Monday, December 07, 2009

I Don't Need A Thing!

I have a wonderful little grandson, who, at the age of 3 going on 4 discovered that he could express his wants and desires. When it came time for his birthday, grandpa asked him, “So what do you want for your birthday?” The list began…”Do you know what I want for my birthday...I want a ….and do you know what I want for my birthday? I want a …….And do you know what I want for my birthday? I want a…..” and the list went on and on. Sometimes our wants simply get out of hand when we start acting like a three year old. We focus on ourselves and our desires and our lusts, instead of on the Lord.
When we look at the secular world around us, we are quick to point out the greed in the financial world as bonuses are handed out like candy to children. To them, greed is good—-motivation to make more and climb higher on the ladder of success. It is the ‘American Way’. More is better. But where do we draw the line? Where does blessing and plenty become too much and greed? We are reminded in the Charles Dickens's classic “Ebenezer Scrooge” that when our desire for more becomes strictly selfish, we loose touch with the real world around us and fail to see the needs.
Christmas is a perfect time to examine our problem of greed and want. Even if we don’t verbally list our desires, we still have them. We go shopping and we see this new electronic gadget or that new style, or a handy tool. Soon we start adding to our mental list of wants. We drop hints, and point out how nice that is to someone who might catch the hint and we hope they will give it to us otherwise we plan to get it for ourselves one day...perhaps in the clearance sales.
I recall the children of Israel, wandering in the Sinai desert longing for all the things they used to enjoy in Egypt...onions and leeks, fish and garlic. So soon they began to complain to their leader, Moses. They wanted more. (Numbers 11:4-6) 4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, "If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!" When we are not satisfied with the provisions that God gives us, we tend to get grumpy and complain. God hears us. And he will sometimes give us what we want rather than what we need. Selfish ‘wants’ can get us all into trouble. The story is told of a little boy cared for by a nanny in a wealthy home. The boy was spoiled, demanded everything he wanted and when he failed to get it, he cried. Soon the mother was disturbed from her rest by the child’s constant crying. She yelled out to the nanny…. “Give him what he wants!” The nanny did….and soon the child shrieked in pain. He had wanted to touch a wasp and the nanny had kept him from the danger for his own good until the Mother interfered and ignorantly gave bad advice. Sometimes our wants sting us!
Sometimes we desire things we do not need, and should not have. Our desires must be shaped by God’s desires for us. I am always taken back to the well known 23rd Psalm. GOD, my shepherd!
I don't need a thing.
   You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from.
   True to your word,
      you let me catch my breath
      and send me in the right direction.
When the Lord is our shepherd, we don’t need anything but what He provides for us. All sheep need is green grass, water, and safety. It is the job of the shepherd to see to it that the basic sheep’s needs are met in full. The Lord is my shepherd. He knows my needs. He knows my wants. He knows the dangers around me. Just as a mother anticipates the needs of a child, God does the same for His children. He allows us to go our own way at times so that we will learn that we need Him more than we think we do.
As we move into the Christmas season, our ears are tuned to the blaring ads on the TV, the lure of the jingle that plays over and over in our heads, reminding us to spend, spend, spend. We tell ourselves we are not good parents if we don’t give our kids more each year. Yet, if we look in the closets of America, we will see them stuffed to overflowing. I challenge you to search around you for a need. We have a choice. We can feed the greed, or feed the need. Give as the Lord directs you to give. Ask Him… “What should I do about this need Lord?” Then walk in obedience and do what He tells you to do. Balance comes into our lives when we do things God’s way. Put the shepherd in charge. Let Him show you needs around you...a family out of work….a family with sickness and medical bills—overwhelmed by needs….a neighbor who doesn‘t know your name or that you even care…a veteran who suffers as he remembers the past…a senior who just needs a listening ear...a teen who thinks nobody cares…. Look around you! Needs are everywhere! . Look for a family out of work. Bless them this year. Is there someone who has no family to spend the holidays with? Invite them into your celebrations. Remember the lonely folk in senior centers, and spend some extra