Saturday, January 18, 2014

Abundant Living

The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy: I came that you may have life, and may have it abundantly.  -- John 10:10 (ASV, modified)

Negativity is an expansive, easy-to-find energy into which we can easily find ourselves pulled.  Negativity often feels like it is the default switch on which society and the world operates, and daily we have to work to unplug from it.  What do I mean?  Take the worldly obsession with possessions.  Radio, TV, print media, internet -- as long as we are plugged into the news of the world we are bombarded with the messages that a) theft, murder, and destruction abound, or b) that what we have or possess is shabby and second rate if we don't have the newest and most advanced products.  The barrage is constant and we feel it in our spirits.  The negative vortex to be pulled into despair and emptiness is powerful, and the clarion call to join the lines at department stores & their websites to buy more and more to assuage our inferiority and pathetic existence is ever present.  As James Forbes has said in his sermon, "No Justice, No Righteousness," the sin of consumerism and materialism chokes us all. (Rev. Forbes sermon)

Often when TV evangelists preach on this passage they add to the angst that our existence is too meager and pathetic for good decent people.  They preach that by believing in Jesus Christ your life will magically improve and you will suddenly come into untold material abundance (as though we have none.)  The most blatant examples of this "abundance theology" offers that simple prayer will bring you all the wealth and happiness any person could dream, and if that doesn't occur, there is something wrong with your faith.  Considering that our "want lists" are driven, constructed, and pursued endlessly at the ever-present clamoring of advertisers working to make us feel bad about ourselves if we don't have their particular product we are doomed when the "word of the Lord" supports us in wanting it all through prayer.  It doesn't work that way!

Our faith in Christ is alone our abundance.  The antidote to the media and cultural blitz to feel scared and inferior is to turn off the sources of those messages to us.  The antidote to the static buzz in our heads that we don't have enough is to stop dwelling on what we don't have or on what bad thing might happen to us.  In it's place dwell on the abundances you already have!  Perhaps that sounds odd to you... what abundances?  First, note it is plural -- there are many.  When I start feeling overwhelmed by all that I might not have, or lay awake worried about what is going to happen, I have found it therapeutic to begin listing what all I have in abundance.  I have an abundance of warmth and comfort in my soft bed.  I have an abundance of food in my cupboard (so much that some of it I'm not even interested in eating!) I have an abundance in the car and gasoline that takes me where I want to go.  I have an abundance of people who care about me and love me.  The outside messages are so strong that we shouldn't be happy we might have to work at getting our thinking pulled out of the negative "what you don't have" and plugged back in to what you do have.  The most basic abundance you have at the center of your being is the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ... already there!  Christ has come and has brought you abundance.   Go there when you feel discouraged, or inadequate, or dissatisfied, or worried.  Dwell on your many abundances.  Dwell on Christ.

Journal Questions:
1.  Is there some material want that is relentlessly pursuing you to buy?  Is it really a necessity or have you been brainwashed to THINK you need it?

2.  Is shopping an addiction for you?  Meaning, do you find yourself wandering stores in search of something/anything to buy and feel a happy rush when you get it, only to have that rush fade in hours or a day?

3.  Try making the list of abundances.  If it is difficult to think that what you have is abundance, consider a primitive tribal person surviving in some almost inhospitable environment.  They often have a happiness and lack of care that all of us in modern society can't find and can't imagine.  What abundance do you have alongside that?

God of all creation, Christ of all granting abundance, Spirit of all satisfaction and healing grant us peace from our frenzied wants and rest us in the arms of your perfect peace.  We pray in the name of the Christ at our door knocking, open us to Christ.  Amen.