Nothing Can Take the Place of God

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I’m a sucker for a sappy commercial, but a couple of days ago, I saw one that went over the top. I cried like a baby. I’m not talking about a stray tear or two. I’m talking about being so choked up I couldn’t even speak. And every time I thought about the stupid commercial, I teared up again. Good grief!

It was a commercial for a pet supply store and was done in a claymation effect. It portrayed a little boy standing at a store window and staring at the red bicycle within. He goes home, tapes a picture of the bike on an empty jar and starts earning money by shoveling driveways. Day after day, he goes out into the blustery weather until finally, the jar is nearly full.  

On his way home one afternoon, the boy notices a dozen or more puppies in the window of the pet shop. One of the puppies wakes up and walks to the window, and the boy immediately notices the puppy is missing one of its back legs. The dog holds its from paw up to the window, and the boy presses his hand against the glass. (I’ll go ahead and tell you the tears began to flow a little at this point, but I held it together. . .mostly.)

In the next scene, it’s Christmas morning, and the young boy goes downstairs to discover the red bicycle under the tree. Realizing he didn’t have to spend all the money he earned, he (along with his parents, of course) return to the pet store and purchase the dog he had befriended. Unsurprisingly, the wounded puppy was the only one left.

As the boy rides his new bicycle with glee, he realizes his puppy can’t keep up with him, which saddens them both. In the next scene, we see the parents coming down the stairs to find a pile of bicycle parts on the floor. They peer out the window and discover their son had used the pieces from his new bicycle to create a cart that acted as the dog’s back legs. The boy ran and laughed as the dog happily chased him around the yard. (And that, people, is when the floodgates burst open. Shoot, I’m crying right now. What is wrong with me?)

Although I now hate the commercial for making me feel like an emotional basket-case, I love the meaning it portrays. The boy had his eyes set on the thing he thought would make him happy. He longed for it. He worked for it. He dreamed about it. But somewhere along the way, he realized it wasn’t the most important thing after all. And, in the end, he gave it up because he determined the bicycle was not what he needed most. He needed a friend, and he found one.

You know, we can be just like that young boy. We set our eyes (and our hearts) on things we think will make us happy, but in the end, they never satisfy. We always need more. Sometimes the things we work so hard for turn out not to be as great as we expected. What we need is to have the same realization that sweet boy had—that our dreams and desires are not the most important things in life. Sure, we can buy a lot of nice things to fill our homes, but they will never fill the void in our lives. We can work long hours to climb the corporate ladder, but at the end of the day, who cares? We think we need so much, but what we really need is a Friend. Someone who loves us despite our grand mistakes. Someone who won’t leave when the going gets tough. Someone with whom we can be ourselves instead of putting on a disguise. Someone who will fill the void and restore peace and happiness in our lives. No one and nothing can do what He does or take His place.

As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
— I Corinthians 8:4-6

God is God. There is none like Him. There is nothing that could ever compare. And there is a longing in our heart only He can fill. Don’t settle for the red bicycle. God wants to offer you so much more. He wants to be your Friend, and when you have a Friend like Jesus, you don’t need anything else!

Nothing Is Too Hard for God

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Today I’d like to begin a new series based on the negatives found in the Bible. I know what you’re thinking. Negatives? Isn’t that. . .well. . . negative? I want to read something positive and uplifting. I hear you, and I can relate. So, believe me when I tell you there is nothing negative about these negatives except the words themselves. For the next several posts, I want to talk about nothing, never, and no one. Let’s begin with one of my favorite nothings.

Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee:
— Jeremiah 32:17

Dear friend, nothing is too hard for God. Nothing! No sickness or disease. No temptation or sin. No trial or storm. No giant or mountain. Absolutely nothing! Isn’t that glorious to know? I find such strength and encouragement in understanding the things that trouble me do not worry God. No problem ever keeps Him awake at night (not that He sleeps anyway). No situation ever causes Him to wring His hands or sigh in desperation. His pulse doesn’t quicken nor does His blood pressure rise when faced with the difficulties of this life. To Him, it’s no big deal.  

Just ask King Asa. In the long list of the kings of Israel and Judah, Asa was one of the few who did what was right in God’s eyes. From the beginning of his reign, he set things in order, tearing down the altars to false gods and rebuilding the safeguards around their land. But his righteous living didn’t protect him from hardship, and soon, his kingdom was under attack. Outnumbered nearly two to one, Asa had no fear, for he knew nothing was too hard for God.

And Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, thou art our God; let no man prevail against thee.
— II Chronicles 14:11

I love the way Asa spoke his belief—“It is nothing with thee to help.” Asa basically said, “Lord, I know it’s no big deal for you to help us because this army, though great in number, is nothing compared to You. So, we will treat it like no big deal too.”

I probably don’t need to tell you how the Lord responded to Asa’s great faith, but I’ll let you know anyway. To put it in my Southern tongue, God whooped up on the Ethiopians and sent them scurrying away like the cowards they were. Despite the size of their army (and their muscles), they were NOTHING when compared to God. They didn’t stand a chance.

As for God, He never broke a nail or a sweat. I’m not sure what method He used to defeat the enemy, but it could have been something as simple as a flick of the wrist or the twinkle of His eye. It was nothing! No big deal! And that, my friend, is precisely how our problems rank when compared to God. Yes, they may seem unsolvable to us, but we can rest assured God has the solution. There is nothing He cannot do. No problem He cannot solve. No situation He cannot remedy. He is willing and able to do above and beyond all we can ask or think.

So, what about us? We can take Asa’s approach and view our problems from God’s standpoint, leaving our hearts and mind in peace, or we can worry, fret, plot and scheme to fight our way through. If God came through for Asa (and we know He did), why would we doubt He will do the same for us? God is no respecter of persons. Though He deals with us individually, He loves us all the same. None of our problems are too big for Him to solve. Do we believe that today? If so, let’s act like it!


Reunite With Delight

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For children, delight is easy to come by. A new toy. Recess. A trip to the zoo. A loose tooth. Christmas. Yes, each of these things and many more bring a gleam to the eye and a smile to the face of youngsters across the globe. But in the grown-up world of jobs, traffic, deadlines, and bills, delight is harder to come by. Perhaps that’s why so many of us struggle with the concept of delighting in the Lord. We want to be happy and joyful. We want to sing praises and give worship to God because we know He’s worthy. But how do we force ourselves to feel delighted when the emotion isn’t there?

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.
— Psalm 37:4

Does anybody else cringe when reading this verse? Delight thyself also in the Lord. Up to this point in the chapter, the psalmist (under the inspiration of God) has ordered, “Don’t worry, don’t be envious of others, trust in the Lord, and do good."  And then, on top of everything else, he continues, “And delight yourself in the Lord.” Seriously? I can’t even get the first command in check, and now you want me to smile and praise like I don’t have a care in the world? I read that verse, and instead of finding comfort, I see one more demand on my time, energy, and resources. But more than that, I see one more area in which I feel like a spiritual failure.

This morning, however, I took the time to dig into the meaning behind the command, and I discovered something that changes everything. Once again, I had limited God’s Word to my feeble understanding by concluding the word “delight” meant only one thing—to be happy. But if you study it out, you’ll find the word actually has multiple meanings, and those other meanings transform this command into a reprieve or respite. 

The Hebrew word translated “delight” means “to be happy about; to be soft and pliable; to be pampered.” Yes, the Lord wants us to be happy in Him and to experience joy in His presence. He longs for us to desire and obey Him, to long to please Him. But, it goes beyond that. He also wants to see us soft and pliable, as clay in the Potter’s hands, ready and willing to be molded as He sees fit. The good news for us here is that we don’t have to do the work. We only have to be willing to allow God to work in and through us. We don’t have to determine the how or why, nor do we have to figure out how to make everything come together as we feel it should. God does the work. He is the Potter, and we are the clay.

Better still, to delight in the Lord is to be pampered by Him. We rarely think of the Lord pampering us, but isn’t that precisely what He does when He pours down blessings on us time after time. He responds to our every cry and meets our every need. When He asks us to delight in Him, He does not intend to burden us with another item on our to-do list but rather to invite us to rest in His presence and allow Him to lavish attention on us. Think about it for a moment. One-on-one time with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That’s something special—remarkable even. And we’re invited to spend time in His presence anytime we want for as long as we want. We can talk, listen, or just enjoy the silence. God offers us a time to come away from the world—the grown-up world of jobs, traffic, deadlines, and bills—and to reunite with delight.

Delight thyself in the Lord. It's more than an emotion.  It's a choice.  A choice to rejoice even when we don't feel like it.  A choice to allow God to mold and make us into what He wants us to be.  And a choice to rest in His embrace and allow Him to pour out His goodness upon us. Now that I understand it fully, I think I can do that. How about you?