time with them. Ask your kids about their friends and the families they come from. Visit a food pantry and see how you can help. Do you know someone in jail, or hospital….plan a visit. Tired of eating alone? Invite someone over for dinner. Teach your children to be givers instead of getters. Give them some coins or bills to drop into the red kettle this year. Teach them to make a sacrifice to give to someone else. Teach them to watch for needs around them. Children will do what is modeled before them by their parents. Let your children catch you in the act of giving without restraint. Christmas is not the only time of year you should be giving. Make a habit each month to go out of your way to give above and beyond the call to someone in need. Perhaps a serviceman or woman needs a card in the mail, or perhaps an elderly neighbor needs a helping hand with snow shoveling or raking leaves, or running an errand. Giving has no season. God designed tithing to meet the needs of the priesthood and the tabernacle. But offerings go beyond that. Even more than offerings, there are tasks that need to be done that God wants each of us to do. When we do them, we practice being servants like Christ was to His disciples...washing their feet, meeting their need.
Giving restores balance in our lives. There is a new series called “Hoarders” that shows a kind of compulsive sickness that a few folks suffer from in our culture. They collect all kinds of stuff and just can’t bear to part with it because somebody might need it. However, in every case, the stuff never finds its way to needs, but instead accumulates until the interior of what once was a home becomes a garbage can filled with wall to wall trash. Their life is out of balance. When we take in and fail to take out, we trash our dwelling place. But when we learn to get rid of the kind of stuff that is no longer usable, when we learn to distinguish between valuables and trash, we can evaluate and organize our stuff and get rid of the garbage in our lives. Sometimes we let our hearts get trashed with all the stuff our greedy hearts have demanded. The shepherd has given us all we need, but we, in our childish demanding ways have chosen to want more and more. We spend all our days wading through the trash when we could be relaxing in the lush green meadows of His divine provision.
There is a unique blessing for those who learn to give without reserve, expecting nothing in return...God opens the windows of heaven and pours out a blessing so that you cannot contain it.( Malachi 3:10) Of course He does that, not so that we can keep it all, but so we can have more fun giving it away. Have you discovered the joy of giving?
Remember the children of Israel who wanted more than manna? God satisfied their lusts with all the quail they could eat...bushels of them….and while they satisfied their lusts, God stuck them with a plague and they died with the meat in their teeth. There is a price for greed….for desiring stuff more than God. We must guard our attitudes, our desires, our wants and be cautious lest we become hoarders in the desert. Their price was death. The price is the same today. We die spiritually, the moment we place things and wants ahead of what God wants for us. The thing I have determined that I want is more of God….more of his presence, more of his will, more of his plans for me. When I become satisfied with nothing but Him in my life, I will discover that I am where He wants me to be, in green pastures, by still waters, with a table of blessing prepared before me, protected from my enemies, and I shall not be in want, for I will have everything I need.
Perhaps this year, you are the one in need, and you think you have nothing left to give. Your cupboards are empty. When you get to that place, attitude is everything! Learn to give what you have….a smile! Let the joy of the Lord shine through you to a hurting world around you. Give someone a word of encouragement...a kind word of thanks….a pat on the back, a little note of appreciation. This costs you nothing and means everything to a world who sadly lack kindness and love. Be Jesus to someone! You can pray for their needs. You can share His love! Everyone has something to give! And when God opens the windows of heaven for you, don’t forget to say thanks….to God….and to the vessel God used to bless you. Appreciation is the seed for future blessing. God loves a thankful heart because it acknowledges the source. Those who neglect little things like saying “Thanks” reflect their lack of appreciation, and the divine source from which it came. All we have comes from God, who shares it with those who know how to give and say thanks.
When you get heavenly blessings this year...thank God….and His servants who delivered it. And remember, you can give because you don’t need a thing….you shall not be in want! J. Johnson

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