him.” Many have misread this to mean some kind of formal religious service, like going to church or some other religious performance. Not that going to church is bad, but clarity is important here. Many have worn themselves out in religious performance. They’ve done the right things, said the right words, received their reward through the pleasing looks of mere men--but even good things can be done in vain. God looks at the motivation of the heart.

How do we please God? Faith is what pleases God. Believing that He is; trusting Him with your life and the lives of those you love; acting on what you believe; knowing His Word and living it through your lives. It’s faith that pleases God.

Most people work because they have to. They need food, clothes, and a roof over their heads to survive, but most people don’t stop there. They fill their needs, and then they want. They want more, and more, and more. Never giving a thought to those who are less fortunate, they spend lavishly on themselves only. Yet they are not satisfied because fulfilled wants do not always satisfy.

So I wonder, do the rich have an advantage over the poor? Do the poor have an advantage over the rich? Now I don’t want to minimize the destructive capability of poverty, but there are people who have very little, and who are still happy. The rich, though they have everything, can be unhappy and sometimes lead horrible lives in spite of their wealth. Why is this? It truly depends on the person’s viewpoint.

Those that are happy practice thankfulness. They’ve resolved that it is better to be content with what they have. They realize there’s no point in dwelling on what they do not have. They don’t go about thinking that they have a right to things; as if the world owes them a living. So they are grateful for what they have. It is an attitude that puts their trust in something other than themselves and their money.

When things go bad, people feel stuck in their situations because they cannot change them, and so many prefer to lash out at God. Why did He allow this to happen? Yet none of us knows the beginning from the end and therefore cannot intelligently understand all things.

Yet, He waits. He waits for us to come around and trust Him. The things that happen in our lives, they happen for a reason and yet things are not always what they appear to be. From this earth bound point of view we cannot see clearly, but we look through a glass dimly--so consider.  Can we seriously contend with Him who is mightier than us? 

We have some tools available. There is the word of God, which has survived impossible odds through the generations. Do we seek Him in its pages? He has left us His Spirit. Do we accept Him or shun His influence in our lives? He loves us and made a way to eternity for us, and He wants us to know Him on these terms. Will you seek Him? Will you embrace Him? He is waiting for you.

This post was based on Ecclesiastes 6
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Monday, February 8, 2010

On Money and Happiness

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We are such a privileged people. Seriously--who wouldn’t want to live in this century?  We have so much that previous generations never had. Think of airplanes, vehicles, computers, Rock Band, TV, radio, cell phones, natural gas, electricity, indoor toilets, mega grocery chains, and much, much more that we won't think of because it is commonplace to us. Never mind that some of this technology is only 20 or 30 years old. I sometimes wonder if all that hasn’t clouded our minds and kept us too busy thinking about things that have no lasting value. They are but temporary pleasures that mean nothing in the reality of eternity.

There are enough resources in this world for all of us to be comfortably wealthy...ALL of us. Yet, it’s all owned by a handful of families. That’s the reality of the world.  Therefore there’s always going to be violence, injustice and sin. There will always be someone bigger with more authority. Why? The more we have, the more we want. Our greed takes no rest. It is never enough and money is a way to get us where we want to go, and so it corrupts.  Yet we wilfully overlook the fact that money can sprout wings and fly, and suddenly.  Money is no guarantee of anything and it doesn’t guarantee happiness.  

The truth is, contentment is hard to find on any level. We’re not satisfied with money (ask the rich), we’re not satisfied without money (ask the poor). We’re not happy with the way things are run in our lives, in our economy, in our world. We try to usurp authority, whether it is in government, in church, in our homes. We have so much, and yet we’re not happy.

Why does happiness elude us? Solomon sums it up in verse 18-20 of chapter 5:
“Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot.
Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

I found that last verse interesting too. How many of you know people that live in the past. All they do is relive their youth; their glory days. However, someone that God has given the ability to enjoy his days doesn’t dwell on the past. He is content with his life today. That certainly is a gift, whether rich or poor!

I came across this little video a while ago and it just tickled my funny bone. The embedding has been disabled, so you’ll have to follow this link if you’d like to see it. I really, really, really encourage you to check it out! Enjoy!

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